The 5 People That Influence Your Thoughts

Earlier in the week, I tweeted:

This thought came to me as a result of some tea research I was doing. This post on Reddit claimed that overseas delivery rates are going to increase starting April 1st:

The conversation continued in the comments. As it turns out, the UPU, which is a regulatory body for postage, passed a compromise to allow a phased change. The US is allowed to do it immediately through an exemption. A few different sources reported on it, and ultimately drove me to order some tea from some overseas vendors. Tucked between the comments actually discussing the subject was a comment discussing the nature of the USPS, or United States Postal Service. What drew me to that comment is that it used the line "the USPS is operating in the red". This means it operates at a loss.

This struck me as something I've heard repeated from a very specific party, in this very specific way, to justify disenfranchisement. Below that is the alternative party's response, of "USPS isn't a business, it's a service". It made me wonder how many of these people actually originated these thoughts, and how much of it is circulation of arguments seen before. It bubbled up that this little fact probably doesn't even matter, and that humans repeat stories all of the time. It did shed light on something else though.

The originator of these thoughts has a tremendous amount of influence. In general, many people probably owe 70-80% of the thoughts rolling around in their heads to a small group of people. For me, that group is probably no bigger than 5.

Those people, who essentially create the virus of the original idea, spread it so effectively that other people treat it as their own. It becomes a parasite, which the person repeats and continues to spread. It makes me wonder what the traits are that can create something like this in the first place. Can you quantify how sticky or good-at-spreading an idea will be? And then I realized - you totally can. Richard Dawkins basically summarized as much in The Selfish Gene. In a very meta way, I discovered that my investigation of trying to find the nature of original thought was a virus of its own, repeating familiar writing from The Selfish Gene and memes more broadly.