There’s a contemporary commercial for a company whose name I forgot that sells science lectures or videos or some such thing. The key line is that you should buy these items to feed “your brilliant mind”.
I don’t want to be seen as cruel, delicate reader, but given our knowledge of the American public the chance a viewer of this commercial (including myself) is brilliant is low. Plus, if the viewer really was brilliant, then it’s likely he would not need the videos.
Flaubert said “The public wants work which flatters its illusions.” Advertisers and charlatans heed this wisdom, their path made smooth by an educational system which inculcates the illusion of limitless intelligence in its students. Any child can be brilliant, parents are assured. We are all geniuses.
Who doesn’t want to hear how far above the others one is—or can be, for a small fee?
The question is, if you’re a huckster, what is the maximum you can you charge for selling flattery without your audience balking? Five thousand is not too large, apparently.
Here are the opening paragraphs of the New York Times story “How to Hack Your Brain (for $5,000)“.
EDEN, Utah — One morning last month a group of roughly 60 people, including doctors, C.E.O.s and internet entrepreneurs, gathered under a big white dome to hear the mission statement of their host, a 45-year-old man named Jamie Wheal.
As he paced back and forth in front of an altar bearing shiny Buddha heads, Mr. Wheal talked about the perils of information overload in our content-rich era. “A literate person in the European Middle Ages,” he said, “consumed the same amount of content in their entire lives as we do reading a single edition of the Sunday New York Times.”
Only an illiterate person in the modern age would nod in agreement at that “content” claim and flatter himself into believing he was leagues beyond the poor simple folk of yore. This flattery is evidently enough to convince the audience of the need to cleanse their minds. For a stinging fee.
About the supposed content-benighted medieval dwellers. One wonders if Mr Wheal read any of the books by Thomas Aquinas. Had he even heard of Albertus Magnus? Perhaps he had. But he was sure his audience hadn’t.
Before continuing, re-read the first paragraph. Doctors, CEOs, entrepreneurs. All educated, even highly educated, folks. If that doesn’t teach you the lesson that modern education is sorely lacking in substance, nothing will.
The story continues, “Sinewy and tanned from a life of outdoor pursuits, Mr. Wheal was offering attendees the chance to ‘upgrade’ their nervous systems to meet this incontrovertible information overload. How? With ‘flow.'”
Flow, they say, is associated with hidden and rarely accessed brain “layers”, [… TED talks …]
Only the best among you will read the rest.