Thursday, March 31, 2011

I got this PhD from the school of youtube

   So recently i came across a small article about a social experiment in the Washington Post a few years back in 2007. In the article it describes how a man in Washington D.C. played his violin in a metro station during rush hour. In about 45 mins he played 6 pieces by Bach, very intricate and beautiful pieces, and only a hand full of people (including a small child) even gave him the time of day. What no one seemed to realize was that this man was Joshua Bell, whose famous for having played with most orchestras and conductors, so it's safe to say he's more than just a house hold name in that world. The experiment was to see if in a common place at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty, and do we stop to appreciate it even for a second? And lastly, do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

   This last part is what I want to focus on. He obviously knew how to play his instrument very well, and sure, it was rush hour so most people were busy and on their way here or there, but not one person came up to him when he was finished and even shook his hand. Sure he made about $32 dollars so there was some kind of recognition, but it's very easy just to drop some change or a few bucks and be on your way. 1 person out roughly 1,100 passerby's actually recognized him.

   However I'm sure there's lots of ways to criticize the experiment: not everyone enjoys classical music, not everyone has the privilege of attending concerts, so not everyone should be expected to know he was even famous in the first place. I hadn't heard of him before I read this article. None the less, I feel it was a pretty great experiment because it shows that (at least for that hour that day) we don't always recognize talent or actually knowledge unless were told its important or it has a familiar title or brand attached to it. For example, any other night, people would pay about $100 to see Mr. Bell play with his fellow musicians, because they know it's an orchestra that is conducted by someone who they trust, knows what they're doing and that they'll be entertained. 

   If you walked into a room full of people with no name badges, nothing on the walls, nothing anywhere to suggest that any of these people really know anything about anything, and the first group you walk up to is discussing something a bit controversial such as the 9/11 attacks, would you take anything they were speaking about to heart? Probably not all the way. You'd most likely retain what you thought was relevant and dismiss everything else because what do these people know? But what if you walked up to that same group and the person speaking at the time was wearing a name badge that said he/she was a structural engineer and half the other people had similar titles or in other relevant fields, you'd probably give them your undivided attention and retain as much as you could so you boast to your friends later about how smart you are now and how you know exactly how the entire day went down.

   Thats just one example of course, but it seems to me that for most of human life, we train ourselves to dumb ourselves down, and do away with our own abilities to perceive and form consciously informed opinions. We surrender ourselves entirely to what other people have to say and take it on their word without doing any kind of research for ourselves. I understand why we trust these people, they didn't get they're PhD's and diplomas and what not from sitting at home, they obviously know a whole lot about the subject they're speaking on, but it in my opinion it should be more common place for the average person to seek out the answers to the best of their ability and see if it even lands in the same realm as what you heard on the news.

   This is how governments and corporations are able to take advantage of people because we don't stop to check to make sure were even being lied to half the time. It is in the American Constitution that it is the average everyday American's responsibility to make sure that the people you may or may not have put into power are doing what you feel is in you and your families best interest, not the other way around. 

   So I would encourage you to never take whatever you hear blindly. If it interests you, do some of your own research, see if you can find out the answer for yourself before you jump on a bandwagon, but also, be reasonable. Most of the time people aren't trying to be malicious and feed you lie after lie, so don't always throw up your guard right away. Hear the person out for what they are, a human being whose done everything I've just listed for probably a good chunk of their life. You never know what wonders you'll uncover on your search for the truth.  


  1. I read about that study before... It's crazy how people don't notice beauty even when it's right in front of them!

  2. i like classical music (and play a little bit) but i would never have recognized that guy, i might of stopped to listen to him though.

  3. i don't really think that's a fair conclusion to draw - we are bombarded by so much information daily, that you pretty much HAVE to filter whatever isn't labeled as "professional" or you're liable to get scammed or misinformed.

  4. Wow that's awesome no one noticed haha

  5. I saw the video of that study. Depressing. I always stop and listen to musicians playing, usually tip them too if I have any money.

  6. That's hilarious... and depressing :/

  7. It's so sad, the world we live in today. But only more rewarding to be happy, if you look on the bright side!