1. Single author paper – ‘I’ or ‘We’?
Few weeks back, we asked:
Almost all readers recommended ‘I’ and nobody said ‘we’, although we presume Heng Li and Jared Simpson, whose single-author papers were written with ‘we’, agreed with that viewpoint.
The correct answer is neither, or that is how papers used to be written for a long time. Few years back, one of our papers got reviewed by a biologist from a earlier era, who received Nobel prize before we joined college. He liked our science, but recommended us to change all ‘we did’ and ‘we measured’ sentences to the passive form. His argument made clear sense. A scientific paper is written to describe nature and the narrator should minimize his role as much as possible.
In fact, he was not alone. We received the same training from our PhD adviser working in physics, and many other physicists of the same generation. The approach was a natural extension of enlightenment philosophy, where the reasoning was given more importance than who presented the case.
2. From Enlightenment to Narcissomics
In ‘Full Cycle of Science in Protestant World‘, we argued that the current era is the late evening of science in protestant world and the current rise of Narcissomics is possibly one indicator. We thought we coined the new ‘omics’ term, but Carina Dennis of Nature news reached there one year back in the article – The rise of the ‘narciss-ome’. Interestingly, her article referred to the same person we had in mind. (Edit. Richard Gibbs of Baylor Genome Sequencing Center coined the term).
3. On Rise of Narcissism in US Culture
Wikipedia has a good introduction on the history of narcissism, and the last sentence is quite thought-provoking.
The term narcissism comes from the Greek myth of Narcissus, a handsome Greek youth who rejected the desperate advances of the nymph Echo. These advances eventually led Narcissus to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Unable to consummate his love, Narcissus “lay gazing enraptured into the pool, hour after hour,” and finally changed into a flower that bears his name, the narcissus.
The concept of excessive selfishness has been recognized throughout history. In ancient Greece the concept was understood as hubris. It is only in recent times that it has been defined in psychological terms.
In 1752 Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s play Narcissus: or the Self-Admirer was performed in Paris.
In 1898 Havelock Ellis, an English sexologist, used the term “narcissus-like” in reference to excessive masturbation, whereby the person becomes his or her own sex object.
In 1899, Paul Näcke was the first person to use the term “narcissism” in a study of sexual perversions.
Otto Rank in 1911 published the first psychoanalytical paper specifically concerned with narcissism, linking it to vanity and self-admiration.
Sigmund Freud published a paper exclusively devoted to narcissism in 1914 called On Narcissism: An Introduction.
In 1923, Martin Buber published an essay “Ich und Du” (I and Thou), in which he pointed out that our narcissism often leads us to relate to others as objects instead of as equals.
Since 2000, on psychological tests designed to detect narcissism, the scores of residents of the United States have continually increased. Psychologists have suggested a link to social networking.
This rise of narcissism has been noticed by several other commentators -
In the past thirty years it seems that Anglo-American culture has grown increasingly narcissistic. I do not know if there are more narcissistic individuals in society now, and perhaps there are not.
But I do think that narcissism is much more widely tolerated, rewarded, and even admired now than it would have been in the period of 1930 to 1950 for example. And that is what makes all the difference. More people feel free to indulge their selfish and egotistical tendencies, and to cultivate them, in order to be fashionable and competitive.
As an aside, I think this also tends to explain the decline of literature and poetry in American culture, and the rise of reality shows and the preoccupation with extravagance. Literature calls us out of ourselves, ex stasis, in order to fill us with knowledge and the creative impulse, while spectacle merely panders, and flows in to fill the empty and undeveloped voids in our being.”
This video below uses a fictional Mark Zuckerberg from a recent movie as an example of the narcissist personality. I do not know the real Mark Zuckerberg at all so I cannot say if it is valid. But I do think that the fictional Zuckerberg in the movie is an artistic representation of the modern CEO or Wall Street fund manager, based on those that I have known or read about closely.
Today I want to extend the discussion of a topic that I believe is absolutely central to “why things are falling apart”: our dependence on a peculiarly adolescent narcissistic consumerism for identity, meaning and economic growth.
Understanding the consequences of this pathology is the core of my books, Survival+: Structuring Prosperity for Yourself and the Nation, An Unconventional Guide to Investing in Troubled Times and Resistance, Revolution, Liberation: A Model for Positive Change.
Correspondent/physician Birgit insightfully extends the narcissistic consumerism at the heart of our economy to its self-destructive conclusion: an essentially suicidal cultural antagonism toward any intact ecosystem.
This Penn State study, reported at PhysOrg.com, ascertained that narcissistic CEOs gravitate towards bold moves, like big acquisitions or marked changes in strategy, which leads to more variable (although no worse on average) performance.
4. 23 and Me and ‘Personal Genomics’ Exploits American Narcissism
Once you understand the rise of narcissism in the American society including the scientists, the following 23 and Me ad will make far more sense. Essentially, they are asking you to sequence your ‘narcissome’.
This was brought to our attention by the genotopia blog.
Genomics is going mainstream and the best news is first that it’s real simple and second that it’s all about me.
Let’s take the most obvious first: the “me” meme. Of course this relates to the company name, but the ad takes me to a new level. It makes “you” your DNA. I give them points for a couple of qualifiers — it “helps” make me who I am, one character says. But the overall message is that you are your genes.
It also exploits the meme of egocentrism. Nearly everything today seems to be all about me. Memoirs are the hottest genre of nonfiction. We have a magazine called “Self.” One of the most common themes on commercial websites is to have a “My [company name]” area, which usually just means they have your personal information to use to sell you more stuff. There’s even a “.me” internet domain, which they advertise “is all about you.” Who isn’t curious about himself? I’m the most interesting topic in the world! And 23andMe will tell me about my true inner nature for just $99.
One element of personalized medicine, then, is narcissism. Another, more noble, element is individuality. No one is more committed to his individuality than I am—but I’m also wary of its dark side: selfishness.
5. Narcissism in Other Cultures
It is our non-scientific observation that contemporary American and Chinese cultures stand on opposite poles, when it comes to narcissism. That becomes a problem when the cultures start to interact especially through social media. For example, will Chinese bioinformaticians post their photos on Biostar (social media for bioinformaticians), because everyone else from US and UK does so? When we go to various social media sites, we do make note of such differences. However, going from anecdotal observation to more convincing analysis would take time.