The rise of “wellness” products and services such as cold-pressed juice bars, raw and paleo eateries, boutique yoga studios and alternative therapies has brought with it a specific vocabulary. Some of these wellness words sound like science; some, especially those coming from Deepak Chopra, have the ring of religon, and quite a few are so divorced from meaning that they’re uncategorisable. After overdosing on YouTube philosophical debates one night, Australian web developer Seb Pearce wrote some code to randomly generate New Age copy at the push of a button.
In a blog post explaining the mission behind his New Age Bullshit Generator, Pearce rails against what he calls “woo-woo.”
“This word is a blanket term for pseudoscience, New Age thinking, dubious alternative medicine and other things that reek of the heady fumes of snake oil.”
Pearce feels that the complicated vocabulary of woo-woo practitioners makes dodgy beliefs and practices attractive to vulnerable people, saying if he had heard debates of this kind as a “scientifically illiterate, spiritually frustrated” 18-year-old, he would likely have been sucked in by it.
“[The language is] so full of hope and wonder and impressive ideas that you want it to be true — and for people who feel powerless, that’s more important than whether it is actually true or just a quack trying to sell a few books.”
Pearce says he was inspired to create the copy generator after losing the thread of a woo-woo debate one too many times. He wanted to highlight how easy it is to make “hogwash that looks compelling” by ridiculing it.
“As I sat there listening to the debates, I thought to myself, ‘This all sounds like random sequences of buzzwords. I bet I could write code to generate it.’”
To create a page of deep-sounding nonsense, users can click a button labelled “reionise electrons”. Our result was… alarmingly credible.