Bloody shovel

Don't call it a spade

Psychologies of scale

As addicted as I am to the internet, there’s always stuff you miss. A commenter in Mangan’s posted this awesome clip:

This is some video. It’s hilarious, yet sad. Disturbing. They should use this video in psychology classes. It’s a short feature video on the human psyche.

There’s this alpha (for lack of a better word) doing his stuff, not giving a shit about anyone. Then some other smart beta kid senses the coolness and wants in. During a long while it’s just them 2 dancing, while everyone else looks indifferently from a distance. I’m sure the second kid was starting to get nervous. Then, bam, a big group joins in, and once there’s a critical mass of dumb dancers, EVERYONE jumps in. Just look at the sheer numbers of young fat sheep clumsily running towards the action, desperate to share a piece of cool. I wonder how long it lasted.

Now, my first reaction to the video was “teenagers really are stupid”. But then I saw this posted on Chalupas’. Some funny resume by a web designer. Big deal. Well look at his fucking twitter feed. The lame resume has “gone viral”, meaning that everybody inane website in the world has made a news article on “the best resume ever”. Best ever, mind you. Well now the resume, which is as good as the above video’s dance (quite cool actually), is everywhere. He’ll probably get a good gig by some Dilbertian soulless corporate manager who gets his news from Business Insider.

I imagine the process was similar to the video. The guy puts the website online. Nothing happens. Somebody notices it, puts it in his blog. Days later some bored intern in some news website needs to put some content to justify his non-existant salary, so he puts a link and clicks on the promotion algorithm which automatically writes the article: BEST (insert here) EVER, GONE VIRAL NOW MUST SEE). Next thing you know the guy is on Forbes.

Another guy went through the same process, but in the wrong way. Aleksei Vayner killed himself after his video resume, arguably the most douchy video ever put on Youtube, went viral and he became the laughingstock of the high-fly financial world he so eagerly wanted to get in. He probably was up to no good anyway, but internet bullying is a scary thing. He really didn’t see it coming, for some reason. It is my impression that Russians have a less developed BS sensor than other peoples. Dostoievsky went mad after realising that law wasn’t based on divine morality. Tolstoy honesty thought that peasants were the salt of the earth. Vayner thought he could brag his way into the ruling class.

That people are sheep is nothing new, and the political consequences of it have also been known for a while. Which reminds me I still haven’t read the copy of The Rebellion of the Masses in my Kindle. The economic consequences of the sheep brain have also been studied and applied for decades, which Adam Curtis’ brilliant documentary can tell you about. Now the internet is using massive scale to harness sheepness into new business models. Social marketing! It basically amounts to killing foresight and low time preference. All so some rentiers up there can make some returns out of their capital. It’s hard time to be a detached introvert.

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10 responses to “Psychologies of scale

  1. Gap year January 27, 2013 at 17:55

    the tipping point in the dancing video was when the first girl joins

    • spandrell January 28, 2013 at 02:24

      Yeah, the first girl joins, then other girls find it safe to join so they do en mass, then the poon hunters just swarm in.

      I salute the people nearby who didn’t even look.

  2. KK January 28, 2013 at 01:33

    I’ve seen that video somewhere else before. The group-psychological insight there was that a lone ‘pioneer’ is always just a village idiot until someone else joins in.

    The guy claimed that the first follower is already the tipping point. Looking at that again, I wouldn’t put the bar just that low. There’s no guarantee the dance party would have erupted until the first bigger group jumps in. Which also includes the first girl, so there you go.

    I thought about that same dynamic just offline a while ago, how ‘movements’ or ‘ideas’ or ‘trends’ or whathaveyou spill over the virality threshold and become self-sustaining, and where the actual content ceases to matter as much. To take the most obvious example, Gangnam Style obviously was close to some sort of an perfect audiovisual storm but pretty quickly the main driving factor for its popularity was the fact that it is popular.

    No, I wasn’t one of the cool kids in school, why do you ask?

    • spandrell January 28, 2013 at 02:21

      I don’t think any of us around here was one.
      I wonder how are the Finnish popular kids in school. I guess it’s kinda like Japan, where it’s just the tall kids with some sport prowess, but not too jock-ish or overbearing. Sorry for stereotyping but I have fond memories of Finn friends and I always wondered.

      The best theory I’ve read on Gangnam style was that korean netizens did one of their old F5 attacks, so they drove up the view count until it reached Virality Point.
      Once Google changed the ranking algorithm from clicks to full views (start to end), Gangnam disappeared from the top 50. It was too late though, it had already gone viral.

      It’s uncanny to think of the amazing brains that are toiling every day in marketing departments trying to use this dynamic to sell some new shit. In the meantime the government is busy importing more Somalis.

      • KK January 28, 2013 at 13:13

        I don’t think any of us around here objects to stereotyping.

        We’re all pretty tall here so additional height wasn’t much of a difference maker in my recollection. The reasonably skillful sports dudes and the early puberty semi-baddies rule the roost, but not the most extreme examples of either, though. I guess that’s pretty universal everywhere.

        It’s uncanny to think of the amazing brains that are toiling every day in marketing departments trying to use this dynamic to sell some new shit. In the meantime the government is busy importing more Somalis.
        Heh, 21st century in action. Finns and Somalis, stuck together in an eternal bond.

        One of my pet theories is that Finland has very low (compared to other First World nations) immigrant numbers because:
        a) we never had a gastarbeiter program until the 90’s when our refugee program was launched, and
        b) we started our refugee program with Somalis, one of the… shall we say most incompatible populations for a technologically advanced society. The kumbaya liturgy grew pretty stale pretty quickly.

  3. John January 30, 2013 at 18:09

    Very interesting video. I imagine that the fashion industry implicitly know this dynamic. This is, after all, how one gets their design to be hot and trendy.

  4. tysunejzai February 4, 2013 at 08:45

    “It is my impression that Russians have a less developed BS sensor than other peoples. ” You would think all those years of Soviet propaganda would fine-tune their BS sensor.

    • spandrell February 4, 2013 at 09:45

      I remember that blog post by Adam Curtis on how the Soviet youth enthusiastically rushed to Afghanistan to bring socialism to the oppressed, then became depressed by the brutality of the Soviet Army.
      Also there’s some video from Vice magazine of a Jesus wannabe in a Siberian village, who has thousands of followers.
      Real life is depressing over there, I’d also probably fall for any BS they feed me.

    • RS February 10, 2013 at 02:16

      > You would think all those years of Soviet propaganda would fine-tune their BS sensor.

      Yeah, but why did they ever wind up neck-deep in bolshi propaganda? Only because they fell pretty hard for mendacious propaganda in the first place. Granted, they were a pretty darn peasant people at the time.

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