I only remember to read Dan’s Data Letters every so often. It’s another one of those sites that I keep meaning to pay more attention to, but always fail to do so. Still, every now and then I get a reminder that there’s something worth checking out over there and today it’s Dan’s entry titled “In search of stupidity.”
Why are people so stupid?
By “people”, here, I don’t mean the great mass of folk who, unlike us, lack perfect knowledge of all important things. Like what CAS latency is, and how low to aim for the maximum chance of a sustained-fire headshot from the Counter-Strike MP5.
No, I mean all of us. Me, you, him over there, your Member of Parliament, Stephen Hawking and Gore Vidal. We all do cretinous things, at least some of the time.
The issue of intelligence, human, frequent lack of, is one of considerable interest to us geeks. Our brushes with boneheadedness extend beyond one-finger-saluting people who change lanes without indicating and, occasionally, scamming those people. We’re frequently using, or even creating, very complex systems intended to let humans do things more easily. And systems that assume the user will be clever all the time are, famously, likely to be fragile and/or surprisingly difficult to use.
Dan doesn’t really have much if an answer as to why we’re all occasionally idiots, but he does have some pertinent advice in regards to it:
Back in the warmed-by-PCs home of the typical geek, a simpler understanding of human goofiness can bear fruit in all sorts of ways. You don’t need a deep comprehension of the exact ways in which normal, intelligent people can seem totally imbecilic, but being mindful of the fact that it happens – and that you’re not immune – is a helpful thing, even when all it does is make the world less confusing.
The rest of the entry talks a bit about game theory and how the study of stupidity has become a legitimate field—one we here at SEB delve into on a regular basis. Good stuff.