The traditional view of human hierarchies and status is, as Jeff Kaufman puts it, “zero sum”. Someone has to be at the top, someone has to be in the middle and someone has to be at the bottom, and the only way to move up or down is to trade places. So, to climb up, I must pull down. If I’m at the top, you can’t be.
This is a relatively antiquated view, and the conclusion from Jeff Kaufman post, “Parallel Status Hierarchies”, presents an alternative to it:
“In general, feeling higher status is pretty good for you: it makes you healthier, happier, and you live longer. So the ability of subcultures to produce new status opportunities out of nowhere seems really valuable, and something we should try to have more of.”
Network technology and the resulting interconnectedness of today’s world makes hierarchy and status non-zero sum. We can, instead of climbing up and pulling down, create a new hierarchy and gain status there. Much easier.
However, in doing so we’re missing an opportunity. Possibly the virtue of the infrastructure of the Internet and the information that it allows to be propagated is that it flattens hierarchies. In the future it may abolish them—we could become a network of interdependent nodes instead of an order of masters, half-slaves and full-slaves in different domains. But for now, by democratising the tools of discovery, production and distribution we are levelling the playing field. We are giving everyone, not so much equality of opportunity, but equality of status.
Or, in Meme Speak:
Tired: zero sum status hierarchies.
Wired: non-zero sum status hierarchies.
Woke: status-independent networks.