Beware Star Academia

I recently saw the show Old Jews Telling Jokes, and was reminded of a big change in humor over the last century. The show was full of old-style jokes, i.e., jokes designed to be funny given only a moderate level of showmanship. Once upon a time the jokes we heard were mostly jokes that got passed around because lots of pretty ordinary folks could tell them and get laughs. Today, instead, most jokes we hear are told by professional comics, who mostly tell their own unique jokes integrated with their life story and personality. Few others, even professional comics, can get such laughs from these jokes.

A similar change happened in music. Once upon a time the songs we heard were mostly songs that got passed around because many relatively ordinary folks could sing them and sound good. Today instead we mostly hear songs designed to show off the particular abilities of particular musicians. We are less tempted to sing these songs to our friends, or even to ourselves. Further in the past, a similar change happened with stories. Once, the stories we heard were passed around because many story tellers could enthrall listeners with them, even with many details changed. Then after the invention of writing we have preferred to pass around the exact words of particular story-tellers.

These changes seem driven by the ability to pass around more exactly the particular performances of particular artists. When we have that option, we take it eagerly. While we might think we mainly like the jokes, songs, and stories, and that artists are just a vehicle for getting to those. But it seems instead that we more care about admiring the abilities of particular artists, and that jokes, songs, and stories mostly vehicles to showcase artists.

If, as I have suggested, academia mainly functions to let us affiliate with impressive intellectuals, then academia should be at risk of suffering the same trend. That is, once upon a time we passed around the intellectual arguments and claims that a wide range of speakers could use in many contexts to persuade many listeners. But as we have gained better abilities to pass around the particular ways that particular speakers argue for claims, the above trend in jokes, song, and stories suggests that we did or will switch to focus more on the particular ways that particular intellectuals express and elaborate claims and arguments, and less on the claims and arguments themselves.

This is a problem because we have stronger reasons to expect that the arguments and claims that many people can use in many contexts to persuade varied listeners are more likely to be true, relative to those designed more to be parts of overall impressive displays by particular persons in particular contexts. If listeners actually care less if claims are true than if claimers are impressive, we should expect that when the audience for intellectuals can get better access to a rich personal display of attempted persuasion, they will lose much of their derived interest in the truth of claims. After all, maybe the audience never really cared that much if the claims were true – they mainly cared about claim truth as evidence of claimer impressiveness.

I’ve actually seen a lot that looks like this in my intellectual travels over the years. For example, many famous classic texts, especially in philosophy, are said to be popular because they can’t be effectively summarized or rephrased for a modern audience; to assimilate their insights, one must read the original authors in the original voices, even if their issues and styles are strange to us. We should suspect that folks read these classics less for insights and more for admiring and affiliating with impressive minds.

Also, I have seen people take arguments that others have made and express them with a bit more elegance and status, perhaps using more difficult methods, and get famous for originating such arguments, even when they mostly repeated what others said. It seems that people pretend that they celebrate these folks for originating certain arguments, but really want to admire and affiliate with their impressiveness.

Where could you go if you wanted to get the robust arguments, instead of affiliating with impressive intellectuals? First, read textbooks. I heartily recommend textbooks in most any subject. In fact, it is hard to do better than just sitting in a university bookstore and reading all the intro texts they have. Long ago I spent many days in the Stanford bookstore doing just that. Once you are done with textbooks, review articles are the next most robust option. And beware when interest in a topic seems to focus mainly on a particular author, and doesn’t transfer much to others who write on that same topic.

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  • Don Geddis

    Good examples, about jokes, songs, and stories. But you seem to have jumped directly to the conclusion that we now admire particular performances, because we care more about status affiliation with these impressive performers, than about the intrinsic quality of the work.

    But I wonder if there’s a simpler explanation. Why can’t the modern works be actually better on their own, in addition to the unique performances? Yes, people used to sing simple melodies around a campfire. And few untrained singers can do a good job with, e.g., the Star Spangled Banner.

    But you seem to have taken an observation about popular accessibility (can regular people sing those songs, or tell those jokes, or make those arguments), and concluded that we now care mostly about the individuals. Why couldn’t the new works also be of high quality, but it’s merely that most ordinary people are unable to perform them?
    I suppose the difference is: if the work is still good, then we would admire any performer who could do it (even if that’s only a small fraction of the population); whereas if we’re mostly doing status affiliation, then I suppose the admiration attaches mostly to individuals, rather than to all master performances of the same work.

    Most ordinary people can’t perform Shakespeare, but the many professional actors who do, are all admired?

    • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

      But I wonder if there’s a simpler explanation. Why can’t the modern
      works be actually better on their own, in addition to the unique performances

      On its face, it’s not simpler to replace one explanation with two. Individualized performances provide an explanatory alternative to “actually better,” carrying the pragmatic advantage that we lack an independent criterion for “actually better.”

      Remember, Hanson looks for weak clues, not decisive arguments.

      • Don Geddis

        All we know, is that: in the past, “simple” (jokes, songs) were popular; in the past, ONLY simple ones could spread; today, popular (jokes, songs) are more complex and cannot be performed by average folks; and today, complex ones CAN spread (because of exact recordings by professionals).

        Meanwhile, just about everyone asserts that the entertainment they choose to watch, is “better” than the alternatives.

        The simplest explanation is, that the new material actually IS better, and was prevented from spreading in the past, because it didn’t have a mechanism to spread.

        Hanson is suggesting that, no, the new material is not actually of better quality, and we are all misled about why we like it, and it’s actually about a hidden subconscious status affiliation instead.

        Could be. But I’d say his evidence so far is very, very weak. The straightforward explanation, that nothing hidden is happening, and everything is exactly as people generally believe it to be, seems already to be a sufficient explanation.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        I see what you’re saying: the explanation of the new form being “actually better” is simpler because it directly explains folks’ sayings that the new form is better, by its being the case that it is actually better.

        Then you replace the problem of why they say it’s better by the problem of what it means to be better. Hanson’s argument becomes: when we prefer certain forms (that is, think they’re better), “better” is dominated by the opportunities for particular affiliation experiences.

        If you have strong priors that there are comprehensive nativistic aesthetic norms, then you’ll reject Hanson’s conclusions. If you think the judgment “better” probably reduces to something simpler than applying laws of aesthetics to disparate forms, you’ll like them more. Hanson’s loss of explanatory simplicity for the verbal behavior is compensated by the gains for explaining the judgment underlying it.

      • Don Geddis

        I don’t disagree with your analysis in this last comment. :-) I freely admit to having no real idea why people prefer one song to another. It “feels” to me as though it’s mostly something intrinsic about the music itself, but my subconscious seems to be mostly a black box to me on this subject, so I would hesitate to try to make any claims about its structure.

      • Robert H.

        If someone spends his whole life learning to tell jokes, all the while in direct exonomic competition with others to tell better and better jokes, his jokes will be more effective at making people laugh than if a layman tells a joke.

        That’s simple, has a clear metric for “better,” and is probably true.

        But robins explanation has a problem: since writing you could associate a joke with an individual, the original writer. “Mark Twain makes a joke book, you say “did you hear the latest one from twain,” all your listeners like it because of its associative effect.

        In fact, “famous joke writer was not a profession.

      • Micha_Elyi

        [J]ust about everyone asserts that the entertainment they choose to watch, is “better” than the alternatives.
        Don Geddis

        Two words: couch potatoes.

    • waterfowl

      Considering that the tune to which “The Star-Spangled Banner” is set was originally an 18th-c. English drinking song, I’ve always thought that the complaints about how difficult it is to sing were a little amusing. It’s true, of course, that an octave and a fifth is a pretty wide range for popular song. (All the same, most people can span an octave and a fifth if they try; the difficulty for unison singing is that’s it’s not always the same octave an a fifth.) The bigger problem with “TSSB” is that people have gotten it into their heads that you shouldn’t try to sing it unless you’re up to the preposterous melismatic, ululating warblings that are now obligatory for game-opening soloists.

      So there are people who want to substitute “America the Beautiful.” Musically speaking, a fine idea; it’s only got an octave’s range, so it’s possible to find a key where everyone can sing it, and it’s a good tune. But it won’t fly, for two reasons: (1) It mentions God (yes, a plus for a lot of people, but a deal-breaker for a lot of other people); and (2) no one can sing

      Thine alabaster cities gleam
      Undimm’d by human tears

      with a straight face.

      • Micha_Elyi

        I disagree. If Catholics can sing it with a straight face, and we do at my church, then anyone can so sing it.

  • Jess Riedel

    > For example, many famous classic texts, especially in philosophy, are said to be popular because they can’t be effectively summarized or rephrased for a modern audience; to assimilate their insights, one must read the original authors in the original voices, even if their issues and styles are strange to us. We should suspect that folks read these classics less for insights and more for admiring and affiliating with impressive minds.

    This is definitely a problem in philosophy, but I think it’s one that’s waning rather than growing. (Although perhaps that’s wishful thinking.) The top, high-status philosophy departments are overwhelmingly composed of analytical philosophers who generally hold that the important products of philosophical labor are ideas (like arguments, intuition pumps, and distinctions) as distinct from personalities or books. Yes, these departments are often encumbered with the tradition of reading original works, and yes many (most?) philosophers will defend it as you explained. But the trend is definitely toward separating the ideas from the people. Things are far better than they were a century ago.

    It’s possible now that the advent of cheap and fast video distribution over the internet will reverse this trend, but I doubt it.

  • IMASBA

    “I’ve actually seen a lot that looks like this in my intellectual travels over the years. For example, many famous classic texts, especially in philosophy, are said to be popular because they can’t be effectively summarized or rephrased for a modern audience; to assimilate their insights, one must read the original authors in the original voices, even if their issues and styles are strange to us. We should suspect that folks read these classics less for insights and more for admiring and affiliating with impressive minds.”

    Yes, that’s incredibly annoying. It leads to people having to invent the same ideas over and over again and to people who read the classics to not get “the point” the original author was trying to make (it seems you can’t talk about those points if you don’t know the original name of the idea, which suggests people only know the story around it). Textbooks are an attempt to “cut the crap”, but they’re not always right nor immune to creating stories themselves.

    All in all I do fear that were scholars from an advanced alien civilization to visit Earth our academics would snub them for not using Greek/Latin names for concepts and ideas. I wonder if our academics can even explain the classic concepts and stories without letting the student (or alien academic) read the original text.

  • Jason Young

    Roissy springs to mind as a blogger who’s praised for having made original observations and arguments when he’s really “only” rephrased the observations of less impressive or palatable others in a flashy literary style that appeals to the bookish. The insights contained in the Chateau are fairly pedestrian, if ”officially” heretical, but the persona through which they’re expressed is unique and impressive.

    To reiterate what Don said, I don’t think anyone finds Gilbert Gottfried impressive or admirable, but he manages to squeeze a lot of laughter out of an act no one else in the world could perform. There are some works that are optimized for a specific personality just because that personality best expresses the spirit of the work.

  • ShardPhoenix

    I agree that artistic admiration is partly about affiliation, but I’m not sure that it’s *mostly* about that – people seem perfectly capable of appreciating art even if they don’t know anything about the creator – ancient artworks Tutankhamun’s mummy’s mask, for example.

    • http://overcomingbias.com RobinHanson

      Why do they need to know anything else about those who made the masks to affiliate with them via their art?

      • ShardPhoenix

        What exactly do you mean by “affiliate with”, then? How can you affiliate with someone you don’t know or care anything about? I mean, I guess they could be affiliating with the ancient Egyptians in general.

        What would you expect to be different if affiliation was a minority goal in art appreciation rather than the majority goal?

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        How can you affiliate with someone you don’t know or care anything about?

        You could also ask how can you affiliate with someone who’s dead.

      • ShardPhoenix

        That seems obviously different to me.

    • IMASBA

      “people seem perfectly capable of appreciating art even if they don’t know anything about the creator – ancient artworks like Tutankhamun’s mummy’s mask, for example.”

      Bad example: people generally know the Egyptians were an ancient and powerful civilization and that Tutankhamun was a king, plus even today gold symbolizes great wealth (and therefore power). In general the “value” of art depends a lot on the reputation and story of the creator, the work usually doesn’t speak for itself when it comes to art.

      • VV

        I think it’s the other way around. Powerful individuals/societies fund impressive works of art in order display their status.

      • IMASBA

        The gold is there to impress directly, but the rest comes from people knowing about Tutankhamun having been king of a powerful ancient civilization. It’s nothing like the pyramids.

  • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

    A blogger who fits the description involving the repackaging of others’ insights is our own Eliezer Yudkowsky, who has gained a reputation as an original thinker by the activity of rephrasing philosophical and semiphilosophical insights in a different vernacular in essays and in fiction.

    Fantasy fiction isn’t a high-status medium for the general public, but is it so for the target subculture?

    • Jess Riedel

      This seems like a case where the person’s prominence arose reasonably from the fact that they collected and made accessible a large number of ideas for an audience who would not have otherwise been exposed to them. One can complain about proper attribution, but that seems more status driven than someone simply preferring Yudkowsky’s writing style.

      More abstractly: If I understand correctly, Robin is *not* talking here about the badness of plagiarism by people who are not as smart as they may appear. Rather, he is talking about the danger of adopting ideas that cannot survive on their own merit, and instead only seem true when presented by charming personalities. Inasmuch as Yudkowsky is building on and/or repackaging the ideas of others, this is *positive* evidence for their truth.

      • VV

        Well, Yudkowsky ideas are not particularly original, but there are people in his community who recite his writings during rituals…

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        But it also carries predictable adverse consequences according to the logic of Robin’s explanation. Readers affiliating with Yudkowsky’s impressive intellect will be less interested in determining the truth his ideas and won’t be apt to compare them against competitors. In discussions, they will signal their own intellects in ways unrelated to finding truth. False indicia of intellectual worth will develop based on personal admiration of Yudkowsky’s intellect, such as producing documents of extravagant length.

        You’re saying, I think, that Robin’s explanation doesn’t apply to Yudkowsky, who became prominent because he provided a valuable service rather than because he catered to the status drives of a subculture. I think it’s status as opposed to accessibility because otherwise I find it impossible to explain the subcultural popularity of his writing style, which I believe is inherently weak as a medium for communicating ideas. (I mean the essays, since I haven’t read his fiction.)

      • Jess Riedel

        > But it also carries predictable adverse consequences according to the logic of Robin’s explanation. Readers affiliating with Yudkowsky’s impressive intellect will be less interested in determining his ideas’ truth and won’t be apt to compare them against competitors.

        It’s certainly possible, but you haven’t identified a reason why it’s more predictable than any other case of an academic in one field rediscovering and/or repackaging results in a different field to make them more accessible to his own colleague. If Yudkowsky’s readers fail to seek truth, this is a failing of his readers, not him.

        Robin’s concerns are about idea quality, not person quality.

        > You’re saying, I think, that Robin’s explanation doesn’t apply to Yudkowsky, who became prominent because he provided a valuable service rather than because he catered to the status drives of a subculture.

        I’m saying providing a valuable service and catering to status drives are not mutually exclusive. Whether or not Robin’s explanation applies depends on whether the ideas championed by Yudkowsky can survive and propagate without him. Insofar as he can build a self-growing movement, the appeal of the ideas cannot be explained by his personality. (Of course, the appeal could be because the ideas are good, or it could be because the ideas are cultish.)

  • miamo

    coolblog

  • endril

    These changes seem driven by the ability to pass around more exactly the particular performances of particular artists

    What has enabled that in academia anytime recently? TED talks?

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

    Lawrence Lessig quoted John Phillips Sousa making a similar point about the phonograph, concluding that Sousa was right about it eroding the populace’s vocal chords in favor of professional recordings.

  • Adrian Gonzalez

    Frank Lloyd Wright claimed that what he did was invent a new style in architecture – and he lived to impress…yet there are elements to his style that clearly come from many architectural greats before him.

    Ada Louise Huxtable exposes this in an elegant manner in her book “Frank Lloyd Wright – A life”.

    Some excerpts: http://www.pseudoeconomics.com/2013/07/select-passages-from-frank-lloyd-wright.html

  • srp

    This discussion misses Alexander Pope’s definition of wit: “What oft was thought but ne’er so well expressed.” Nicely self-referential use of iambic pentameter.

  • baumann

    You suspect that people who think they ought to read the original texts in the “original voice” are less interested in the arguments than in admiring and affiliating with “their impressiveness.” That might be true of some. You can find groupies anywhere, even with the great books. But in my experience, the difference between the originals, carefully studied, and the textbooks that tell you in clear terms what those books allegedly say, is that the former show you the questions while the textbooks claim to tell you the answers without ever having seriously faced the questions. I can’t prove this since you’d have to read the originals and it helps most of us to have teachers who know where the bodies are buried, where the jokes are, where the author is placating the opinion of his time. But I think that at least in philosophy, the contempt for careful reading of old books is pretty likely to produce shallowness and smugness.

    • Jess Riedel

      Get better textbooks. If there is a lack of good philosophy textbooks, then this is a failing of the philosophy community, not the reader.

      How could you ever be sure an idea is good if you can’t extract it from the originator and reliably transmit it to another person?

      • Guy Guyerson

        The problem is that philosophy is not a field that lends itself to textbook treatment. The only halfway decent “textbooks” available to assign are anthologies. Why read what some academic thinks about Aristotle when you can read Aristotle yourself? Why would I assign a textbook (which provides, say, what some academic thinks about Aristotle or Locke or Heidegger) when I can just assign those things? Students can read them, and – as a professional academic – the textbook industry is a massive scam. In any field where a textbook can be avoided by assigning the original works, students benefit (intellectually, because they have to stretch their minds, and financially, because textbooks are obscenely overpriced).

      • Jess Riedel

        Philosophy students shouldn’t read Locke for the same reason physics students don’t ready Maxwell’s original papers. The textbook book shouldn’t just be what some academic “thinks” about Locke any more than a textbook on electromagnetism should be about what someone thinks of Maxwell.

      • IMASBA

        I agree. If you can’t explain a philosophical idea without referring to the original text you don’t really understand it. Of course this brings up the question of what “philosophy” is. Is it the study of thinking (with the principles so universal that you can make up modern forms, possibly superior forms, of the old arguments that will be more helpful to modern readers, or even extraterrestrials), or is it a history of smart sounding things famous dead people said, used to signal sophistication.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        the textbook industry is a massive scam

        There’s that, too. While textbooks are the ideal way to learn many subjects (college lectures are another waste of time, based on affiliation drives), most actual textbooks (at least in the humanities and social sciences) are failed attempts by specialists to be generalists. Robin, moreover, would have selected from the best textbooks by visiting the Stanford book store. (Also, there are some particularly good economics texts.)

  • rbeccah

    “Reading textbooks” is not a complete answer, and particularly not satisfactory when it comes to history, philosophy, or, sad to say these days, current events. Far too many textbooks have been coopted for that particular author’s worldview (Howard Zinn, for one particularly egregious example).

    However, if you mean reading the classics of Western civilization by “reading textbooks”, I might find common ground without dismissing those modern authors who probably have a grounding in classic Western thought.

    I take your point that “particular personalities” are problematic in texts, at least in our present politically polarized time. Your whole article argues for a rigorous adherence to classical critical thinking at a time when such is lacking in our modern education, from lower to higher.

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  • John_Maxwell_IV

    I don’t see how textbooks written by star professors are different from lectures delivered by star professors. It seems like your argument works against using the printing press, the internet, and similar technologies to do perfect replication of nonfiction writing in general.

    • Jess Riedel

      He’s not arguing against using any of these technologies, he’s just urging wariness for ideas that can only in the presence of these technologies.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        Here, interestingly, the discussion is going the way Hanson predicts from the affiliative character of personalized displays: what’s Hanson saying rather than what’s true. But note, the intellectually unfortunate drift doesn’t have to do with promoting specific false ideas but with providing an inefficient incentive structure for intellectual production.

      • Jess Riedel

        No discussion can take place without everyone agreeing on what the claim *is*.

        And, in fact, I think it comes off slightly dismissive (the opposite of affiliating) when I say “Hanson is claiming X” because it sounds like I’m holding it at arm’s length.

    • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

      The lectures are more “affiliative”: they contain more cues that might set off our “affiliation detectors,” set to values based on the primordial environment. Lectures include nonverbal communication, the essence of most near-mode talk.

      But the answer economist Hanson would probably give for why textbooks are better is a separate question. I’d bet he’d say textbooks are better because they’re written to make money rather than for academic status, which they provide little or none of.

      This raises a question of why the core academic function (credentialing intellectual impressiveness) failed to subordinate textbook writing to its purposes if its supposed to be powerful enough to subordinate the nonacademic-status-related concerns of huge corporations.

      One way to understand the concept of affiliation might be that it creates a near-mode relation. Examples. 1) Academics are ranked by the number of times they’re cited, where the citation process is the most near-mode dominated phase of the document-preparation process. 2) People who read Hegel think to discover their own interpretation, to be the only one who really understands Hegel. That’s a very personal, near-mode relationship–almost erotic.

      Applying this to textbooks–their far-mode character made them hard for academia to digest in the interest of an affiliative relationship.

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  • JW Ogden

    I took a many the introductory science classes in college including nutrition, plant pathology, chemistry, biology, physics, oceanology , food science economics sociology and more and still remember a lot of what I was taught. Your recommendation of the introductory text books reminds me of how different pop books on nutrition and pesticides are from what I learned in those introductory classes!

    I will put a plug in here for an Idea: IMO the signaling aspect of school makes science much harder than it it needs to be. The principles of the sciences, which are the most useful aspects, are very, simple and require little math but are not pushed to the lower performing students because we use math to purposefully make the subject difficult to strengthen the signal. To me that is a shame.

  • blake

    “If listeners actually care less if claims are true that if claimers are impressive…”


    “than if”

    • http://overcomingbias.com RobinHanson

      Fixed.

  • efalken

    Yeah, lots of punditry is based on the reputation of the speaker, his coalitions, his charisma. That’s not improving policy debates.

    As per humor and song, that’s inherently personal anyway in my book, so it doesn’t bother me. I doubt humor and song can increase much off a really good person of any era..

  • Peter St. Onge

    I don’t understand why textbooks? Do you mean unadorned, consensus, “stood test of time” views? If so, I’d think age beats textbook. In econ, for example, JB Say over Samuelson and Samuelson over Mankiw.

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  • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

    From evolutionary psychology (which, incidentally, is unrepresented in the textbooks I’ve seen) and from Robin’s theorizing, we might conclude that there are two basic drives underlying intellectual production: a) the drive to signal intellectual impressiveness and b) the drive to affiliate with intellectual impressiveness. Although they often cooperate, they are separate: people may derive affiliation gratification by reading Hegel privately. There may be two types of intellectuals (really a continuum of course): signalers and affiliators. Most of us are signalers; the affiliators are at LW, although Yudkowsky himself is a signaler.

    In this light, I now think it’s misguided to opt for the abolition of departments of the history of philosophy in favor of analytic philosophy. It expresses signaler prejudice. Signalers are apt to contrast the desire to affiliate to the desire to obtain truth, but the actual contrast is between the desire to affiliate versus the desire to signal. Either of these motives can have outcomes closer or further from truthfinding depending on how they’re channeled in a mileu.

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  • ZHD

    “If listeners actually care less if claims are true than if claimers are impressive, we should expect that when the audience for intellectuals can get better access to a rich personal display of attempted persuasion, they will lose much of their derived interest in the truth of claims. After all, maybe the audience never really cared that much if the claims were true – they mainly cared about claim truth as evidence of claimer impressiveness.”

    I think we’re seeing exactly the result you’re talking about in the form of TED Talks. Take for example the ridiculous string of talks by Jack Andraka. It doesn’t matter that his findings are completely non-peer reviewed, or that he simply copied published research from 3 years earlier. “They” don’t care. He was given an underdog back story, told to say “sensitivity AND specificity,” and turned loose with a head set.

    Of course very few people who attend TED conferences actually care about the validity of these claims. They just like that it sounds really persuasive and that they can associate with a product being marketed as a “prodigy.”

    Scott Locklin has more on TED talks: http://scottlocklin.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/why-i-dont-like-ted-talks-or-tedx-or-whaddeva/

  • Tyrrell_McAllister

    academia should be at risk of suffering the same trend.

    It surely was at risk, but a lot of that risk has already played out, already been realized, because the technology to reproduce cheap exact copies of arguments attributed to high-status academics has been around for centuries. How much unrealized risk do you see here? How much worse do you expect it to get, and why hasn’t it already gotten that bad?

    • http://overcomingbias.com RobinHanson

      Videos of TED talks and academic talks given in person let academics display much more impressive detail than do simple journal articles.