Cambrian explosion’ of intellectualism

One question is: why learn advanced mathematics? This is related to the is-ought problem, as posed by Hume. The examples in differential geometry can be difficult and time-consuming , unlike simple calculus, and are best done with computer, not by hand. A single tensor, as found in general relativity, may have dozens of components…writing them out would be taxing. The question is, what do want to do with this knowledge. There is value in learning complicated, abstract math to signal intellect and thus become more popular online, and maybe get consulting work. That alone is very valuable, and is why STEM graduates or graduates from elite schools make so much money and have such god job prospects compared to everyone else, because such degrees generally require a lot of intelligence to obtain and thus signal competence.

But also, why is there so much interest in learning complicate, esoteric math concepts? All things ‘smart’ have gotten more attention as of late, such as as theoretical physics, quantum mechanics, philosophy and math (as well as all these things melded together). It seems, especially as of 2013, there is huge demand for learning complicated mathematics, coding, and trading algorithms. It’s like the AP-math class of high school but expanded to include almost everyone, not just a dozen students. Popular sites like WaitbutWhy are popularizing ideas (cryonics, fermi paradox, etc.) that just as recently as a decade ago were mostly of the domain of scifi aficionados and scientists. Pre-2008, the internet was a pretty ‘dumb’ place, dominated by crappy MySpace profiles, LiveJournal and DeviantArt, V-Bulletin forums, bombastic opinion pieces, bland advice pieces, and content transcribed from offline sources to the internet. Then, around 2013 or so, came long-form, infographics, data visualizations, and social networking like Facebook and Twitter (which replaced Myspace). And also, the rise of ‘expert culture’ – sites like Reddit, Hacker News, Medium, as well as those ‘question and answer’ sites that have social aspects to them (math exchange/overflow, stack overflow/exchange), all of which reward competent, helpful people with ‘karma’ and status. In the past, you either had to go to a crappy V-Bulletin site or a newsgroup, and your contributions were generally ignored outside of their respective communities. ‘Expert culture’, which is related to ‘intellectualism culture’ is how ‘esoteric celebrities’ are created, because now these competent, smart people are having their contributions broadcast to the world, gaining wealth and social status in the process. There are huge markets for this stuff, tons of readers, and lots of viralness and page views – and no topic is too complicated or esoteric. I liken it to a ‘Cambrian explosion’ of intellectualism.

But also, people observe, read headlines about high-IQ founders, venture capitalists, and coders making tons of money in Web 2.0 (Uber, Pinterest, Snaphat, Dropbox, etc.); STEM people getting tons of prestige, status, and global notoriety for their finding (Arxiv physics and math papers frequently go viral); and how the economy, especially as of 2008, rewards intellectualism and STEM in terms of higher wages and surging asset prices (like stocks (the S&P 500 has nearly tripled since the 2009 bottom), web 2.0 valuations (Snapchat is worth $15 billion, on its way to $50 billion), and real estate (Palo Also home prices have doubled since 2011)), and, understandably, many people want a piece of the wealth pie. They see that intellect – which includes STEM, finance, and also quantitative finance – is the path to both riches and social status (as embodied by wealthy geniuses like Musk, Thiel, Zuckerberg, Shkreli), which is why there is so much interest in these technical, difficult subjects, unlike decades ago when only a handful of people were interested. This is the so-called wealth-intellectualism synthesis.

An explanation for this ‘explosion’ may have to do with how the internet evolved, as well as demographic changes. From the late 90′s until around the early 2000′s, the internet was dominated primarily by music downloading/sharing and pornography, as well as crudely designed ‘personal webpages’ and news repositories (cnn.com, fox.com, etc.). Internet and computer speeds were slow, and what little precious bandwidth there was could not go to waste, so that meant a lot people used the internet to circumvent restrictions found offline, for example, not having to pay $18 for a CD but instead downloading the songs for free using a service such as Napster (which lead to a lot of lawsuits), which took a long time due to slow internet speeds. But at the time, it was amazing….people underestimate how important music downloads were for the early internet. While teens and 20-somethings were downloading music and pornography, older people were primarily using the internet to check news, finance (motley fool and yahoo finance were two popular sites). By 2002-2009, almost everyone has some form of high-speed internet, forums and social networks such as Myspace and v-bulletin are very popular and begin to overshadow music and porn downloads (because the internet is faster, people don’t have to chose between downloading music or porn (first priority) or social networking (second priority); they can easily do both), but the internet is still a pretty ‘dumb’ place, as mentioned earlier. At this point, millennials are still in their in their early to late teens and don’t have as large of a presence on the internet as they do now, which between 2002-2009 was dominated by gen-x.

Fast-forward to 2013, and now millennials are either finishing college or just graduated, and now dominate the internet, which has evolved from being dominated by Myspace, porn, and music downloading (all of which have now been pushed to the periphery, and Myspace has been replaced by Twitter and Facebook, which are much better), to now being dominated by sites such as Medium, Reddit, and Hacker News, that reward intellectualism and have huge traffic and growth. Although Slashdot, a smart site, was popular in 2002-2009, it was mostly an outlier, not the mainstream. Furthermore, millennials, being overeducated and more intellectually curious than earlier generations, are leading this intellectual renaissance/explosion, and have a keen interest in ‘smart’ topics such as economics, philosophy, computer programming, physics, finance, HBD, political science, sociology, etc. – not just music downloads or checking sports scores, and readily debate these complicated subjects on social news sites such as Reddit or Hacker News or on Twitter, which is both good and bad, to some extent. It’s ‘good’ because millennials helped create the ‘alt right’ another other esoteric ideologies and movements (such as MGTOW and Red Pill) that defy the boring, politically correct left-right dichotomy. Debating physics and economics online, imho, is more interesting than downloading music. Instead of trying to find the latest ‘Britney download’, young people now want to learn about functional programming, how to make money online (such as through stocks and finance) and be self-sufficient (instead of broke, dull, and spendthrift like their baby boomer parents), learn about Tensor flows, or the space-time continuum. They are also taking to Medium and Tumblr to blog about philosophy and how to find meaning in life, but also about programming, social theory, and start-ups. But on the other extreme, unfortunately, there are the millennial SJWs, who seem to have an especially large presence on Twitter, with ‘BLM’ Twitter mobs and campus crusaders.