Tuesday, May 10, 2005

On Being Famous

(Random ivory tower, over-the-top musing follows)


A) Social interactions are based on "equal" trade, given basic laws of psychological supply and demand. Failed trades end the interaction - time wasted on both sides.

B) The human mind defines and persues 'prosperity', while avoiding things which decrease prosperity more than they increase it.

C) The human mind generalizes events which tend to end up a certain way such that all events of that type are expected to end that way.

Example: High school friends hang out together. They 'trade' social support, each making the other socially stronger by simple dint of numbers and pooled resources. They also often trade lunch components, games, and entertainment. If one member is perceived as providing less social strength than average (such as 'the ugly friend' in a small group of attractive girls or the 'outcast' in a small group of jocks), that member is often expected to provide more in some form of physical or emotional trade.

Example: Taken to an extreme (which it often is), this becomes 'hazing'. A powerful group accepts a new member. The new member is perceived as not having much to give in return for the large group's powerful support. So the new member is forced to give entertainment and ego bolstering. The humiliation has several side effects, but those are not within the scope of this wee blog entry.

Excersize: In Seattle, we have a LOT of beggars. Please define, in 200 words or less, why Seattleites give so much money to vagrants. If I can define it, so can you.

Now, about BEING FAMOUS.

Famous people are much like the hazing example. They are a powerful faction on their own, socially speaking. They have quite a lot of potent social strength to trade. On the other hand, the people who routinely approach them do NOT. Unfortunately, famous people do not follow group dynamics - they have no need of new 'members' past a certain point. The tiny ego boost random strangers provide is a drop in an ocean of adulation they regularly receive, so is totally unimportant. In addition, the more famous they get, the more prosperous they get... and the more people who approach them, the more famous they get. It's a spiral.

This leads to one kind of behavior, after the famous person has adapted to the high level of ego bolstering. Constantly approached by people who cannot offer anything in trade, the famous person begins to take the most efficient route to end these interactions. The famous person begins to try to limit the interactions, often by disguising themselves and/or remaining as seperated from the world as possible.

Therefore, the more famous you get, the more you literally live in a different world from the normal people. You live in a world of high-level social prosperity, where people hound you and serve you gleefully.

Can you see what result this has? Think about how your goals would shift if you had accomplished everything and had to take into account being continuously hounded by fans and media. What do you consider 'prosperity' when you have acheived all the basic needs and more? Do you acheive strange new forms of prosperity? Do you twist the old forms such that you can acheive more severe versions of them?

I'll give you a hint: if you pick some new form of prosperity, you'll probably only follow it until you get bored - there's no actual NEED involved. This means that the forms of prosperity prosperous people tend to focus on are the kind which involve RISK and/or continuous change.

Now, think about being president.

Last excersize: if everyone very prosperous suffers from this kind of situation, then what are their goals... and why the FUCK are you letting them lead?


Side notes:

Please note that the people who follow a social prosperity spiral will tend to value social prosperity - IE 'fame'. At some point, individual interactions stop being important (when you have 1000 rabid fans, number 1001 doesn't merit your effort), but you will likely still persue methods of making fans. This further cuts you off from generic social interactions. Therefore, this kind of spiral is likely the one which seperates a person MOST into their own little world.

Politicians are an example of this. So are movie stars, but movie stars are less so. They're usually are about fame INSIDE the industry, so general fans are once removed from their idea of prosperity. I doubt you'll find very many really famous movie stars who are still striving to be MORE famous... whereas I doubt you'll find any dedicated politician who DOESN'T strive to become more famous.

Other kinds of highly prosperous people - such as the very wealthy or the scientific genius - are famous only within certain circles. This means that social interactions are not nearly so stilted, and do not have to be carefully limited. In turn, this means that their forms of prosperity are probably LESS badly stilted. In theory, fame corrupts more than money.

What we have done is create a system led by people to which the only thing which matters is popularity. It sounds good to say 'popular vote', but 'popular' is the inescapable part of that equation. And when the only thing that matters is popularity, then you get the situations enumerated above.

1 comment:

Darren Torpey said...

Thanks for posting this. Very interesting.