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The Power of Stupidity

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The Power of Stupidity
« on: Wednesday February 13, 2019, 10:38:04 AM »
The Power of Stupidity



Here are Five Laws of Stupidity

First Law:
We always underestimate the number of stupid people. This is not as obvious as it sounds, because: people we had thought to be rational and intelligent suddenly turn out to be unquestionably stupid; and, day after day we are hampered in whatever we do by stupid people who invariably turn up in the least appropriate places. It is impossible to set a percentage, because any number we choose will be too small.

Second Law:
The probability of a person being stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person. If you study the frequency of stupidity in the people who come to clean up classrooms after hours, you find that it is much higher than you expected. You assume that this is related to their lower level of education, or to the fact that non-stupid people have better chances of obtaining good jobs. But when you analyze students or University professors, the distribution is exactly the same. Militant feminists may be incensed, but the stupidity factor is the same in both genders (or as many genders, or sexes, as you may choose to consider). No difference in the sigma factor, can be found by race, color, ethnic heritage, education, etcetera.

Third (and Golden) Law:
A stupid person is someone who causes damage to another person, or a group of people, without any advantage accruing to himself (or herself) -- or even with some resultant self-damage. (We shall come back to this, because it is the pivotal concept.)

Fourth Law:
Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid people. They constantly forget that at any moment, and in any circumstance, associating with stupid people invariably constitutes an expensive mistake. That (I would say) suggests that non-stupid people are a bit stupid -- but I shall get back to this point at the end.

Fifth Law:
A stupid person is the most dangerous person in existence. This is probably the most widely understood of the Laws, if only because it is common knowledge that intelligent people, hostile as they might be, are predictable, while stupid people are not. Moreover, its basic corollary: A stupid person is more dangerous than a bandit.

There are four types of people, depending on their behavior in a transaction:

Someone whose actions tend to generate self-damage, but also to create advantage for someone else.

Someone whose actions tend to generate self-advantage, as well as advantage for others.

Someone whose actions tend to generate self-advantage while causing damage to others.

We already have this definition in the Third Law.

[ Three Corollaries Listed Below ]

In a world populated exclusively by "perfect bandits," the system as a whole would be balanced; damage and advantage would cancel each other out. The same effect would occur in a world populated by "perfectly hapless" people. Of course intelligent people make the biggest contribution to society as a whole. But, nasty as it may sound, intelligent bandits also contribute to an improvement in the balance of society by causing more advantage than harm overall.

"Hapless-intelligent" people, though they lose individually, can also have socially positive effects. However, when stupidity gets into the act, the damage is enormously greater than the benefit to anyone. This proves the original point: the single most dangerous factor in any human society is stupidity.

Intelligent people generally know they are, bandits are well aware of their attitude, and even hapless people have a sneaking suspicion that all is not right. But stupid people don't know they are stupid, and that is one more reason why they are extremely dangerous.

Which of course leads me back to my original, agonizing question: am I stupid?

I have passed several IQ tests with good marks. Unfortunately, I know how these tests work and that they don't prove anything. Several people have told me I am intelligent. But that doesn't prove anything, either. They may simply be too kind to tell me the truth. Conversely, they could be attempting to use my stupidity for their own advantage. Or they could be just as stupid as I am. I am left with one little glimpse of hope: quite often, I am intensely aware of how stupid I am (or have been). And this indicates that I am not completely stupid.

First Corollary:
In each of us there is a factor of stupidity, which is always larger than we suppose (I explained that in my original "stupidity" paper).

Second Corollary:
When the stupidity of one person combines with the stupidity of others, the impact grows geometrically -- i.e. by multiplication, not addition, of the individual stupidity factors. It seems to be a generally accepted concept that "the sum of a network increases as the square of the number of members" and it seems quite obvious that the same criterion applies to the combination of stupidity factors in individual people. This can help to explain the well-known fact that crowds as a whole are much more stupid than any individual person in the crowd.

Third corollary:
The combination of intelligence in different people has less impact than the combination of stupidity, because "non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid people"

Stupidity is brainless -- it doesn't need to think, get organized or plan ahead to generate a combined effect. The transfer and combination of intelligence is a much more complex process.

Stupid people can combine instantly into a super-stupid group or mass, while intelligent people are effective as a group only when they know each other well and are experienced in working together. The creation of well-tuned groups of people sharing intelligence can generate fairly powerful anti-stupidity forces, but (unlike stupidity bundling) they need organized planning and upkeep; and can lose a large part of their effectiveness by the infiltration of stupid people or unexpected bursts of stupidity in otherwise intelligent people.

Another dangerous element in the equation is that the machinery of power tends to place "intelligent bandits" (sometimes even "stupid bandits") at the top of the pyramid; and they, in turn, tend to favor and protect stupidity and keep true intelligence out of their way as much as they can.