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Notes: "Any given person is dumber as a member of an audience than as a reader."

Paul Graham writes about why writing superior to the spoken word as a source of ideas. He makes several important points about how when we're in a group, we're heavily influenced by those around us. Reading, on the other hand, is a very personal, writer-to-reader experience. The medium of writing gives us both the opportunity to craft both the intended message and the interpreted meaning.

Audiences like to be flattered; they like jokes; they like to be swept off their feet by a vigorous stream of words. As you decrease the intelligence of the audience, being a good speaker is increasingly a matter of being a good bullshitter. That's true in writing too of course, but the descent is steeper with talks. Any given person is dumber as a member of an audience than as a reader. Just as a speaker ad libbing can only spend as long thinking about each sentence as it takes to say it, a person hearing a talk can only spend as long thinking about each sentence as it takes to hear it. Plus people in an audience are always affected by the reactions of those around them, and the reactions that spread from person to person in an audience are disproportionately the more brutish sort, just as low notes travel through walls better than high ones. Every audience is an incipient mob, and a good speaker uses that. Part of the reason I laughed so much at the talk by the good speaker at that conference was that everyone else did.

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