Why The World Has Gone Crazy

Link to original article.

Alex begins this article with a hunch: the "mingling-copying mechanism" that humans and many other animals use to operate in groups won't work on networks.

He wrote code to show his hunch is right. I'm working on converting this to python to use networkx and plotly to make some useful visualizations of this phenomena.

Alex assumes that our social networks are [[scale-free networks]]. When new nodes are added to a scale free network, they are more likely to connect with nodes that already have a lot of connections (the rich get richer type of thing). The networksciencebook has a great chapter on them. It seems generally accepted that many real life networks are approximately scale-free, which is what Alex assumed in his code, but wikipedia says that some papers have found they are more rare than many people realized. Even so, they are a good starting point for experimentation.

The mingling copying mechanism Alex describes is very similar to [[Mimetic Theory]], which I first read about in Peter Thiel's Religion. It's a bit of an ironic connection, because that is an essay stroking a billionaire, the exact group that Alex argues is most affected by the defects of copying in large networks. It is interesting to point out that [[David Perrell]] does think that [[Peter Thiel]] is successful, in large part, because of his intentionally anti-mimetic lifestyle.

The ideas here are also closely related to those in [[The Power Paradox]], which has a great term for our obsession with successful individuals - [[narratives of exceptionalism]]. [[Dacher Keltner]] shares results from experiments in which less powerful people more likely to attribute success (of lack thereof) to an individual's environment, while more powerful people are likely to attribute success to an individual's "special gifts". More and more, I am starting appreciate environments over special individuals. It's starting to make me question my sources of inspiration, like The [[Tim Ferris]] Show and writing like Peter Thiel's Religion.

  • I do still think there is value in those, but this perspective helps me better evaluate which parts of these people I want to emulate. In particular, I like the idea of focusing on putting myself in similar environments more than trying to copy actions or attitudes

I also enjoy arguments for positive change that aren't based on "it's the right thing to do," like Alex's argument for a wealth cap. I recently listened to this podcast, where [[Ron Gonen]], "[[New York City]]'s first 'Recyclying Czar,'" makes it clear we should be aggressively recycling, not because it's "right" or "fair," but because it's a better economically, by a long shot. If we are ever going to convince skeptics to change their minds, great ideas and arguments like this will be key.

Overall, this essay was a great read, and a really cool take on a tough issue.

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