The Three Levels of Ikigai

Natasha Randall highlights the relevance of the concept of ikigai in the study of human-robot interaction, shedding light on its the three levels of ikigai: personal, interpersonal, and community.

Unique shades of ikigai

Nick: I guess it leads to why did you choose this concept and word and not something else like, perhaps eudaimonia or flourishing or meaning in life or purpose in life?

Natasha: Yeah, so there are some unique shades to ikigai that I think do add value to our research. And there's some things that at least I hadn't seen in the Western well-being literature. One of them is this idea with ikigai that it has three different levels.

So you can experience sort of a personal sense of ikigai, and that would be the things related to yourself that bring you a sense of ikigai, so maybe your hobbies, for example.

A second person ikigai, which would be relations with close family and friends, and then this idea of having a third person ikigai, which is some sort of relation with the community, so that could be helping the community or being involved in kind of community activities.

And so that concept really lends itself well to the idea of expanding what technology should be doing when it's promoting well-being. So not just thinking of it as kind of a one dimensional aspect, thinking of multiple sources and multiple ways we can form this.

So I think that was really important. And it was really important for us to also try to relate the two concepts as well and then speak from both.

Nick: Now, that all making sense to me. As you know, in the West, we have this misconception it's like one sweet spot and it can only be one thing and it got to be almost like a dream job or something entrepreneurial. Whereas Ken Mogi describes ikigai as a spectrum.

I like this three levels, actually I hadn't seen these three levels before. So I've learned something and thought, yeah, this makes sense. It can be our hobbies, something personal, even something private, even for some Japanese, it's like a coping mechanism to get through their stressful lives.

And it could even be a vise, you know? Because it is subjective. It could be cigarettes. I remember when I asked a Japanese friend, what is ikigai, and this is a few years ago now when I was first learning about it, and he was thinking when he said, imagine two businessmen going into a bar after a hard day of work.

And one of them takes that first sip of beer, then he might say, ah, this is my ikigai. So yeah, that gives it some perspective.

Natasha: One little moment of reprieve from a hard day. Yeah.

Nick: So yeah, it's fascinating. It can be a hobby, maybe a vice, or this coping mechanism, but then on that deepest social level.

So I guess that second level is this interpersonal aspect, which often relate to intimacy: you can have intellectual intimacy or emotional intimacy, or perhaps artists, when they work with other artists, they have that creative intimacy.

And I think purpose would probably come into that community level, that sense of purpose, having a role. So I really like these three levels of ikigai that you noted in your paper.