The Echo Chamber, the Forge, and the Fire

Based on a few of comments from readers, I’ve been thinking about the importance of three different rhetorical zones: the echo chamber, the forge, and the fire.

Echo chambers get a lot of criticism, as well they should. But they are not all bad. Sometimes you’re tired after a long day, and you just want to be around people you know and like, people who already share your beliefs and interests. Friends are largely an echo chamber; hobbiest societies (eg, bowling, gardening, gaming,) are devoted to enjoying an activity together, not arguing; church is definitely an echo chamber (hence the phrase, “preaching to the choir.”)

And this is fine and even good. No one needs to get into a debate while gardening nor do they envision being called to give a spirited defense of their faith in debate with an atheist when they set out for church on Sunday morning. There is a time and a place for everything.

The Forge is where you go to discuss and debate ideas with people who are generally sympathetic to them/you. These are people who will call you on your bullshit and hold you to high standards, challenge flaws in your thinking or point out problems with your methodologies or ideas, but do so to be helpful. Writers’ critique groups, debate societies, sports practice, the general practice of science, and feedback from your boss/coworkers are all generally supposed to fall into this category.

Where the echo chamber is supposed to be fun and comforting, the purpose of the forge is to make you (or your ideas, or products, or whathaveyou) stronger.

The Fire is where the products of the forge go to battle against each other. The fire is the blind taste test, the open market, capitalism, the place where no one cares about you, only whether your ideas/talents/products are good enough to out-compete everyone else’s.

The fire is where Coke outsells Pepsi, where Obama defeated Romney, where the Allies defeated the Axis, where Harry Potter outsold whatever else was published that year.

Most of us are not cut out for the fire. Perhaps we could be big fish in the context of a a small pond, but in a big pond, we’re small fish. Very few of us are going to be truly successful–not only are you vanishingly unlikely to write the next Harry Potter, you’re vanishingly unlikely to get get published by a real publisher at all. Not only are you highly unlikely to win the Super bowl, you’re probably not even going to be a professional athlete.

Luckily, society doesn’t need everyone to be big fish. Society needs most people to be supportive, to work in the Echo Chambers and Forges. After all, behind ever successful person who makes it in the Fire, there are hundreds if not thousands of people toiling away to help them refine their ideas/products/skills before they set out. Professional athletes spend thousands of hours honing their skills in practice with their own team members, family, friends, neighborhood leagues, highschool teams, etc. Popular products spend thousands of hours in brainstorming, testing, development, etc.

Big fish or little fish, we all have our roles to play.

And a special thanks to everyone who has helped make this blog, well, if not great, then a lot of fun

9 thoughts on “The Echo Chamber, the Forge, and the Fire

  1. Interesting model. How do you see your blog and comment section? Do you know what you want in regards to a 3 way split or do you even want a split?


      • Well, some people might disagree more, but do not think that it is necessary to point out each and every disagreement. :)

        For example, I said that I like your model, but I disagree with the add-on analogy of little pond/big pond. I think that the most important (big pond) is the forge. If you “win” in the fire, it is because of your work in the forge.


    • I aim for forge, but I know there’s plenty of echo-chamber going on. I don’t get enough people who fundamentally disagree with me here to make this a fire, but you guys provide lots of thought-provoking feedback, for which I am grateful.


  2. The diversity of opinions among those who do not toe to mainstream narratives is sufficiently broad to characterize any HBD-oriented blog at least as a forge! Congratulations!!


  3. Common horticultural debate: Pity your poor plants and baby them, or be harshly Darwinian so as to breed a better variety? Save your investment and your rare variety by taking special care, or waste those things by carelessly letting plants die of “mostly non-genetic” causes?


    Anyway this is a great post. It makes a distinction I’ve often found myself reaching for: The forge is what those high-IQ people *who don’t particularly enjoy conflict* want (in the past I’ve put it as, “We’re all trying to improve together” or “We’re all on the same side and not adversarial”). Whereas those who actively enjoy conflict, who find it “gets their juices flowing” (such as this guy), often imagine only the false dichotomy of echo chamber vs. fire.


    • Oh man, don’t get me started.
      I think it really depends on how much you’ve invested and how “rare” the plant actually is. Are we talking, “I’m trying to rescue this variety from the brink of extinction” or just “I only have one of these, but it’d be pretty easy to get another”?
      Personally, I try to grow plants that are adapted to my local area (which is why I don’t blog about them,) so that I don’t have to worry about the weather, but there are a couple of plants I’ve really struggled to grow because they typically propagate underground and it’s considered poor form to go digging up your local park. So if I ever get one of those, I am going to baby it for at least a couple of years until it starts propagating. Once I have a bunch of them (God willing!) then I can let nature cull.

      Anyway, thanks :)


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