Monday, October 17, 2005
Next Big Things - Paranoia
Down with the flu this weekend, too brain-dead to do anything cool, so I ended up reading a copy of (believe it or not) "Left Behind" lying around my cousin's place. You know, the Rapture book.
Mind-bendingly bizarre (uhh..no offense if you believe in the whole Rapture sequence) - I think it's absolutely vital as a cultural Rosetta Stone for America on the cusp of the 21st century.
I don't think it takes a genius to hypothesize that the reason this fairly bizarre stuff catches in on the States is because of Pressure (capital P).
I've lived all over the world. Life in the States is incredibly stressful, relative to anywhere else.
That's because unless you've really made it, you're always just a few months away from the end of the line - especially in a society with zero social protection for the poor and less fortunate. Your entire life can be undone in the space of weeks, no matter how 'hard' you work.
There is nowhere else in the world like this - no, not even the 3rd world. I've lived there too, and at least there, social institution like extended families are there to catch people when they fall. People are not nearly as stressed out.
So is it really a big surprise that people choose paranoia over reason? I don't think so; under this kind of selection pressure, reason has very little adaptive value. So what if you can explain something? It won't help you - but being paranoid will; it can provide a kind of adaptive foresight that reason is hard pressed to match in terms of efficiency.
I think paranoia is emerging as a consumer macrotrend - a primary driver of consumption for the mass market. Right now, it's mostly manifested through the hypergrowth of the religious media segments; but something to look out for in other segments as well.
Some truth in what your somewhat interesting observations. But I think you can go deeper. No where else in the world might you have more pressure, but no where else might you have more opportunity. Myriad of opportunity, albeit all laden with risk of course, creates much pressure for the awake individual to execute on oppty.
If you didn't have much oppty, you would just pretty much give up... you won't stress as much when you can do NOTHING about your situation. Stress also comes from knowing that there is something you can do, but taking decisions to avoid the opptys. I see this aplenty.
Also, social safety nets, apart from the extended family which is sacrosanct, have a negative societal consequence I am sure you, the economist, are familiar with, with many examples on display at the Dept of Unintended Consequences.
So Tony, what is the percentage in your experience of awake people who have any chance of capitilizing on the great opportunities.
As someone haunted by those opportunities not yet explored but more positioned than many to capitalize I would like to hear your thoughts.