Monster Truck Technology Blog

The Mindset of Context


Some readers might have noticed that I often make use of common axioms.  I do this to convey premises that are widely understood and require little cognitive effort on the part of the reader to accept.  Two which I believe fit quite well with the subject matter of this particular blog are first, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”, and second, “a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.”  These adages might not only be true but in the case of the later, it is actually supported by science.  And in the relative context to this blog, the danger suggested is to the accurate preservation of monster truck history.   

Knowing vs. Knowledge

Paradoxically, scientific studies have shown that people who possess limited knowledge of a subject tend to express overconfidence in their statements on related matters.  This is known as the Dunning – Kruger Effect.  The cause of this is attributed to the fact that these individuals simply don’t know what they don’t know, therefore they overestimate the extent of their knowledge and tend to repeat statements they have heard rather than cite factual information they have actually researched. 

Conversely, individuals who possess better than average knowledge of a subject are more apt to be cognizant of the fact that the more they learn, the more they recognize how much more there is to learn.  As such, I believe individuals who have shown sufficient intellectual curiosity about the subject so as to express interest in my book, firmly place themselves into this second category.  With that concept in mind, I believe rather than leading individuals of such persuasion to water, exposing them to the rich and colorful history of monster truck evolution will enhance their thirst for more knowledge of the subject. 

Easy Street

The modern-day philosopher Randy Blythe famously stated, “you can tell the same lie a thousand times, but it never gets any more true.”  Maybe not, but scientific studies have also shown that the more we are exposed to a particular statement or concept, the more we come to accept its validity.  This is due to a phenomenon known as Cognitive Ease.  In effect, this relates to the amount of effort required for our brain to process information.  The more something is repeated, the more familiar it becomes and the easier it is for us to become comfortable with the premise.    

Given the preceding, repeating the same lie a thousand times does, in fact, serve to create its own sense of relative truth.  We see this mechanism at work all around us every day as for example advertisers, politicians and media institutions rely upon cognitive ease to interject their ideologies into the mainstream psyche.  By design, when groups fail to employ critical thinking and instead rely upon cognitive ease, this leads to a condition where consensus outweighs facts.

Interestingly, things that challenge our cognitive ease can often be subconsciously perceived as threatening.  This is because our brains are pre-programmed to defend traditions as an ancient instinctive mechanism for survival.  This perceived threat triggers the release of adrenaline as a fight or flight response.  So, as a result, this often elicits an adrenaline-fueled emotional defense of the established paradigm and conflict with those who challenge the status quo.

As stated, the monster truck industry has a rich and colorful history, but it is often trivialized by the repetition of inaccuracies.  This is not typically done maliciously.  It is most commonly simply the result of individuals not knowing what they don’t know and relying upon the cognitive ease of consensus. 

Being There

The rearview mirror does not afford the same perspective as observing things from a specific historical point in time.  Assessing such landscapes without situational context relies upon limited and often misleading circumstantial evidence.  Such an exercise is like a physics student questioning the logic of Archimedes or Isaac Newton’s methods based on current science without recognizing that our modern understanding of mathematics and physics is largely based on the knowledge gained by those individuals.

Today’s vantage point affords us the ability to see the butterfly effect of actions that took place in the past.  But it does not necessarily provide context for the environmental conditions which existed at any of those specific historical points in time.  In other words, judging the past largely based upon Youtube videos and lore is like assessing the weather in Sidney by looking out your window in New York. 

When it comes to context, there is little substitute for proximity.  As such, to ensure the accuracy of my book every attempt was made to discuss the technologies at hand with the individuals directly involved in their advancement.  This was further aided by my personal proximity in time to those developments.  Therefore, I was not only able I provide the reader with a description of the details which occurred at the epicenter but with context for the reverberations felt in the surrounding vicinity. 

Team Leaders

For those who have not had the opportunity to view the contents of the book, and less should anyone get the wrong impression, it must be emphasized that said content extends far beyond the 80+ contributors interviewed during the writing process.  With over 270 individuals (and 160+ monster trucks) covered on its pages, obviously it was not feasible or necessary for that matter, to interview each and everyone and unfortunately, some of them are no longer with us. 

The monster truck industry is not unlike a football team.  There are many roles assumed by the players and staff.  There exists a pyramidal structure with a wide base made up of those who dedicate themselves to a position fortifying the yardage gained.  Fewer in number are the running backs that focus on the ground game intent on gaining incremental yardage.  And then there are a small number of quarterbacks which occasionally disrupt the gradual advancement by throwing the game-changing Hail Marys. 

Besides the players on the field, almost always out of the limelight are the coaches, strategists, and staff who maintain the equipment and develop the concepts executed by the team which together serves to elevate the team's performance by getting the most out of each player's abilities.

To expand upon the football analogy further, there have also always been multiple psychologies at play within the industry. Some participants were/are intent on winning the game.  Others were/are completely driven to be the MVP.  However, most simply played/play for the love of the game.  Irrespective of psychologies, each player serves a vital role in the success of the team.  If any single part falters, the entire organization suffers. 

As with a football team, sometimes the best efforts of monster truck pioneers only served to move the ball laterally.  While other times, they worked hard to gain considerable yardage only to eventually be forced to punt.  Never the less they learned from each of those failed attempts and applied those lessons to future efforts.  And, today we benefit from their hard-fought persistence.

Consistent with the title of the book and with particular emphasis on the last word of the title, Monster Truck Technology: The Definitive History of Monster Truck Evolution focuses primarily on the yardage gained and the efforts made by the individuals striving to move the ball downfield.  This is not meant to diminish the importance of the individuals holding the line, but regrettably, very real physical and financial considerations obviously precluded the inclusion of every individual who has ever taken the field.

The Power of Why

Some might question my reasoning for dedicating time and print space to obscure and/or ancient history.  From the outset, I recognized that simply presenting an account of how things have been done within the industry in the past would not necessarily provide insight into how they could be improved upon.  However, providing information about why the fundamental technologies were initially developed promotes a better understanding of why they were adopted by our industry which in turn can serve to provide useful clues as to how they may be improved upon.

Where some get their adrenaline rush by jumping out of airplanes or bombing down ski slopes, I seem to get an adrenaline fix from resisting cognitive ease and instead challenging prevailing paradigms. I consider myself an eternal student on the subject of monster truck technology.  And, on my nearly four decades-long quest for knowledge of the subject I have found the most useful tool at my disposal has been the use of the question, “Why”.  Rather than being content with the way things have always been done, I instead strive to understand why such paths were chosen.  And I question the potential outcome of alternative paths.  The proper application of this simple three-letter word presents us with immensely greater opportunities for advancement than simply replicating that which has been done by others.    

As I apply the “why” philosophy every day, I find that each new discovery serves to remind me of just how much more there is left to learn.

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