Gods and Celebrities: Do Both Obsessions Stem from the Same Impulse?

Although we know better intellectually, we treats celebrities as if they exist in a different realm. Is there an element of misplaced religion at work?

Our society reveres celebrities like gods, but if they are gods, jokes Columbia law professor Tim Wu, then they’re more like the Greek gods, who were hopelessly and petulantly flawed. Nobody as yet fully understands our culture’s obsession with the famous elites among us, but for Wu, the most compelling ideas so far are those that compare celebrity worship to our inherent instinct to look for things that transcend the normal, that hints at life on a different plane. Does going into a two-hour scroll saga through an actor or sport star’s Instagram reflect a religious, seeking impulse within us? "There’s something to those theories," Wu says, "because I just can’t really understand it otherwise." Tim Wu’s most recent book is The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads.

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Why Can't We Resist Clickbait? The Reason Will SHOCK You!

Columbia professor Tim Wu came to the Big Think studio to talk about clickbait. What happened next will shock you.

Tim Wu, author of The Attention Merchants, is in a unique position to talk about the emergence of clickbait and viral culture – he’s spent the last few years researching what gets our attention.

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Technology & Innovation

Is Your Life Really Yours? How ‘The Attention Merchants’ Got Inside Our Heads

“My Experience is What I Agree to Pay Attention to,” said psychologist William James. And therein lies the problem and danger of advertising: we don’t always agree or choose to pay attention, but it shapes our life experience irrevocably.

When we turn on the television, or leaf through the newspaper, every one of us enters into a knowing contract with advertisers – they will do their best to sell us something. According to Tim Wu, law professor at Columbia University and author of new book The Attention Merchants, the online world is markedly different – it runs away with that mutual understanding, stretches it to places and methods you would not sensibly consent to.

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