The IKEA Defense of Flat Earthers

Adrian Hanft
3 min readJun 16, 2018

Flat Earthers are perhaps the only group of people that it is still socially acceptable to discriminate against. We just can’t bring ourselves to tolerate people who believe the world is flat. And yet the fundamental ideas powering a flat Earth believer is an approach that most of us agree with:

Flat Earthers tell us to question what we see, to compare our observations with what people are telling us.

Flat Earthers want us to stop blindly accepting what we are told and build our beliefs off of things we have tested.

Flat Earthers invite us to invest the effort to really understand our world rather than memorizing textbooks.

You are probably nodding in agreement with these statements but mentally screaming at your screen additions like “…but that doesn’t mean…” or “…but you can’t just…” to the end of my sentences. I know, I know. Me, too. But let’s try to suppress that reflex temporarily and see where it leads us.

There is a cognitive bias known as the IKEA effect. It says that when you build something you irrationally overvalue it. We fall in love with our creations. The same is true of our ideas. An idea that you generate yourself will be treasured more than an idea fed to you in a PowerPoint presentation. Unfortunately, self-generated ideas can go horribly wrong like a poorly built Kallax shelf and we will still love them. Reread the statements above again through the lens of the IKEA effect. If you are like me, you may for the first time have a sympathy for these people that was previously beyond reach. Did you feel your Earth bend a little with this new realization?

I want you to entertain a terrifying idea. Each of us chooses the reality we want to accept:

Either we live in a pre-built world where we are accept the rules as they are dictated to us in textbooks.

Or we can live in a world of builders where each of us learns as we go, growing irrationally attached to our creations as the world bends around us.

How we respond to a person who believes the world is flat might be an indication of which world we have chosen to live in. The good news is you can change channels on your mental tv show at any time. You don’t have to believe that the Earth is a pancake floating in space, but the shape of the world around you will start to bend. Things you thought were impossible will come into reach. People you once hated may become allies. Maybe that will be enough to unlock our ability to make the world a little better with each rotation around the sun.

Thanks for reading. I try to bend your Earth a tiny bit every Saturday by writing stories that I hope convince you to follow me. Stay creative.



Adrian Hanft

Author of User Zero: Inside the Tool that is Reshaping Dystopia