Michael Makowsky writes me an email about a conference he was invited to:
Predictably, the lineup of speakers are people who no one cares about, but tickets remain $45. This is analogous to something in stand-up comedy and music called a “bringer show” i.e. you can perform if you sell X tickets, thus “bringing” a crowd. At least, this is my suspicion.
But it got me thinking about your various “benefit to infovores” theories of recent advances in technology. I think you have underplayed the other side of that coin – that recent advances are also especially valuable to *narcissists*. You can foster a sense that a people are watching/care about you much easier than 30 years ago. The market for enabling narcissism is…substantial. I actually expect TedX and similar bricks and mortar portings to lose money. But that is besides the point. Vanity presses and the such have existed on the periphery forever. The internet is a vanity press upped several orders of magnitude. My point is that this is, I think, a near perfect inversion of the “infovore” concept, but with the identical result. It’s an advance that yields tons of consumer surplus, but little additional opportunity to increase anyone’s marginal product, i.e. help the labor market.
There is something almost recursive about an academic building a theory around the demand for enabling narcissism.