Columbus: Death Of The Hero

  1. A world with heroes is better than one without
  2. A world with more heroes is better than one with fewer
  3. Cultural relativism is applicable not just to space in geography, but time in history
  4. Cultural relativism cannot exist without adherence to a common system of values against which differences are identified. This means the very thing that allows cultural relativism to exist is not itself relativistic.
  5. Absolute value judgments between 2 objects separated in space and time, despite being under the ambit of cultural relativism, may still be made using the system that made differences identifiable in the first place
  6. Heroes can champion a single trait, be a specialist, or a generalist less good than a specialist at any one trait
  7. Individuals decide their preferences of hierarchy of traits to admire, and hierarchy of combinations of traits to admire
  8. Societal preferences are a ranked list matching of the sum of its individuals
  9. Personal heroes and public heroes therefore have very different criteria
  10. A personal hero can have villainous traits swept under the carpet, but a public hero cannot
  11. A hero championing a single trait but not being the best at it, has to explain why the best at it does not automatically become the new hero
  12. Heroism-consumers do not have perfect elasticity. There is stickiness of preferences. Sunk cost is not entirely fallacious. Psychological investment is not the same as sunk cost, ceteris paribus an entity with more psychological investment has a higher chance of success than one without, unlike economic opportunities
  13. In the long run, with psychological investments taken a a weighted average, and counting generations that haven’t been born yet, the actual psychological investment in incumbent heroes will tend towards zero as we take a wider lens
  14. A trait championed better by hero B but fighting against the inertia and historic gravitas of hero A, in the long run is served better by shifting to B, especially to the generations that have not been born yet.
  15. There is a temporary deadweight loss during the transition from A to B among those with most psychological investment.
  16. It is challenging but not impossible to separate heroism-consumer segments. Promoting B does not necessarily demote A. Those invested in A can live out their investments to term, but it will not be available for anyone currently not invested in it, or renewed upon term.
  17. Still, if A has villainous traits, this causes higher damage to the B team than the damage to the A-team transitioning to B-team.
  18. This works for all A≤B. But if A>B then there are larger problems.
  19. A society that does not produce better and better heroes is not necessarily in trouble. Collaboration is more powerful, reliable, and useful than individual brilliance. It produces better results for society but fewer heroes.
  20. Celebrating achievement rather than achievers is not uniformly less powerful. Tomb of the unknown soldier.
  21. Emotions that do well with depersonalized celebration: awe, compassion, smallness as an individual but largeness as a species
  22. Emotions that do poorly with depersonalized celebration: personal drive and inspiration, immediate targeted motivation, focused lodestone, mentorship
  23. Back to points 1,2, a world with more heroes is better than fewer.
  24. Heroes do not need gestation periods, to withstand the test of time unlike religions and literature and cinema. Arguably nothing truly needs it, everything can be evaluated based on a complete set of ideals. But heroes, certainly not. The first to the South Pole will always be the first to the South Pole
  25. Points 1,2 cannot apply to public heroes, there is not infinite real estate in the public consciousness.
  26. If you have a day named after you, this becomes even more restricted. There are only 365 days. Many are off limits. Every occupied slot reduces the value of every other slot. There is a theoretical ceiling on the number of occupiable slots, much fewer than 365.
  27. If this ceiling has not been met, B-team must be accommodated.
  28. If this ceiling has been met, there is no primogeniture automatically awarded to incumbents. Cultural relativism works both ways, there is as good as here, but that means here is as good as there. Then is as good as now, but that means now is as good as then.
  29. If there is no B-team, simply arguing against the villainy of A-team, the argument is valid but the burden of proof does not lie with A-team. (Not A)-team must prove the vacant slot in the calendar is better than A-team, ie the loss caused by A-day to (not A) team is more than the gain to A-team.
  30. This argument is not likely to go well. B-team will argue about the costs. A-team will argue about the benefits. Neither are talking about equivalent quantities. As long as psychological damage cannot be quantified, and B is anyway outnumbered by A, the gains by A will likely outweigh the losses by B.
  31. The B-team on the other hand, with an alternative hero B, should a) face no opposition in a calendar with empty slots, and b) in one with no-empty slots, the burden of proof is on the incumbent.
  32. There’s a difference between ‘not judging yesterday by today’s standards’ and ‘not inheriting yesterday’s standards’. Cultural relativism means hero A was a hero in 1500, noone can take that away from him, but if he were alive today and did the same things he did, today would not consider him a hero.
  33. Johnny Hayes was a marathon hero, winning the first official marathon distance Olympic medal at 2:55, setting a world record. Eliud Kipchoge did it last year in 1:59. I’m more inspired by Kipchoge than Hayes.
  34. If achievements aren’t comparable by common standards, eg Hillary& Tenzing’s first ascent vs Kilian Jornet’s 2-day ascent are not the same axis of achievement. It’s a numbers game then whether today’s society considers H&T’s apple a sweeter fruit to worship than Jornet’s orange
  35. A can have x achievements in 1500, but y flaws in 2020, we get to do the calculus of x-y, and compare it with B who has a net virtue of p-q to see who is greater
  36. All this is fine for public heroes. But in the realm of personal heroes, there can be no debate. My heroes today are not my heroes of yesterday, I need the flexibility to change them. People’s heroes today are not my heroes of today, I need the flexibility to keep them.
  37. You’re welcome to admire Hitler’s drive, oratory, chutzpah (yes I see the perverse irony in the choice of word) as your personal hero as long as you don’t make it known to me, then it becomes a public hero and I get a say. After all, I seem to recall he had a couple flaws that fella. The fact that you’re not admiring those parts of him is irrelevant to the discourse on a public hero, only that these flaws exist.
  38. As long as it is easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission, calmer minds and thoughts have neither chance nor incentive to prevail
  39. Most problems are not lack of intelligence, morality or will, but lack of imagination
  40. Point number 40




A novel insightful exercise to determine the pragmatic difference in intellectual payoff between a novel insight and an obvious fact mistaken for novel insight.

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