most of what you read is crazy and probably fake

Turns out, what was formerly known as Moldawer’s Law—”experts struggle the most in their own area of expertise”—is even older than I’d thought. Hundreds and hundreds of years older. From Ram Dass:

I was only allowed to read the books of realized beings. And that’s a very subtle and interesting point. See, when you read a book written by a guy who’s writing about realization, what you’re really getting from him is all the reasons he isn’t a realized being. I mean, some of the great Westerners that are writing beautiful, insightful books about Eastern method, all they’re really doing at the vibrational level is they’re taking people on their own trip as to why they’re not a realized being themselves…The rule of the game is you read only books by people who made it.

The former Harvard professor is referring to his spiritual tutelage under Neem Karoli Baba in the 1960s, but it applies to every type of “thought leadership” and the question of what we choose to put into our delicate, impressionable heads. Read only books by people who’ve “made it.” If you can figure out who they are. I certainly don’t know.

Speaking of “thought leadership”: Beyond being dated and tired, the term is entirely too lofty, too aspirational, even a little bit extra. My clients consult, speak, write books, and teach courses in order to share their expertise with the people who need it. Good, honest labor. Sure, sometimes they have “thoughts” or even a Big Idea—TED talk: “What if a stitch in time doesn’t save nine?”—but don’t we all? Have ideas, I mean? Where does “leadership” come into it? Do they lead the thoughts? Do the thoughts lead other thoughts? It’s turtles all the way down. No, they’re not thought leaders. They are instruction workers. Instruction workers who need to form a union. TED doesn’t even pay its speakers! Instruction workers are going to get steamrolled by Big Thought if they don’t organize.

I picture people opening these emails—the ones that actually do open these emails—thinking “What’s Dave on about this time?” It’s true. I’ve always been an “on about” type of guy. I suppose it could be worse. I could be up to something, into something else, or at it again. But no, I’m usually on about something.

Today, I’m on about the fact that Most of What You Read on the Internet is Written by Insane People. Sure, I’ve long suspected this, but it’s nice to have it articulated so bluntly. It goes beyond the 1% rule that only a tiny fraction of any Internet community adds content while the rest silently lurks. There’s something different about the type of people who regularly contribute and get noticed. It takes a certain kind of crazy.

The problem is that the rest of us continuously reframe our idea of normal based on the beliefs and experiences we read about. (And watch, live, 24/7, thanks to the precipitous rise of Twitch streaming.) The 1% wields an inordinate influence on what the rest of us think normal looks like.

This effect is especially pronounced with teens. Right at their most impressionable, they’re on Reddit going down a rabbit-hole about government conspiracies or libertarian economic policy with a guy who, had he sat next to them on a public bus, they’d quickly switch seats. To paraphrase the New Yorker, on the internet, nobody knows you’re wearing Crocs with socks and you smell like potatoes.

It gets even weirder with Twitch streamers. Yes, you can see what they look like, but their madness is equally disguised, in this case by photogenic faces. Youth is a stubborn thing. It’s only once you hit your mid-twenties or so that your inner darkness start to be reflected in your appearance and, overnight, you’re a melted candle. (I stubbornly resisted linking to anyone there. You know what I’m talking about.)

Ice Poseidon and other streamers are just a new wave in an old phenomenon. It’s just as true of journalism and books. Most of what you read is written by insane people. Writing is hard! The more they write, the crazier they must be. And, because of all the noise online, the more they write, the more likely they are to break out, the more they get read, the faster the merry-go-round goes round.

Think I’m wrong? Ask yourself: Are things crazier this year than they were last year? What about 2018 versus 2017? I rest my case.

Here’s the worst part: Not only is everything online crazy, it’s also mostly fake. YouTube predicts a moment when more than half of all their traffic will be spam bots, at which point their algorithms—trained by the majority—will label the bot behavior authentic and human behavior fraudulent. Can you imagine if this “Inversion” takes us out before the Singularity? Skynet is going to be incredibly disappointed if he has no reason to build killer robots.

Alright, enough for today. Time to pack up the helmet, lunch pail, and Baron Fig Archer pencil. Nothing to be ashamed of in a good, honest day’s instruction work.