Fame and the danger of "right" answers

Reading the section on fame in Here Comes Everybody made me uneasy. Clay talks of the inevitability of fame being one way. Once someone becomes famous even social tools can't get away from the fact that one person, whether a pop star or famous blogger, can't relate to the number of people who want to relate to them.

It nagged me that something felt wrong with this until it dawned on me that it is the fame that is wrong rather than the ability to deal with it.

I get nervous when people are given or assume the status of being more right than others, which is partly what is behind fame. People tend to become famous for being thought to be better, or more right, at something; living their lives, making money, singing pop songs, being a politician. Even notoriety is in a way being seen as being better at being bad than others!

Whether it is individuals or groups, religions or utopian totalitarian regimes, thinking that you have the right answer, and are more right than everyone else, causes all sorts of problems.

Yet people want right answers. We are taught to expect there to be a right answer and that we will be all right if we just make enough effort to find it. Business assumes this and that if you just pay enough consultants and do enough spreadsheets you will get to the right answer and be OK.

But I believe the web is teaching us another way.

In our forums at the BBC people used to ask how they could search to see if the right answer to a question had been offered previously. Eventually we learned that it was more productive to ask the question again as someone else might answer of the perceived right answer may have changed over time due to differing circumstances.

Surely even science is just a current working hypothesis that changes sometimes fundamentally when someone like Einstein comes along with enough insight to shift the paradigm. We need to make decisions because we need to do things and we need to do so on the best information available to us at the time we need to make those decisions. However getting wedded to those answers or becoming famous for having come up with them is a slippery slope.

For me a moving scrum of people thinking about, debating and building on, recursive "right answers" feels like the best way to deal with the complexity of modern life.

Maybe these conversations don't work with someone famous but then maybe fame is an outmoded idea? If the ability to be more right than anyone else and more famous for having done so gets fragmented by a more distributed series of conversations is that such a bad thing?