“What will you do to stay weird?”

That was a question I asked someone while discussing the topic of careers, in this case academic careers but it applies more broadly.  Virtually by definition, the major pressures are toward conformity, yet a budding innovator may wish to stay weird for purposes of superior creativity and perhaps enjoyment as well.  What strategies can be used, or passively allowed to operate (in case one is weird already) to stay weird?

I thought of a few options:

1. Adhere to a weird ideology.

Libertarianism used to serve this function fairly well.  If you were a libertarian, the mainstream forces might decide you are hopeless and stop pressuring you to conform.  Furthermore, your libertarian peer group would encourage you to stay weird, so that you would stick with them and also weirdness was all they knew.

But these days libertarianism isn’t so weird anymore, even if most people strongly disagree with it.  (“You want to legalize all drugs?  Ho hum.  Just yesterday I read a guy on the internet who wants…”)  And there is a libertarian establishment that will encourage you to conform more than it encourages you to stay weird.

You might thus opt for a weirder view yet, perhaps to be found in the Bay Area.  In any case, this strategy deserves to make the list, even if it does not always work or is less effective than it used to be.  This gets at one of the problems with the internet, namely that by normalizing or at least regularizing the weird, it can be harder to actually stay weird.

Nonetheless support for Trump may offer some new hope here, even though he won 48 percent of the vote.

2. Be gay or lesbian or bisexual.

No longer so effective in keeping you out of the mainstream, mostly for good reasons, but there is a cultural loss attached to this progress.

3. Be a jerk.

People might then just ignore you altogether, or conspire against you.  Either way, the pressures toward conformity will weaken.  Still, you have to be a jerk and that is a high cost for you and for others.  I don’t recommend this method, but it does seem to have worked for a number of leading scientists, just ask Eric Weinstein for his list.

4. Move to the middle of nowhere.  Or move to another country.

The internet might be limiting the effectiveness of this strategy too, although it lowers its costs for the same reasons.

5. Cultivate a highly unusual physical appearance.

Still a live option.

6. Marry someone from another country.

A weird country, preferably.

7. Develop a small group of intensely weird but smart friends, and treat them as your relevant audience.

A very good path, though due to the problems with the other options, your weird friends might themselves turn too normal.  This may require a kind of collective bootstrapping method.

8. Read extensively in weird areas, outside the present and outside of your home nation, and refuse to read much news.

9. Adopt impenetrable terminology.

Bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoord-enenthurnuk to that one!

10. Blog rather than tweet.  Stay off Twitter altogether.


11. Avoid conference attendance.  Especially for conferences that are more than five years old.

12. Avoid becoming famous for reasons other than your weirdness.

13. Develop and maintain a highly unusual family structure.

What else might you try?


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