FORWARD BASE B

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“Average Is Over” Is A Destructive Mindset

Every year the sort of inspirational speakers who appeal to drab office schlubs come up with flashy new slogans to say the same things.  For some time the theme they’ve had to address is how the marketplace has grown more competitive as the pond of opportunity shrinks for most people.  They can’t say it like that of course because that would be “negative thinking.”  You can’t make a living giving seminars at business hotels unless you make your clients feel good about themselves.  So this year the fad phrase to say while wagging your finger in admonishment with a smug, fake smile is “Average is overrr!”

All this means is the job market and society itself continues to become more scalable.  Instead of having musicians in every town, you have 1 musician who plays for 300 million.  So it goes for increasingly more fields.  You get your very best talent recorded to internet video or on a website and the guys 99.99% as good are out of business. 

 “Average is over” is an attitude of acceptance that only extreme excellence is of any worth from now on, the rest of us consigned to the dumpster.  And so we must go out and strive to beat the lottery.  If we make it then we are quadruply entitled to adopt sanctimonious airs and wag the finger at those below on “the ladder to success.”
This may well be the final form of that American strain of Puritanism before it finally implodes under the dire pressures it glorifies.

Hyper-individualist Americans love to hear stories about the very best meeting with stratospheric success.  Striving to do one’s best is admirable, but this attitude is not compatible with successfully running a massive empire of 330 million souls who all get hungry and sick whether or not they are particularly useful to anyone.

Furthermore, as only a few can be successful in the scalable world, we ironically see a regression to mass mediocrity in everything from culture to services.  This is because the best possible performers do not come from a vacuum but are incubated by thriving local subcultures filled with other competent enthusiasts.  If only a few can succeed at something, the subculture that cultivated geniuses withers and ironically, the baseline for the elite performers declines.

The subculture of a field that contains relatively average people also supports the sort of refinement that can beget works of genius that stand the test of time.  The very best talent has colleagues as a preliminary audience through whom the works of genius filter down to the populace.  When we have a culture that worships “average is over” the elite .001% answer directly to the perfect democracy of the masses.  The natural output is endless remakes and prequels calculated to reap x millions of dollars with y minimal % of risk.  We are left with precisely calculated drivel churned out as if by a data-mining algorithm.  This is the apotheosis of a market culture that tries to maximize popularity while eliminating all concept of selectiveness and loyalty.

One of the challenges a new society must overcome in the post-industrial age is to figure out how to cultivate subcultures, and eventually actual castes that concentrate human potential in self-reinforcing ways.  The pathological individualism of “average is over” is ultimately the delusional idea that you can have a rose without the bush.  A post-Western caste system asks: “what kind of bush might produce the best rose.”

This is achieved by thinking of culture or any other kind of excellence as we might think of politics and government.  We can’t get the best performance or the best talent without having the right filters.  Even the decadent United States governs through representatives rather than direct mob rule and retains certain filters of the unadulterated popular will such as two senators for every state, the electoral college, or the absence of voting rights for children.

The important concept is no human endeavor can be successful without selecting and filtering specialized groups within society.  This is like the difference between a multicellular creature with organs and an undifferentiated primordial soup.  Every one of the organs within the social body has its own bell curve of performance and in any healthy living thing, the average is not over, it is the backbone.

19 responses to ““Average Is Over” Is A Destructive Mindset

  1. greenmantlehoyos October 14, 2017 at 3:42 am

    Very well put. I’ve often seen a nasty side to thinking we live in a meritocracy. It means if someone is struggling, they deserve it, and if I’m doing well, it’s because I’m awesome. It’s an almost Hindu view of the world where injustice and bad luck don’t really exist, it’s just justice that you can’t see.

    Time and chance happens to us all, as the man said.

    We’ve all had moments where a break one way or the other could radically alter the course of our lives. I could have been far, far worse off than I am a hundred times. Shoot, I’ve lived a pretty safe life and there have been times where I could have died, a few seconds on the highway away from eternity. Personal excellence is deadly important, but it is not all and never has been.

    • Sam J. October 14, 2017 at 11:34 pm

      “…We’ve all had moments where a break one way or the other could radically alter the course of our lives…”

      I had a situation where I was utterly ruined because of…the weather. Specifically a tornado. It wiped me out.

  2. UlricKerensky October 14, 2017 at 11:01 am

    Have you seen the way that employees of “excellent” companies treat even their paying customers?

    If anything, I think you understate the case.

  3. Sam J. October 14, 2017 at 7:32 pm

    You will find if you get out and talk to people sometimes ordinary people have some extremely sophisticated ideas. Of course in most of their life they don’t but they’re may be various areas that they’ve pondered a lot and come up with very interesting ideas. I think most people are like this and if the .001% get rid of all the rest they will be greatly impoverished. The .001%’s greatest gift is making money or knowing or being a part of the right group to make money. Loath as I am to admit it Obama said a little bit of the truth when he said rich people didn’t “make all that money”. There’s lots of caveats to this but there is some truth to it. Some people can go in the bank and easily get a large loan because they know the right people. A lot of money making is taking risk, pushing everyone as hard as you can and having the right people know you. I know a guy good at making money and his chief talent is wringing a dime out of every encounter and sniffing around for money like a bloodhound. Constantly probing for money. Constantly.

    Giovanni I would like to ask something of you. I know you read

    https://dissention.wordpress.com

    what do you think of the ideas in his series?

    https://dissention.wordpress.com/2014/06/14/what-i-really-think-about-human-beings-as-a-species-1/

    I’m on the second one and I really don’t like his ideas but I can’t say all together he’s not correct. Do you have another twist or view of this?

    • Giovanni Dannato October 18, 2017 at 1:05 am

      Yes, Advocatus Diaboli was a hard core cynic who questioned if the human species is even worthwhile.
      I see it as irrelevant to dwell on that. If we suppose it’s true, no reason not to jump off a cliff or sink into a hedonic drug-haze. Therefore, it’s a principle that in my mind “self-eliminates,” a sort of “razor” I came up with to nullify the soul-sapping influence of nihilistic thinking.
      Advocatus has toned it down over the years and even seems to support Bernie style socialism now. He’s somewhat anti-white, but he’s also slammed Asians, and his own race, Indians in the past for their greed, untrustworthiness, and “autism.”
      I have read his blog for years because he has a brilliant analytical mind and approaches things from a different perspective. Among leftist-leaning people, he almost uniquely predicted Trump’s victory back in the primaries. He also predicted that Trump’s presidency would be a shitshow and so far, he’s been more right than wrong. At least, most of us were way too optimistic amidst the excitement and over the years, I find he’s been a voice that tempers the passing enthusiasms of the crowd.

      • Sam J. October 19, 2017 at 11:06 am

        “…Therefore, it’s a principle that in my mind “self-eliminates,” a sort of “razor” I came up with to nullify the soul-sapping influence of nihilistic thinking…”

        Very good way of looking at it. As I read more of his stuff I felt the same way. Not that some of it isn’t true.

  4. XTRABEING ZILLIONZ October 14, 2017 at 7:55 pm

    It is my dream to create a society such as Giovanni occasionally alludes to positively.

    But I think he underestimates the number of exceptionals. They are very LARGE and they have NOPLACE TO GO TO.

    For example, no one in his society recognizes Giovanni’s clear superiority. Because of his incipient shyness and “meta-thinking” (as he wore me in an email), he doubts himself. He knows on some level he is an utterly unique gem in a bedrock of black, undistinguished coal, but what kind? I don’t know how he does with women (I do quite well when I Iift a finger) but if he has any trouble at all, in my society the bitches would be handed to Giovanni like hors d’ouevres on a plate.

    I am looking through the Internet for the BEST AT THEIR KINDS. Giovanni is the best AT HIS KIND that I have found.

    Someday, we will all meet, work, and be friends and have sexxii time with bimbos in Toronto.

    Either I’m right or wrong. If there’s even the slightest chance I’m correct, think of me as a LOTTERY TICKET. One that costs nothing but your continued attention and the slightest feather-breath of faith.

    Giovanni, you deserve a society of your equals which, among other dimensions, has a KINGDOM OF THE INTROVERTED embedded in it. Oh, and if I was going to give you a name, it would be META FALCONER. Just some thoughts. X.

  5. Garr October 17, 2017 at 8:30 pm

    This seems to be the key paragraph in your essay:

    “Furthermore, as only a few can be successful in the scalable world, we ironically see a regression to mass mediocrity in everything from culture to services. This is because the best possible performers do not come from a vacuum but are incubated by thriving local subcultures filled with other competent enthusiasts. If only a few can succeed at something, the subculture that cultivated geniuses withers and ironically, the baseline for the elite performers declines.”

    I’m having trouble visualizing your proposal in graph-form, because it seems as though four axes are required — one for level of “success” (or public status, I suppose), a second for level of creative excellence, third for percentages of people reaching the various levels of success, and a fourth for percentages of people reaching the various levels of creative excellence. And you’d need to compare two such graphs — one for, say, 1930, and another for today.

    If you can think of a way to depict what you’re saying in graph-form, that would help a lot. I don’t quite get it yet. I mean, I think that I sort of have a feel for what you’re saying — that on the one hand fewer people become successful and on the other hand even those few people aren’t as excellent as people on lower success-tiers were in the past, and that these two facts are connected by an excellent creator’s need for the nourishing environment of a “creative caste” (which in turn requires a larger educated class of appreciators?) …?

    I feel as though there’s a new, emerging creative caste of Youtubers, but they’re in another universe. The books I grew up reading are of no interest to anyone, and the stuff that I make, which is based on those books, is therefore of no interest to anyone. The Religion of Art and Literature lasted for about 150 years — I was more or less raised to be a priest of this religion, but it’s dead.

    • Giovanni Dannato October 18, 2017 at 7:54 pm

      I am more verbal and intuitive, though I am analytical so I don’t usually think in terms of graphs. 4 axes seems like a lot to keep track of on one graph. Public success in my mind enables excellence. Once you have enough success not to worry about starving, enduring excellence becomes a concern. So maybe you eliminate the success-based axes, keep it simple as possible at first by tracking number of proficient practitioners, versus some objective measure of excellence we might agree on. Still not sure that would be a helpful graph though.
      I was pretty much just thinking of two different bell curves of excellence. The one in the caste society would go further to the right because even the people on the far left of that distribution would be at least competent.
      And as for the secondary mass audience in a discrete society, it seems to me that in the 19th century, for instance, most people were still farmers and laborers yet caste subcultures allowed the production of high music and literature nonetheless that everyone would have heard of.

    • Sam J. October 19, 2017 at 11:16 am

      Here you go.

      This is a S curve and a J curve on the same graph. Normal would be a S curve but now we have more of a J curve with the mass of people on the left and very few on the right. The height being in money or status. The bottom part of the J curve being very long with the mass of people at a lower level.

      • Sam J. October 19, 2017 at 11:17 am

        Need to add to be specific as this is just some graph I found random. Move the J curve far to the right and stretch it’s lower leg out to the left.

      • Garr October 19, 2017 at 11:00 pm

        But if the horizontal axis is used to represent “excellence” (the further to the right, the better), wouldn’t the J curve on this graph well represent the current situation, and the S curve the normal (past) situation, as Giovanni understands both? But the curves should be vertically flipped so that upward=more people and downward=fewer people, making the point that you’ve got fewer excellent people today that you had before, and even those fewer people are less excellent than the most excellent people used to be?

      • Sam J. October 22, 2017 at 4:09 am

        “…But if the horizontal axis is used to represent “excellence” (the further to the right, the better), wouldn’t the J curve on this graph well represent the current situation, and the S curve the normal (past) situation…”

        Exactly. In the past the middle was larger.

      • Sam J. October 22, 2017 at 4:11 am

        Sorry to double post. As the graph is shown you could say it’s status or money related. As you said, flipped, it would be numbers of people.

      • Giovanni Dannato October 23, 2017 at 11:42 am

        You guys are definitely more spatially oriented than I am. Having that J vs. S curve visual is a great contribution. It feels official, kind of like it came out of an academic paper. I suppose as this sphere continues to mature, some of its spitballed ideas start to become more developed as theories.

  6. Eduardo the Magnificent October 18, 2017 at 5:59 pm

    Nietzsche predicted this with his Ubermensch idea. Once you throw away all the pillars that hold society, the only way to stay afloat, let alone thrive, would be to create all those pillars yourself. The only way to do that would require you to become a master of ethics, philosophy, law, human nature, history, economic and political systems, and theology, and you’d have to figure out how to make that work inside a society that has no constraints on everyone else’s behavior. Of course, man is horrible at doing this (considering most Western idea took several centuries to solidify), so it makes 99.99% of men guaranteed failures. It will take someone of all-time great status, like a Jesus or Buddha, to make it work. Good luck with that.

    Speaking of failures, the paradox of a culture with no constraints on behavior is that although loosening morals makes everything a race to the bottom, failure is stigmatized even worse. Why? Because all avenues to success are now open to you, and no excuse is worthy enough for not achieving it. Why not lie, cheat, steal, swindle, and fraud your way to prosperity? Have any of the banksters who swindled so many from 2006-08 been thrown in jail? Of course not, and they never will. Why let something like a little morality stand in your way? Haven’t you heard: God is Dead, and religion an old relic of a racist, backward society. Might as well Get Yours™ while you can. YOLO.

    • Sam J. October 19, 2017 at 11:24 am

      “…Have any of the banksters who swindled so many from 2006-08 been thrown in jail?…”

      They so ripped us off so bad it’s heart rending. It causes me pain to think about it. Let’s look at some numbers. We gave, during the banking crisis, the banks we know $16 Trillion dollars and through auditing government documents it’s believed the number went to over $29 Trillion and that number was from years ago it’s probably much higher now. At $29 Trillion and 300 million Americans we could have given a zero interest loan for every family of four of $386,666. Housing crisis solved and the economy would have roared with all that cash going into people’s pockets. Let’s say this was turned into a family basic income. For every family of four they could have had a basic income of $10,000 for over 38 years. That’s a damn long time. Another way to look at it is it could provide that income for ten years for each individual.

  7. myb6 October 26, 2017 at 8:25 pm

    “This is because the best possible performers do not come from a vacuum but are incubated by thriving local subcultures filled with other competent enthusiasts. If only a few can succeed at something, the subculture that cultivated geniuses withers and ironically, the baseline for the elite performers declines.”

    Excellent exposition of a key concept in the Hi/Low-Vs-Middle War. Also relevant in the gender war (my life experience is that women are men’s equal in many tasks, yet the passion, risk-taking and bleeding edge of practically every field are male- penalize the supporting male subculture and the advancement dries up). Also probably the source of seemingly-strange traditions that we overturned to our detriment. Also an important insight into clusters, cultural/economic/technical/intellectual (my major takeaway from Hall’s Cities in Civilization). Why Canada usually beats US hockey. Etc etc.

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