When you’re good, you don’t need to be useful.


Watching these polished men playing snooker made me think: what is it that attracts people to watch and enjoy such games? And Why do people enjoy watching sports even if they didn’t play them.

Any sport will be enjoyed by people because of the inherent appreciation of skill and competence that humans have to each other. In a world where incompetence seems to be the norm amongst a lot of its inhabitants, the observation of the pristine performance and the shining abilities of people is a unique experience. It’s a process of observing the best that the human mind could offer : it doesn’t matter what kind of game it is, as long as it includes a competetive skill that differentiates people. The game itself doesn’t matter no matter how boring it might seem.

Create the best computer simulation of a football game if you want. The quality of such a game, no matter how great it is,  will never attract people to watch it with the same enthusiasm. The only thing that might attract them to watch it is the admiration of the brains behind creating such a simulation. People enjoy watching long computer games being played sometimes but that’s only because of the admiration of the abilities of those who hold the controllers.  Not because of the content of the game per se. Getting two computers to compete in any game, even if such computers dramatically outperform humans, is not going to attract any attnetion beyond the admiration for those who design such engines that can play such games.

Humans have an inherent desire to admire skill. Because excellent skill is a rare commodity. Whether you are Lionel Messi, Roger Federer or Gary Kasparov you’re attracting the same form of respect and attention from people. Not because you are doing something useful. But because you are displaying something extraordinary. The context is completely irrelevant when it comes to what’s extraordinary.

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