Writing for the Scholarly Elite or Spreading Ideas to the Masses?

In college and graduate school, I studied cognitive science, philosophy, and politics. I formed a conviction that I wanted to try to change the world for the better. Initially, my plan was to be an academic and public intellectual. At the time, I got bored easily (still do), which made me distractible and not great at making the trains run on time. Academia seemed like an environment that would keep me perpetually stimulated as I would think and write on the value of compassion, self-development, and the pursuit of wisdom. I would hopefully inspire others to implement these ideas to form a nobler society.

But graduate school, while stimulating, turned out to be grounded in a culture and incentive scheme that promoted hyperspecialization; I discovered that academics end up writing for a scholarly elite of typically about fifty people. It turned out there was not much support for academics who would attempt to spread ideas to the masses. So my aspiration to have a broad impact on potentially millions of people clashed with the market realities of academia.

I adopted my career orientation. My new aim was to try to promote the workings of a good society via entrepreneurship and technology.

Reid Hoffman (co-founder of LinkedIn) and Ben Casnocha, The Start-up of You