Show Me

Leptis Magna, a prominent city of the Carthaginian Empire (Libya).

If you claim to be embarked on a path of original inquiry, you should be capable of giving body to an original style of life.

Digital media requires the production of proof before any given idea can gain currency. In a world where the production of words is cheap (and becoming virtually free), proof of work inevitably moves up a level—to the real. At some point, if your words cannot generate ramifications on the plane of the real, they will exit the meme pool.

It's tempting to lament this as an unwelcome burden on the "pure thinker," but that's a lazy and resentful attitude. Notice there are many different kinds of ramifications on the real. I'm not suggesting every good idea must produce a business, or it should generate income for its proponents. That would be absurd.

A feeling is an effect on the real, just as well. Deeply true ideas may only produce certain feelings, and that might be more than enough to justify them. When we think of pure, disinterested thinking—as in the highest understanding of the liberal arts—the types of ideas we're thinking about operate on the real. They just don't cash out, at least not in any obvious, perceptible way. They go in, they transform, but they don't cash out, in part because they replace the need to cash out. People still read Shakespeare because it's intrinsically rewarding.

Gone are the days of high-status and income-generating ideas that never produce any ramifications on the real whatsoever. It's interesting to note how many supposedly good ideas have existed, ideas which are still respected today, which have never produced a single ramification on the real. The majority of academic concepts never produced a single actionable insight, commercial venture, or even just a worthy feeling (outside of contrived institutional incentive schemas, that is). These are ideas with no audience or constituency, which never passed a single reality test of any kind, which gained currency through an obfuscated power process driven almost exclusively by ulterior motives. These are feelings, but they would disappear if the external apparatus disappeared, so they're not real feelings. The books of someone like Judith Butler would be a good example here; they obviously don't contain actionable alpha, although they are inspiring for a certain type of person. Yet they are only inspiring to the degree one is embedded in the institutional game that underwrote their publication in the first place. Absolutely nobody has ever found anything in these books, or felt anything from these books, who was not to some degree a shareholder in certain specific branches of the moralistic-bureaucratic power process. Remove the little bit of money circulating through a few dozen university departments and these books would have very little effect on anyone.

The modern scholar should not be saddened by the new game board. On net, everything is moving in a direction generally favorable to the expression and circulation of truths. Where the most true, and the most meaningfully true, is rewarded faster and more generously, than the less true or the less meaningfully true. Current technological trends are a great gift to anyone with blood in their veins, zeal in their heart, and more than a pea between their ears.

Right now, all the styles of life we see on the internet are mostly purveyed by weak thinkers, and most of the strong ideas we see on the internet are purveyed by lives we cannot inspect.

Off this diagonal, there is emerging a new mode of veridiction—to use Foucault's worthy neologism.

If your ideas are good, show me they are good by showing me that your style of life is good.

If your ideas are the best, then show me you live the best style of life possible.

If you do not live the best style of life possible (in your own judgment)—and I certainly do not!—then perhaps this is itself a promising line of inquiry: What is wrong with your ideas?

Realize that ideas, even high ideas, will be subject to such filtering whether one likes it or not. Unnamed, it's already happening. The pedestrian meme is called "physiognomy," technically absurd but directionally correct.

Tell me what exactly is the good; but also—for the first time ever at scale—show me.