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greg dahlen

Alumnus, academy of achievement


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Many people in this world are more famous than me. I guess that means they're better people than me, right? And better than you, right?

I probably don't even need to example some people more famous than me, famous for their positive achievements. Brad Pitt; Bill Gates; Peyton Manning; and so on. If they're more famous than me for good things they've done, that means they're better than me, right? And also better than you, right?


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    Apr 4 2013: Just a few points Greg,

    First ' much-sought-after, rarely-achieved' makes me think you are talking about national or global fame. We as humans are not really equipped to operate as a global community. I think that really only very very few people actively seek fame of this type.

    If you accept Dunbar's number about 150 is the maximum number of people we can meaningfully relate to. It is not that difficult to achieve a level of fame among 150 people, or in your own local community. Fame at this level is probably often sought after and quite often achieved.

    Sometimes people do get diamonds or the equivalent for free. Look at the Australian man who found a huge gold nugget in January. Or what about all of the people who inherit great wealth or win when gambling. It might be scary to think that aspects of the world can be unfair, but that should never stop us from doing, and being, the best we can.

    But fame is definitely not like diamonds. It is a fleeting fickle gift that some people have for a while. It is not the same as wealth or goodness or talent or any other positive quality you can name. That is why we have a separate word for it.

    Fame can go as quickly as it comes precisely because it is not tied to any other positive quality.
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      Apr 4 2013: Seamus, I love your tone here, which is measured and sober. I find myself disagreeing with some of the ideas.

      Yes, I'm talking about national or global fame, you know, fame. I don't think we would say of someone who is "famous" among 150 people that that person is famous.

      What is your evidence that we're not equipped to operate as a, well, you say global, but you also mentioned national. If that were true, could a website like TED continue to operate? How is it that nations stay together and remain nations, sometimes for thousands of years, if we're not equipped to operate as a national community?

      Occasionally people get diamonds for free, but usually they work hard for them. If we read the biographies of famous people, my general sense is that they don't come from astounding beginnings, but they make themselves astounding. Just as an example, look at our U.S. president--welfare mother, died young from cancer, father died let's see was he driving drunk and got in a car accident, or was he walking drunk and got hit? And yet our president raised himself to someone of large power and fame known, I believe, the world over.

      Why is fame not like diamonds? It doesn't seem so fleeting, many people have it for many years. It doesn't seem so fickle, we see that the people who have it are hard-working, risk-taking individuals.

      True, we have a separate word for it, because it is something different from wealth, intellectually we can distinguish it. And there is even the occasional famous person who appears not to be wealthy, such as Mother Teresa from India. But in most cases fame accompanies wealth, talent, and, I say, goodness.

      As I've already said, fame generally doesn't go that quickly. Once someone has achieved it, they usually keep it or some amount of it.

      I am not purposely trying to line up opposite to you. I hope we'll keep talking and reach some consensus, or perhaps agree to disagree. What are your qualifications on this subject?
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        Apr 5 2013: Fame as such is not of such huge interest to me, but I am interested in how people use technology to communicate and how that changes us. I am working a book looking at the long term impact of how and why communications technology changes us and our society.

        The reason for my engagement is that your take on fame is, I think, unusual and I wonder why. Is it a generational thing of the word changing meaning or is it something else.

        Dunbars number comes from a theory by a British anthropologist, and is a limit on meaningful relationships. So for example the theory would hold that while you may be Facebook friends with say 1,000 people you cannot keep up meaningful interaction with more than 150. I believe that research in this area is ongoing in the filed of social networking.

        There have been many stories of stars who have lost fame, such as the movie 'The Artist'. Culturally fame is fleeting, search for 'where are they now' and you will find people with just enough fame left to make it to a web page.

        So when it come to ' fame accompanies wealth, talent, and, I say, goodness' it will be definitely agree to disagree.
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          Apr 5 2013: Well, it seems to me there are many levels of meaningful interaction. For example, when the Beatles performed, wasn't there at least a bit of interaction with every fan in the arena, eye contact made, the singing voices being directed towards many different people over the course of the show. I believe the attenders did feel that it was a meaningful experience. Of course it's not like sitting at the breakfast table and chatting with John Lennon.

          It seems to me, Seamus, that you can have a meaningful experience of someone without interacting with them. For instance, if I was to listen to a tape of Gandhi, it could be meaningful with no direct interaction.

          My impression is that "stars" don't greatly lose fame, it may be supporting players who lose it, or people where we know that their prominence is a bit transient, they found the perfect project for themselves and it won't come again. But even enough fame left to make it to a web page isn't horrible.

          I don't know if it's a generational thing. Your generation may have been more influenced by the punk ethos, which questioned fame. But I see young people now who are as virulent admirers of their heroes, like One Direction, as ever.

          How does the technology/communication interest relate to how good a person a famous person is, I could see technology upping the level of fame someone could achieve, or the number of famous people.

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