Itâs fascinating to watch so many people attempt to grapple with the authority-media matrix lately. It was tripped off by fallen media darling Jonah Lehrer, but is spreading rapidly to a much bigger debate about the intellectual environment. It is overdue. We are in productive territory.
Iâm not the only person to raise questions about the type of content that actually achieves popularity these days. Author Ian Bogost has a funny and disturbing post about how the intellectualâs desire to make it big on the speaking circuit leads him or her down a path of formulaic and shallow ideas. To prove it, he invented a fake keynote or âTED talkâ that is amusingly close to what you might actually find at a conference these days.
The worst part: itâs actually easier to craft thoughts in this shape (if you can stomach it) than it is to do the real work of crafting sophisticated new ideasâto do âinnovation,â to crib a popular speaking keyword. Donât believe me? Hereâs a general purpose keynote speech or TED talk filled with nonsense I whipped up in fifteen minutes:
Iâm here to talk to you about the biggest challenge facing upper-class Western society: ideas, and how to understand them. What is an idea? What do ideas do? Scientists have shown that hearing words makes you hear ideas. And ideas are what make us humanâweâve learned so much from neuroscience, and weâre learning more all the time. Thatâs why Iâve devoted the last twenty years to paid ideation, and why I couldnât go any longer without sharing these important ideas with all of you.
Imagine an idea. Where does it live? Not in your head, but in my pocket. In my bank account. My bank account likes ideas. Itâs a sponge for ideas, much like the human brain. A bank account is really just a human brain. In other words, banks are a kind of cognition, and banking is a kind of neuroscience.
When we begin to see the world like this, thought as a kind of banking, so much makes sense. Ideas can âhave currency.â Ideas can âcirculate.â See what I mean? Thought is just natureâs way of banking. It just took us humans to come along and establish the formal structures we call âbanksâ to help increase the flow of ideas, to help them circulate. What is money, after all, but latent ideas?
And whatâs really scary? Iâve heard dumber stuff out there.