Tim Ferriss reviews Sam Harris’ “Lying”: Credibility Issues?

Tim Ferriss and Sam Harris are two people I like. And their names are even pretty similar. But I was still surprised to see – on Sam Harris’ website page promoting his new essay “Lying” – a review by Tim Ferriss. Sam is a clever guy popular with atheists who criticizes organized religion. Tim uses his gargantuan ego, along with very smart and innovative marketing strategies, to self-promote his brand and sell a shit load of books – focusing on self-improvement and lifestyle design. I can see how there would be some fan crossover, and how some people (like myself) appreciate them both.

But I don’t think there is enough overlap between them that Tim’s review is at all meaningful. How is Tim qualified to judge an article by a neuroscientist? (Ok ok, I know Tim is into science, medicine, testing and results – I can see how Tim might be interested in Sam’s writing). But what about credibility? How does Tim earn a place next to an Astrophysicist?

But maybe book reviews are not about credibility anymore; they are meant, after all, to sell books – what Tim brings to the table is an enormous herd of followers; followers that aren’t already fans of Harris and thus represent new customers.

And by leaving the review, Tim gets himself in front of a whole crowd of people who follow Sam, but not Tim. So Sam and Tim are basically saying, “hey some of your crew might like my shit, and some of my crew might like your shit.”

Not only is there nothing wrong with this picture, it’s probably good for everyone involved – and yet, something about it still sits unwell with me.

What do you think? Do you trust people you know are credible to give reviews – or do you trust people you already know and like, regardless of their background?

  • Bradley Rock

    I was thinking about this very same thing not long ago. What I was trying to understand was why a popular musical group such as Coldplay would have an equally popular person such as JayZ or Rhianna be a guest on their album. It probably was mentioned by the record company in an attempt to extend their fan bases. It’s a win-win situation. I’ve read Sam Harris’ work but not Tim Ferriss’. Having read their names within the same sentence motivates me to see what I might be missing.

  • Johannes

    Additionally, they seem to know one another personally. In the Acknowledgments of “Lying”, Sam calls Tim a friend:
    “I am also indebted to my mother, whose comments improved the essay
    throughout, and to my friends Emily Elson, Tim Ferriss, and Seth Godin for their
    very helpful notes”

  • Dan Davis

    ” Sam/Tim uses his gargantuan ego, along with very smart and innovative marketing strategies, to self-promote his brand and sell a shit load of books”

    Fixed that for you. There’s no mystery that kaching doesn’t solve. I don’t mean that as an insult to either guy. They’re both in the business of making a living spreading what they consider to be good ideas.