Sunday, January 9, 2011

More thoughts from readers response to 'Barbells & Bullshit' book....

This is an extension of my recent post about a reader of the Barbells & Bullshit book:

Hi Ian, Thank you for giving me an insight into the impact on you and your legacy of the plagiarism. When you talk of the impact on your children and their children I can't help but be stunned by how rare this long, long-term thinking is expressed in our society; I certainly do not think in such terms myself. Whether I should is something for me to ponder.

You raise 2 important questions that I feel I must respond to:

1. Is this behaviour, including the way the industry has responded to it, the start of a new era, or the extreme acts at the end of an era of social morality?

2. Is this behaviour US centric or global? Are we seeing the extension of the US corporate and cultural traits of 'if it's not oral, its not immoral? It's only wrong if you don't get caught? Or in this case as it appears, it's only wrong if you get convicted?

I think about these issues myself from time to time but with regard to other societal issues, eg: the slow devaluation of marriage; high divorce rates; the proliferation of single-parent households; the ubiquity of irresponsible parents (and children), and adults in general. To me these are all moral issues. I believe the plagiarism you have endured is part of some very long-term societal trends that are much bigger than our lifetimes.

As I'm a trained economist, I always start my social analysis from there and then move outwards to other social sciences. A good economist will tell you that when the price of something goes down, the demand for that thing goes up, all else being equal. Ice creams, crime and immoral behaviour are all the same in this respect. Think about what has happened to the price of publishing since the printing press was invented (about 1500, I think). It has gone down a lot. Once only monks and scholars published anything; and it was all done by hand. Now this small group probably had very high morals due to their education and environment. Even so, plagiarism and lies still occurred amongst them.

With every technological advance that reduced the cost of publishing, the proportion of the population who could (write and) publish increased. What do you think happened to the average morals of the publishing population over time; it went down. So more plagiarism occurred, more deviant behaviour was published, more lies were published (I'm focussing on the negative stuff here and ignoring the positive effects of lower costs of publishing). Fast-forward to the advent of the internet. I think we can now accurately say that anyone can publish, eg, see the explosion of the keyboard warriors.

So to me, xxxx's behaviour is the continuation of a long-term trend and he is the expression of furthest movement along the moral-immoral continuum in the 'fitness' industry. So I don't see it as "the start of a new era". But it may well be "the extreme acts at the end of an era of social morality". Because how much longer can morality continue to fall or stay at the current low level before our society starts to crumble? Depressingly, it's also possible that we have long way to fall further and I underestimate the resilience of our social systems.

There are many other examples of technological advancement negatively affecting human behaviour (eg, lowering moral standards). This, I believe, is our biggest moral challenge: managing new technology in a morally acceptable way, and those morals must be absolute not relative. Moral relativity has been the outcome of technological advancement.

So is "this behaviour US centric or global?" I believe it's happening everywhere but it's positively related to the level of technological advancement. Where is technology king? The US. So I think that's where the worst expressions of the "it's ok steal other people's ideas" mentality exist. There are also some other US cultural traits that further increase the likelihood of this behaviour, ie, the positivity and enthusiasm of Americans, in general.

Taking a normative (prescriptive) view, how do you as a publisher deal with and minimise the impact on you of the xxxxx in this world? I see only 2 avenues. ……You may already be doing or considering doing these things. These are the only ways I see of dealing with this phenomenon. Of course, when I go and train at my local martial arts club I see that the people there have some other ideas about dealing with these types of challenges...
Good luck, --G

G - I value the exchange, especially with an individual who is involved in and passionate about the strength sports and not a professional in the industry - probably enjoy this more than exchanging with those who are so called professionals!

As I also did a major in sociology at university I too value and enjoy reflections on social directions, and enjoy economist analysis and demographic insights.

I share your conclusions also:

"the extreme acts at the end of an era of social morality". Because how much longer can morality continue to fall or stay at the current low level before our society starts to crumble?"

And your conclusion that we are not necessarily at the bottom

Also agree with our thoughts re US centric or global and the potential for this behaviour in US culture


"making it known that this is happening and who is turning a blind eye."

I have extensive plans to do just this, right down to a full book on this topic.

So you and I are sharing same thoughts here!!

Re. "some other ideas about dealing with these types of' - belive me this thought has crossed my mind also!!

Ian King

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