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The End of Tall Poppy Syndrome?
Submitted by Lance on Thu, 2010-09-23 01:30
I like humans. I REALLY do. Seeing a magnificent specimen consciously strive to raise the bar and achieve things that no one else has done before, or better than anyone has done before or faster than anyone has done before or higher... you get the picture.
I hate encountering the self-loathing, homo sapiens-guilt complex, misery guts on a daily basis at university. Bewailing the species as "suicidal" "doomed" "fucked" "raping the planet" "warlike" on and on and on. The deepest cynic in me sees these ideas, being held by nervous young people in a highly social environment, as the manifestation of a desire to hold deep convictions, popular with the crowd, but that will go unchallenged and therefore require no serious investigation on their part (and may even get them laid).
The advantages of being uni at 30 instead of 18 are of course:
This means I am not trying to:
Where am I going with this? I've opened with a sentence praising humans and then proceeded to disparage a large crowd of them, most of whom I have not exchanged even a handful of words with, and displayed smug superiority toward. Poor bastards, maybe that was unfair. But it just galls me to see the pinnacle of nature, man the thinker, torn down and savaged and accused of the basest crimes, and unfavourably compared with the simplest organisms just so some spotty faced adolescent can fit into the crowd or catch a handful of boob.
But speaking of the crowd, a common a misinformed salvo often fired at Objectivists and their hangers-on (like me)* is that they are somehow anti-social and don't like cooperative efforts or group based achievements or innovations. While my experience at university paints a negative view of the social or crowd effect on the way people think and express themselves, my experience is anomalous. If you move the lens away from the stifled and collectivist ridden environment of a university and focus instead on the truly open and far ranging battleground of ideas of the world at large, then crowds can have a VERY different effect on people.
Chris Anderson talks at TED 2010 Global about what he calls Crowd Accelerated Innovation. His basic idea can be summed up, from Seth Godin as:
"Online video radically changes the reach and speed of the improvement cycle. Things like dance, snowboarding and TED talks keep getting better, and faster, because artists see the best and improve on it. Even more than that, it requires you to top what's out there, or you'll be ignored."
Anderson's talk is the anti-thesis of the Tall Poppy metaphor. Instead imagine an entire field of poppies, striving, competing, the growth of one poppy inspiring the rise of another. It would be something to see this crowd effect happen at uni, but the environment is geared towards assimilation and homogenisation instead of innovation and individualism.
*I am not in fact an Objectivist. What I understand I agree with, what I don't understand is enough to not lay claim to the label.
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