Profile picture
, 21 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
One reason I champion mediocrity is that alternative is obviously dystopian:

Upper class of exceptional superhumans

Middle class of robots

Lower class of broken, institutionalized people who failed to be exceptional, and regressed right past human mean to “driven crazy.”
The polyannish hope is basically Lake Wobegon: almost everybody “above average” in some magical sense with maybe a few broken people in nice, humane 5-star mental institutions. This does not track with regression to the mean.
Human basic material well-being floor can and does improve (everything from infant mortality to protein intake to height) but the amount of mediocrity in the system decreases much more slowly and I think has a hard lower limit.

Why?
Dimensionality of human experience! Well-known statistics fact: high dimensional distributions have more “weight” at the extremes. You need more “ways to human” to move more people from mediocre to exceptional (if you want to do that at all).
You can have Lake Wobegon if there’s as many ways to excel as people. Everybody gets humaning participation trophy for being best at something. The problem with this is a) there’s no grounding in survival/adaptation truth signal b) it’s not actually a fun human condition
In case it isn’t obvious, everybody best at something = everybody worst at the same thing = no variation for natural selection = cultural evolution at a degenerate stall condition. In practice it means evolution proceeds via illegible selection pressures under overwrought order
In fact even when there is enough dimensional room for all, people will congregate in a few. Humans *want* community enough they’d rather be average in the competitive company of at least a subculture than “excellent” by default as the sole person doing something.
Where’s there is collective experience there are comparisons, variations, selections... and cream/middle/dregs parts of the distribution. This is a good thing. Don’t try to stack-rank humanity by skimming off the cream and destroying the rest.
The existence of mediocrity is a consequence of humans valuing sociability enough to give up some exceptionalism for it. I write in part because writing is work where I can have company, even if it means being mostly mediocre at it and dealing with resulting social consequences.
We’re also smarter as a collective species than as individuals. Yes there’s a tax of bureaucracy/“innovation by committee” but hive minds of grain-fed runts still out-evolved scattered beef-only nomad barbarians. Only takes a small dose of exceptionalism and it’s Advantage Borg.
So for a) social psychological reasons b) efficiencies of scale/concentration c) higher collective intelligence. The human condition is always lower dimensional than what technology allows, and is a function of population, not possibility.
Mediocrity is safety net of psyche. You sustain it by creating modes of being that *large numbers of people can participate in at acceptable levels in Borg/Death Star mode*. This is in fact what the “democratization” of platform capitalism is. Clouds of average human computers.
Democratization is mediocratization. The reduction in the number of special traits (genetic, educational, virtues, class) required to participate in a function. The fundamental contradiction inherent in hustle porn and celebration of excellence is ignoring this powerful force.
With apologies to A. N. Whitehead, civilization advances by extending the number of operations humans can perform without being exceptional or OCD.

You want to level up the world? Replace a genius function, not with an AI, but with something a half-engaged slacker can phone in.
Seattle is squeezing mediocrity hard right now. And predictably there’s more, and crazier, homeless people on the streets, whose mental health/drug use is a bigger issue than their poverty. Almost as bad as San Francisco now. This is what happens when you wage war on mediocrity.
Be careful what you wish for in wishing mediocrity would go away. You’re saying: make it to the top or break down and fall to the human garbage pile. Mediocrity is sustainable “fake it a bit till you die happy” option. Not “fake it till you make it or fail and die of insanity.”
Mediocritism isn’t socialism by the way. Capitalism is a 10x better engine of mediocratization than any kind of socialism *if* you don’t fetishize it. I suspect vaguely socialist modes of societal organization emerge as an overcompensation when mediocrity is stressed too hard.
This happens when exceptionalists and excellentists drink their own “meritocracy” kool-aid too much and start believing in master races, superhumans and other statistically dubious eugenics fever dream misreadings of how capitalism actually works.
Ironically you know what’s a sure sign of mass exceptionalist thinking? Overly muscular systems of “meritocracy” thinking. You know where they believe super strongly in that? China. It’s the party line that all Chinese are above average if you standardize testing enough.
Capitalism works not by raising floor or ceiling but by dragging up middle via democratization-mediocratization. Misreading this is basically a case of being so terrified of being merely ordinary, and people who accept a contemporary ordinary life, you wage war on mediocrity.
So dare to be ordinary, huddle in the middle, slack off, say fuck-off to excellence/meritocracy/hustle religions and Make Meh Great Again 🙂
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Venkatesh Rao
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls (>4 tweets) are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Follow Us on Twitter!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!


This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!