RE: The Tipping Point, perspective

From: Joe Dees (
Date: Tue Feb 05 2002 - 02:23:21 GMT

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    >Date: Sat, 2 Feb 2002 18:36:39 -0500
    > The Tipping Point, perspective "Wade T.Smith" <>
    >Here is a quick little excerpt from an interview with Malcolm Gladwell,
    >the author of The Tipping Point. Joe wants me to ask him if
    >consciousness is a godelian phenomenon, and I wondered if he would know
    >what I was asking, so, in the event I have to explain Deesian emergence
    >in some cogent and swift way amidst an audience of book lovers,
    >scientists, newage loonies, Cambridge street persons, academic
    >intelligentsia, and whatever else sort of human refuse decides to come
    >and listen to Gladwell along with me on Thursday this week, I want Joe
    >to actually provide me with the full text of his question....
    The question is : Does he consider the evolution of brain complexity beyond the Godelian threshhold that allows for self-reference to itself be a tipping point permitting the creation and evolution of culture? I do.
    >Anyway, looking at this exchange below, I will not be trying to couch it
    >in memetic terms, since he doesn't much like the word, and uses
    >'epidemic' and 'virus' much more often.
    >- Wade
    >5.  Are you talking about the idea of memes, that has become so popular
    >in academic circles recently?
    >It's very similar. A meme is a idea that behaves like a virus--that
    >moves through a population, taking hold in each person it infects. I
    >must say, though, that I don't much like that term. The thing that
    >bothers me about the discussion of memes is that no one ever tries to
    >define exactly what they are, and what makes a meme so contagious. I
    >mean, you can put a virus under a microscope and point to all the genes
    >on its surface that are responsible for making it so dangerous. So what
    >happens when you look at an infectious idea under a microscope? I have a
    >chapter where I try to do that. I use the example of children's
    >television shows like Sesame Street and the new Nickelodeon program
    >called Blues Clues. Both those are examples of shows that started
    >learning epidemics in preschoolers, that turned kids onto reading and
    >"infected" them with literacy. We sometimes think of Sesame Street as
    >purely the result of the creative genius of people like Jim Henson and
    >Frank Oz. But the truth is that it is carefully and painstaking
    >engineered, down to the smallest details. There's a wonderful story, in
    >fact, about the particular scientific reason for the creation of Big
    >Bird. It's very funny. But I won't spoil it for you.
    >6.  How would you classify The Tipping Point? Is it a science book?
    >I like to think of it as an intellectual adventure story. It draws from
    >psychology and sociology and epidemiology, and uses examples from the
    >worlds of business and education and fashion and media. If I had to draw
    >an analogy to another book, I'd say it was like Daniel Goleman's
    >Emotional Intelligence, in the sense that it takes theories and ideas
    >from the social sciences and shows how they can have real relevance to
    >our lives. There's a whole section of the book devoted to explaining the
    >phenomenon of word of mouth, for example. I think that word of mouth is
    >something created by three very rare and special psychological types,
    >whom I call Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen. I profile three people who
    >I think embody those types, and then I use the example of Paul Revere
    >and his midnight ride to point out the subtle characteristics of this
    >kind of social epidemic. So just in that chapter there is a little bit
    >of sociology, a little of psychology and a little bit of history, all in
    >aid of explaining a very common but mysterious phenomenon that we deal
    >with every day. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm not sure that this
    >book fits into any one category. That's why I call it an adventure
    >story. I think it will appeal to anyone who wants to understand the
    >world around them in a different way. I think it can give the reader an
    >advantage--a new set of tools. Of course, I also think they'll be in for
    >a very fun ride.
    >7.  What do you hope readers will take away from the book?
    >One of the things I'd like to do is to show people how to start
    >"positive" epidemics of their own. The virtue of an epidemic, after all,
    >is that just a little input is enough to get it started, and it can
    >spread very, very quickly. That makes it something of obvious and
    >enormous interest to everyone from educators trying to reach students,
    >to businesses trying to spread the word about their product, or for that
    >matter to anyone who's trying to create a change with limited resources.
    >The book has a number of case studies of people who have successfully
    >started epidemics--an advertising agency, for example, and a breast
    >cancer activist. I think they are really fascinating. I also take a
    >pressing social issue, teenage smoking, and break it down and analyze
    >what an epidemic approach to solving that problem would look like. The
    >point is that by the end of the book I think the reader will have a
    >clear idea of what starting an epidemic actually takes. This is not an
    >abstract, academic book. It's very practical. And it's very hopeful.
    >It's brain software.
    >Beyond that, I think that The Tipping Point is a way of making sense of
    >the world, because I'm not sure that the world always makes as much
    >sense to us as we would hope. I spent a great deal of time in the book
    >talking about the way our minds work--and the peculiar and sometimes
    >problematic ways in which our brains process information. Our
    >intuitions, as humans, aren't always very good. Changes that happen
    >really suddenly, on the strength of the most minor of input, can be
    >deeply confusing. People who understand The Tipping Point, I think, have
    >a way of decoding the world around them.
    >==============================================================This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    >Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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