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Friday, Oct 20, 2017

I blog, therefore I am

Why do people have such an insatiable urge to communicate?

A fellow blogger recently wrote: “The unexamined life is not worth living, and how examined could an undocumented life be?” But if a blogger blogs a blog and nobody ever reads it, did the blogger really blog? In other words, if a blog is not worth reading, does it really add to the world's store of wisdom, or does it merely dilute it?

I realize that paragraph comes perilously close to sounding like a woodchuck joke cracker joke: How many woodchuck joke cracker jokes would a woodchuck joke cracker crack if a woodchuck joke cracker could crack woodchuck joke cracker jokes?

But it's actually (or as we bloggers say, ‘totally’) not. Like a woodchuck joke cracker cracking woodchuck cracker joke jokes, it is the metainformation itself that is informative. Even meaningless drivel can have value independent of its content.

A thousand years from now, when artificially intelligent android archaeologists discover that the NSA archive (or Dead Utah Scrolls, as they'll be called) contain every bit of knowledge known to man, your blog may help them understand why we went extinct.

For them the Blogozoic Era may be what the Pennsylvanian Period is to us: a rich source of raw material to be burned. Or going back further, it'll be like the Archaean era, in which trillions of anonymous, tiny, mindless beings transformed the air we breathe. Bloggers and Twitterers, though they may object to being compared to bacteria, are reshaping language: ten years ago, a typical blog paragraph would sound like gibberish.

But bloggers don't write for posterity. Blogs are purely functional: they clarify the blogger's thoughts, thereby confirming that they do indeed have thoughts, and therefore their lives are meaningful. We are not just animals, but conscious beings, and aspire to get out of the basement some day and into a clean shirt.

Why did Einstein, perhaps the most famous blogger of all time, spend all those years writing those two earth-shattering papers? By our standards, he is an enigma: he already had a decent job, a non-basement apartment, a wife and kids. We can understand why he spent his free time developing relativity: an obsession with knowing the truth is part of being a scientist. But why bother publishing the results? If his goal was merely to get a better job, it was not worth the cost. No, he did it to make his mark in the world, and because sharing the result is necessary for thinking to be complete.

Or as the biochemists would say, communicating creates the increase in entropy that provides the driving force to drive the reaction to completion. (We have a rule here: every article has to have some science in it, no matter how irrelevant.)

What does this say, then, about articles that merely quote some other blogger, informing us only that somebody else wrote something worth reading? Is being part of an echo chamber a way of making one's mark in the world?

As some guy at Cracked.com, back when it was funny, put it: “Saying ‘Here's a lengthy quote from someone else, plus most of a sentence from me explaining why I agree/disagree with it’ makes you a secretary, or at most a pornographer.” “One trick about writing for the Internet is remembering how little most of your readers give a f*** about anything. At all times, they are a second away from every other site on the Internet, 75 percent of which have boobies.”

Well, almost all bloggers write about boobies of one sort or another. For the rest of us, it's more like a choice between the basement and a cabin in the mountains where we write our manifesto.

And blogs do perform one valuable service: burying those snooty bastards with their fancy “correct punctuation”, their so-called “complete sentences” and their high-class “subject-verb agreement” under tons of useless verbal goo. You're welcome!

created oct 20, 2017; last edited nov 14, 2017, 8:29 pm

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