“Prestige popsci” describes books where the 1,000-word online summaries are better than the book itself. They are about one big and useful idea but the book itself is an 800-page doorstopper filled with pretentious biographical exposition, sentimental fluff, and misapplied case studies for examples. The most prominent example is Thinking Fast And Slow, which would have been better written as a 15-part tweetstorm. Pretty much every Taleb book is an archetypal example of this. Black Swan is 366 pages explaining a two-sentence idea. Antifragile: you could literally get that down to the one word.
Flow was the first book where I really noticed this phenomenon. I thought MM’s summary was great, so I listened to the audiobook and afterward noticed “I know less about this idea now than when I picked the book up”. Here’s my theory: These people are fundamentally prestige-seeking academic types (it’s overwhelmingly a Jewish category). So their entire lives have been built on padding their essays out with bullshit and fluff. I bet they turned in their manuscript drafts double-spaced with a 14-point font to get the page count up. But hey, if it works it works. The memes are indelibly part of the culture now via SWPL-down economics. You can’t beat good sales technique for a good idea.
Who knows, maybe this is the academic equivalent of the NYT burying the lede in the 19th paragraph to avoid triggering the libs by legitimizing a relatively commonsensical idea with empirical science. “Contrary to intuition, economists found that countries who ground up all their truckers into soylent green had weaker supply chains when compared to countries who only ground up half their truckers. More research is needed in this area.” <- leaked excerpt from page 1,500 of Steven Pinker’s next book, the rest of which is Holocaust stories.
It’s probably why I stopped reading anything new at all. Its seemingly everything now.
Want to know how to X? You’ll get trash written by some magical thinking conman or rube (‘Think Like A Billionaire’ Why not a trillionaire? I can’t stand small minded people!) or at minimum have to read shit like… the time the author had to drop her ‘babies’ off at the doggy-day-care because she forgot to do her Power Poses (TM) and had a schizophrenic breakdown.
(In fairness to Amy Cudy, nothing nearly that interesting happened in her book.)
Everything I need to know in life I learned in rehab.
Wow?! Stop disrespecting Taleb, he is a great Flaneur! I bet you haven’t even read half the books in his 200 pages of references.
And yeah, he slobbers on Soros in all his books, so what? So does everyone else, amirite?
You know they’re hacks when a book written by a woman with hypergraphia on her condition is much more readable than the dreck that they produce and label as “bestseller”.
“The Midnight Disease” by Alice Flaherty
I thought the padding and prestige was to get the mid-wits to understand and accept common knowledge. Apparently, it isn’t so common in the elite.
Like in teaching where you say the same thing at least three-times but eight-times is better.
I think it’s due in largr part to the fact self-improovment literature is mostly glorified procrastination where readers can justify to themselves they’re doing ‘deep work’ instead of just doing the work.