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Artificial Intelligence & The Tall Poppy Syndrome

Doug Garland
Doug Garland
3 min read
Artificial Intelligence & The Tall Poppy Syndrome
Poppies by Donald Sultan. "Flowers, which often represent fragility and beauty, are realized in harsh industrial materials completely at odds with the subject matter." So goes the TPS metaphor.

Table of Contents

Unless there is a new mind, there cannot be a new line.
~  William Carlos Williams
Profile photo for ChatGPT

ChatGPT is a free-to-use AI system. It is beneficial to automate tasks, gain knowledge, engage in conversations, and understand the potential of true AI.  

Presently AI is a misnomer. It is not artificial intelligence but a summation of "known" information on a subject by an algorithm that does not generate new thoughts or theories. Humans and especially authors have done this for years. One does the background reading and then writes a summation perhaps with a little personal bias. AI is more fun, faster, easier, and superior.

The following are methods humans use to arrive at a consensus:

  1. Narrative reviews - the author has the potential to selectively cite reports that reinforce their preconceived ideas or promote specific views of a topic.
  2. Systemic analysis - identify all studies for a specific focused question, appraise the methods of the studies, and summarize the results.
  3. Meta-analysis - a review team combines aggregate-level data reported in each primary study. Consolidating data from a series of well-conducted primary studies should provide a more precise estimate of the underlying result than an individual study.

Here is ChatGPT's answer to "What is the tall poppy syndrome?"

Tall poppy syndrome is a phenomenon where people of high status, achievement or wealth are resented, attacked, cut down or criticized because they are considered to be "too big for their boots" or "uppity". This term is commonly used in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, but it can also refer to similar attitudes in other cultures or societies. The idea behind tall poppy syndrome is that people who stand out are seen as a threat to the group, and that they should be brought down to the level of the average member. This can manifest in different ways, such as gossip, bullying, ostracism, envy, resentment, or sabotage. Some experts argue that tall poppy syndrome can be detrimental to a society's progress and innovation, as it discourages people from striving for excellence or taking risks.

I like this definition. Sadly it is very limited and does not deal with the scope or complexity of the metaphor. This is an internet compilation which is why it is lacking. TPS information on the internet is one big echo chamber.

One person made many of the above statements and one hundred others have chimed in with the same postulation with slight variations. Many may or may not have been cut down but they think it makes them experts. Disappointing to say the least.

Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit (although not as easy as described). It is the world's largest reference website with over one billion visitors monthly. Articles are written by anonymous volunteers and can be edited by anyone (also not as easy as described). What is written is more important than who writes it (in other words, TPs need not apply). It is continually composed and upgraded. Anyone has the ability to improve the quality and quantity of the subject.

Here is Wikipedia's answer to "What is the tall poppy syndrome?"

In Australia and New Zealand, tall poppy syndrome is a term that refers to successful people being criticised. This occurs when their peers believe they are too successful, or are bragging about their success. Intense scrutiny and criticism of such a person is termed as "Cutting down the tall poppy" (first paragraph).

I always use Wikipedia first before I begin a more formal search of a subject on the internet. I could not have written my book without Wikipedia.

However, the TPS page on Wikipedia leaves a lot to be desired. Five years ago or so it was excellent but it has been modified so much that it has lost most of its meaning and some of the information is incorrect. Many authors will not cite Wikipedia articles because of this fact nor will editors accept it as an authority.

The Tall Poppy Syndrome: The Joy of Cutting Others Down is currently the most extensive book on the topic (with over 600 citations). You can also visit for additional resources.

Learn about ancient Greek and Roman authors describing the syndrome using government officials to cut down the opposition, a condition which persists presently (Livy, Tarquin the Proud, & The Tall Poppy Syndrome  and Yevgeny Prigozhin is Tall Poppied by Vladimir Putin).

Become aware that TPS is driven by dark emotions (Anatomy of the Tall Poppy Syndrome). Understand that most poppies are cut down in the workplace and are not TPs. : This is one of the few and perhaps the only contemporary blog sites devoted to TPS. See current as well as extant cases of TPS. Catch the latest concepts on the metaphor not the repetitious old lines on the internet.

Happy internet hunting.  

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Douglas Garland, M.D. practiced orthopedic surgery for 37 years in Southern California. Doug was also a Clinical Professor of Orthopedics at the University of Southern California.