A higher variance for weirdness probably encourages creativity

Friday, January 14th, 2022

Noah Smith suggests that “we’re sort of in a replay of the 1970s” — “a period of exhaustion after several years of intense social unrest, where people are looking around for new cultural and economic paradigms to replace the ones we just smashed” — and Tyler Cowen responds:

I view the 1970s as a materialistic time, sexually highly charged, and America running into some significant real resource constraints, at least initially stemming from high oil prices. Mainstream culture was often fairly crass — just look at disco, or the ascendancy of mainstream network television. The current time I see as quite different. Sexually, we are withdrawing. Society is more feminized. America has far more immigrants. And we are obsessed with the virtual and with make-believe, to a degree the 1970s could not have imagined.


I think today the variance of weirdness is increasing. Conformists can conform like never before, due, say, to social media and the Girardian desire to mimic others. But unusual people can connect with other unusual people, and make each other much weirder and more “niche.” For instance, every possible variant of political views seems to be “out there” these days, and perhaps that is not entirely reassuring. A higher variance for weirdness probably encourages creativity. But is it a positive development on net? We are going to find out.


  1. Gavin Longmuir says:

    “As for boosting growth, my number one recommendation would be much more high-skilled immigration. And then more low-skilled immigration to take care of their kids and help run their errands.”

    Mr. Cowen lives in a dream world. Yeah! More immigration is the answer. And more enforcement of the scientifically unsupportable “Climate Change” nonsense.

    He pins his hopes on more advanced computational power, ignoring that the necessary chips have to be imported since the West cannot make them anymore. Why would high skilled immigrants come to a country which has to print Bidenbucks and hope the Taiwanese keep on accepting them in exchange for real goods?

    Mr. Cowen is stuck in his comfortable past. Not impressed!

  2. Bomag says:

    “A higher variance for weirdness probably encourages creativity. But is it a positive development on net? We are going to find out.”

    Among our scientists and researchers, yes. Among the general population, not so much.

    In past days we celebrated the mad scientist. Now our scientists tend toward the orderly and buttoned down: don’t suggest anything that would get you cancelled.

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