(2019-05-09) Eghbal The Tyranny Of Ideas

Nadia Eghbal: The tyranny of ideas Lately, I’ve amused myself by operating through the lens that the world is run by ideas, rather than people... I like thinking of people as vessels... Rather than viewing people as agents of change, I think of them as intermediaries, voice boxes for some persistent idea-virus.

Birthing new ideas

Consider the obsessiveness with which creators birth new ideas into the world, which we’ve clinically termed “intrinsic motivation”, but don’t really seem to understand beyond that... “Because I had to” or “Because I couldn’t stop thinking about it” are symptoms, not causes.

It is enormously difficult for a successful creator to escape their own idea, because ideas need hosts to survive

Even after an idea becomes sufficiently popular to survive in the world without a host, it’s still difficult for creators to escape them, because ideas bond to their hosts in the form of reputation

It’s strange to think that personal reputation is becoming simultaneously more and less valuable today (reputation management)

The way in which we listen to music, for example, has changed. We don’t listen to entire albums as much as we used to. We don’t know as much about artists as we used to

if Lil Wayne ever put his foot down and decided to stop making rap, we’d find another artist just like him, someone else who satisfies our desires. Lil Wayne commands an audience when it comes to rap. But his reputation is a devil’s contract: continue to make the same thing, and you’ll be rewarded, but don’t stray too far from the original concept.

Reputation has local value – it’s what distinguishes you within your world – but global demand for most people’s output is fairly elastic. In order to give people what they want, reputation is commoditized

How do creators preserve optionality?

The more I’ve kept an eye out for this approach, the more examples I’ve noticed among public figures. They’re the ones who always seem to keep coming up with interesting ideas, the generative thinkers that everyone likes to marvel at, but who manage to say a lot and a little at the same time. Kanye West....

The second approach is to compartmentalize, which is more tedious to manage, but probably easier for most to pull off. We tend to assume that people use pseudonyms or alts for privacy reasons

Finally, to some extent, I find something sort of satisfying about accepting that ideas have a life of their own. Wielded carefully, they can shield, rather than drain, the creator.

If everyone manages a portfolio of ideas, some will be cash cows, some are risky bets, and others will be just for fun.


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