Inherently Noncompetitive Competitions


I do not understand the insistence on making competitions out of activities that were not competitions to begin with, unless the purpose is to provide a grant.  If you make a movie or a work of art is it not enough to know that a good portion of the viewers have enjoyed it?  Aren’t the fruits of advancing science or promoting peace sufficiently rewarding without further distinctions?  If you are attractive is it not satisfying enough to receive the occasional compliment and the rest of the perks that come with physical beauty?

Some of you may argue that these rewards and distinctions are more for the benefit of the rest of society than for the benefit of the recipient.  It is true that some of these ceremonious distinctions may engender pride and admiration in humanity and its potential, but a person with a real interest in a field does not need to be told what the absolute best work is or who is at the vanguard of that field.

As for the necessity of competitions for publicity’s sake, in their absence people will simply rely on the plethora of other resources: critics’ reviews, social media, word of mouth, etc.  Since people can use their past experiences to determine which people to listen to when making decisions on how to spend their free time, these other tools make better predictors of what one would like.  High marks from someone whose tastes widely differ from yours does not hold as much water as a lukewarm reception from someone whose tastes closely mirror your own.  Furthermore, many social media applications have made it easier to incorporate past personal appraisals and the opinions of the rest of the user community to make recommendations closely aligned to your tastes.  It is ridiculous to place a great deal of significance on an award that employs a scoring system fabricated using arbitrary factors and judgments, and whose implementation is based on the biases and personal opinions of a select few.

Awards for noncompetitive activities have almost become an exercise in vicarious narcissism and are not something that I think should be encouraged.  The quality of some of these things will be fleshed out in time.  A book that wins the Nebula Award today may be overshadowed by another book of the same year in the future and so on.  So in short, fuck the Oscars, the Grammys, the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize, the Miss Universe Pageant, and all the rest of the ego jobs out there.  If you work in one of the fields that receives one of these bragging rights and do not know whether you are doing good work or not, there is likely little that an award can do to allay your self-doubt.


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