The defensive arrogance of TL;DR

Every since there has been high school, there has been the instinct to read the Cliffs Notes. The internet took this idea, added a gratuitous semicolon and perfected Too Long; Didn’t Read. This is the mistakenly proud assertion that we are far too busy and too important to read the whole thing, we skimmed a summary instead.

At first glance, it seems as though AI is good at this.

Why read four pages when you can read a few bullet points instead?

Or why bother sitting through Waiting for Godot, when the summary gives away the plot: “Two men, Vladimir and Estragon, wait for the enigmatic Godot. They engage in meandering conversations and encounter other characters, but Godot never arrives, underscoring the absurdity and futility of existence.”

TL;DR is defensive. Not simply because it defends our time, but because it defends us from change and from lived experience. A joke isn’t funny because it has a punchline. It’s funny because something happens to us as the joke unfolds, and the punch line is simply a punctuation of that experience.

“Orange you glad I didn’t say banana,” isn’t funny by itself.

Ask someone who finished running a marathon–for many, the moment they crossed the finish line is not the most memorable part of the experience, and for those that find that it is, it only matters because of the tens of thousands of steps that came before.

When we lean into exploration, we’re far more likely to find something that matters. Because we worked for it.

[Ted Gioia has coined a great term: Dopamine Culture. Here’s the chart that goes with it]:

It’s easy to miss the point.

The graph and the data underlying it seem to indicate that if you’re a creator or consumer of any of the above, the righthand column is the place to be.

Cavitation happens here. We’re at a rolling boil, and there’s a lot of pressure to turn our work and the work we consume to steam.

The steam analogy is worthwhile: a thirsty person can’t subsist on steam. And while there’s a lot of it, you’re unlikely to collect enough as a creator to produce much value.

Back in the old days of ‘slow traditional culture’ there were plenty of conversations, music in the parlor and even daydreams about dating. But we didn’t count those. The real stuff was the solid stuff, the informal didn’t truly matter.

And now we live an a time where the previously informal is easy to measure.

But just because it’s measured doesn’t mean it matters.

The creators and consumers that have the guts to ignore the steam still have a chance to make an impact.

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