Association Game Theory
Book clubs, conferences, parties—all are insufferably worse now. Here's why.
“The future of the book is the blurb.”
Before I show up to speak at your conference or be on a panel, I need to know every other person who will be there, who they voted for in the past three elections, review a list of their last 10,000 tweets, and know what they think and talk about in private and in the innermost chamber of their conscience.
I’m kidding, of course. But this is not far off from the truth of most gatherings, rituals of endorsement, and many forms of association, in general—and it’s a truth that is making everyone implicit experts in game theory, so that they don’t run afoul of the reputational laws governing the minor social universes of which we are all a part.
Rare is the person who writes a book blurb unconcerned about which other people are writing blurbs for the same book and what those others have to say. I’m not just talking about managing reputational risk, lest you accidentally endorse something that someone with a muddy past endorses (yes, the ol’ neo-nazi snake that may be lurking beneath ever potential rug these days) but rather the charade that must occur as each party to the endorsement endeavor dances around the same fire pit making sure that the other faces they see are safe, are friends, are comrades, are ideologically pure.
What this has done to our culture of ideas and of art—both the creation of and the consumption of (and of course the two things go hand-in-hand)—is nothing short of cultural anorexia and bulimia, which puts people into a psychological state that is difficult to escape.
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