March 03, 2014

The Eternal Eye-Roll

There are a substantial number of people in the marketing and advertising industry whose livelihood depends on convincing us that we need them to help us understand and interpret the "unprecedented" changes in our culture and society.

These market researchers and "behavioral anthropologists" are constantly bombarding us with propaganda about how changes in our culture are uniquely different from the past.

These are people who know nothing about history.

They seem to think that the world was at a standstill until the invention of the internet. They have no idea that previous advances were at least as "earth-shaking" to society.

They are clueless about the impact that earlier breakthroughs had on society -- electricity, or the automobile, or radio, or armor, or the telephone, or gunpowder.

They only know what is in front of them. They think what they are experiencing is unique. They think that history didn't begin until they were born. And like every generation before them, they think they have a unique perspective.

After a while it becomes entertaining to watch successive generations of narcissists and clowns assert that they have a ringside seat for the most momentous changes in history.

Every generation believes it, and every generation is wrong.


h4emtfr said...

In defense of "he most momentous changes in history" bit one could argue that it is the most momentous change *to us* since we're in a position to react and influence it to some extent.

Not much we can do about armor and gunpowder nowadays.

I'd also say that the changes the superinformationhighway is bringing are different from the changes that electricity and radio brought.

I'm not sure what you are trying to say with this post. You admit that technological advancements have led to earth-shaking changes to siciety before.

Are you saying we shouldn't try to understand what's happening, that we should learn from the past or are you just fed up with soc-media pundits raking it in by showing videoclips of swiping toddlers?

Jim Fraser said...

There is also a lot of chat about us all living uniquely busy and time-starved lives. As if everyone in the 50s spent most of their time sitting by the pool drinking banana daiquiris.

Cecil B. DeMille said...

I don't know if it's an insular perspective so much as it is the rampant spread of hyperbole. "This is the biggest change ever!" Every generation, including mine and yours, sees the world through its own filter.

The real issue I think TAC is getting at is that the biggest change ever may be pretty big, but that will depend on your perspective. I was around long before the Internet, so the Internet didn't really shake the world for me. It's a convenient tool, and not much else. For someone born when it was taking off, I can understand the tendency to glorify it.

My biggest change ever? The printing press. Without that, no TV, radio, Internet or much of anything else, for that matter.

casper pesky said...

For me it's Newcomen's Atmospheric Engine, closely followed by Watt's seperate condenser. Without those - just animal power and a little bit of wind and water power. Oh, and no industrial revolution.

Charlotte said...

...and every generation invented rock and roll. I do feel, however, that the most awesome thing about the internet is that I can look up the name of that guy who was in that film that I can't remember. Very useful.

Dave said...

The internet is the world's biggest library mixed with the world's biggest garage sale. Tacked onto the world's biggest comment board. All great things separately, made wonderfully, annoyingly, bigger and faster.

Martin said...

It would be better if people spent less time trying to understand change and more time trying to understand what has always been. The great thing about "Thinking Fast and Slow" is that is doesn't attempt to say anything has changed, it shines a light on an aspect of our behaviour that has always been poorly understood. The result is better applications of things like public policy, healthcare, insurance, pensions etc.

If we took the same approach, we'd be a bit more humble about our current understanding of how advertising actually works (which is terrible) and seek to understand the past and present more effectively rather than constantly trying to invent the future on the basis that we totally know how now works.