Gongol.com Archives: January 2024

Brian Gongol

January 28, 2024

When the Beatles were at the peak of their fame, the world's population was around three and a half billion. Today, as the fame of Taylor Swift is frequently benchmarked against the Beatles, we live in a world of about eight billion -- considerably more than twice the number of the 1960s. ■ Does this mean that if a performing artist achieves 96% name recognition today that they are an even match for the artists who had the same name recognition then? Or does population growth make the current-day artist more than twice as famous? ■ The question isn't really all that consequential. Fame is a perishable quality, and it isn't much use to the holder once they're dead. But there is a sense in which it does matter. ■ Humans are social creatures, so we look to others to help shape our decisions and behavior. While a lot of behavior is ultimately unimportant (like rating a movie or choosing a brand of toothpaste), some of it matters quite a lot. And just as we look to famous performing artists to set trends (like the effect Taylor Swift is having on football in general and on Kansas City football in particular), we look to prominent figures to set agendas around how we think about significant political, moral, and other issues. ■ In that sense, it matters quite a lot whether it now takes two or three times the number of voices who used to be spokespeople for good conscience as it did during Beatlemania, or whether the same number of role models can influence bigger audiences without flagging. ■ Big questions are being addressed every day, and whether it takes new legions of prominent leaders to direct people to think about them in constructive ways. Not every question lends itself to a Google search or an AI prompt. Human-to-human influence, even when it's at scale, still means a great deal.

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