Jun 28, 2022 • 56M

Theory of Change #042: Matthew Browne on why internet gurus like Jordan Peterson became so popular

‘Decoding the Gurus’ co-host Matthew Browne on how the tools of acquiring knowledge are being used to destroy it


Appears in this episode

Matthew Sheffield
Lots of people want to change the world. But how does change happen? History is filled with stories of people and institutions that spent big and devoted many resources to effect change but have little to show for it. By contrast, many societal developments have happened without forethought from anyone. And of course, change can be negative as well as positive. In each episode of this weekly program, Theory of Change host Matthew Sheffield delves deep with guests to discuss larger trends in politics, religion, media, and technology.
Episode details
[Article Image]
Internet psychiatrist Jordan Peterson speaking with attendees at the 2018 Young Women’s Leadership Summit hosted by the right-wing youth group Turning Point USA. June 15, 2018. Photo: Gage Skidmore.

Episode Summary

We certainly have our problems, but humans have come a long way since we emerged as a distinct species, roughly 300,000 years ago. Most recently, the key to our progress has been the idea that you gain more knowledge by questioning what you know to begin with.

Socrates’s idea of ‘question everything’ was a great one. And it led to a lot more great ideas, chief among them the scientific method of developing hypotheses, and then testing them to see if they’re real.

It’s worked out great for us so far, but in the last few years, the development of readily accessible mass publishing has made it so that the tools of gaining knowledge can be turned against knowledge itself.

For a lot of people, questioning everything has been reimagined into questioning everyone, except yourself. I call it the Zombie Socratic Method.

As finite beings, it’s always been easy for humans to delude ourselves, but now social media has made it so that people can get rich helping us destroy knowledge rather than gain it.

Joining me today to discuss this subject is Matthew Browne. He’s a professor at Central Queensland University in Australia where he does research on gambling addiction and delusional reasoning. Those interests have also led him to be the co-host of Decoding the Gurus, a podcast that closely examines the techniques of a variety of individuals who have built up massive followings selling everything from alternative medicines to political conspiracies.

Below is the unedited live video of our conversation from May 11, 2022. The transcript of the edited audio follows.

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