It cannot be eliminated, but only recognized and it is the most dangerous force in the cosmos. Although, at times, it can also make us progress. But what is meant by stupidity? The concept, instinctively known to all, however, seems to escape any theoretical definition. It is not the opposite of intelligence: there are in fact intelligent people who, at times, behave stupidly.
1 ANCIENT AND MODERN, BUT ABOVE ALL, INFINITE
“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, but I still have doubts about the universe.” The phrase, attributed to Albert Einstein, expresses an ancient idea. Already in 250 A.C., the biblical book of Ecclesiastes warned: “The number of fools is infinite”, revealing that the problem had already been grasped in all its gravity.
2 HOW TO DEFINE STUPIDITY?
There could be considered 4 “human types”: the unwary, people who damage themselves by their actions while producing an advantage for someone else; the intelligent, people whose actions benefit them and others too; bandits, people who act in such a way as to take advantage of it but harm others; and the stupid: people who cause harm to others by suffering harm, and without any advantage for themselves.
3 THE CAUSES OF STUPIDITY
According to an experiment conducted by psychologist Balazs Aczel, of Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, there are three situations that lead us to stupid behavior. The first context, considered by researchers the most serious, is that of “trusting ignorance”. We all overestimate ourselves, confident that stupid actions are “accidents” that only happen to others. The second is linked to the “lack of control”: the classic case, we arrive late for an important appointment to play the last video game or to see the end of a show. The third type of stupidity is called “mental absence” (venial, but lethal in certain circumstances) and it is when we don’t pay attention to what we are doing. For example, when we cross the street reading a message on our cell phone.
4 THE STUPID IS LIKE THE DIAMOND: IT IS FOREVER
Stupidity is unconscious and recidivist. The danger of stupidity also arises from the fact that the stupid doesn’t know that he is stupid. He doesn’t know his own limits, he remains fossilized in his own beliefs and does not know how to change. This way his behaviour is more effective and powerful.
In the clinical setting, stupidity is the worst disease, because it is incurable. The stupid person is led to repeat the same behaviors over and over because he is unable to understand the damage he does and therefore cannot self-correct.
5 THE FIVE LAWS OF STUPIDITY
Stupidity has some constants and according to experts it responds to 5 laws:
- Each of us always underestimates the number of stupid people around.
- A stupid person is not a result of his education or of the environment he belongs to.
- Stupid is someone who causes harm to others without realizing any advantage for himself or even suffering a loss.
- Dealing and/or associating with stupid individuals unfailingly proves to be a very costly mistake and non-stupid people always forget that.
- The stupid is the most dangerous person there is.
6 STUPIDITY IN COMMAND
One of the factors that often amplify stupidity, according to scholars, is being in a position of command. People in power tend to think that, since they are there, it is because they are better, more capable, smarter, wiser than the rest of humanity. Additionally, they are usually surrounded by followers and profiteers who continually reinforce this belief of the leader. Thus, the figures in government can get to commit big nonsense in the midst of general compliance. Breaking this vicious circle is not easy, it is necessary that some other person (better if authoritative) unmasks the powerful vain of the day, denouncing the most stupid actions.
7 ARE MEN MORE STUPID?
Sporadic observations from everyday life suggest that men are much more likely than women to do really stupid things. In support of this thesis, there is also a (scientific) analysis conducted on the winners of the Darwin Awards: 88.7% of the winners are male, which leads to the conclusion that there is an obvious difference in stupid behavior between the sexes. To be fair (and in defense of males) it should be emphasized that the sample used is neither representative of mankind nor of stupid people.
8 STUPIDITY IS ALSO CONTAGIOUS
Crowds are much more stupid than the single people who make them up. This also explains how an entire nation (as in Nazi in Germany or Mussolini in Italy) can easily be conditioned to pursue crazy goals. This phenomenon of diminishing critical skills with the crowd’s emotional contagion is familiar in psychology. The “decision-making polarization” occurs: the simplest solution is chosen, which is often the least intelligent.
9 STUPID IS CONVENIENT?
Stupidity can be, sometimes, the key to an organization’s efficiency. Or rather “functional stupidity”, as the Swedish economist Mats Alvesson defined it. The scholar describes it as based “on the absence of critical reflection. A state of unity, which ensures that employees do not question decisions and structures ». Basically, a series of employees who perform the assigned tasks without objections is the secret of a harmonious and productive company.
10 ARE WE ALL BECOMING MORE STUPID?
On the evolutionary level, stupidity is our inevitable destiny. This is supported by a geneticist from Stanford University, Gerald Crabtree, who in recent research has reconstructed the possible mutations of our genetic makeup through various eras. Should we worry? No, because many scholars disagree with Crabtree’s conclusions.
11 STUPID AND INNOVATION
According to some, stupidity even has an evolutionary function: it serves to make us perform reckless acts, which in many cases can be more useful than doing nothing. Stupidity, as an irrational attitude, allows man to accept challenges that he would not normally accept. And the deviation from stupidity leads to genius and the invention of innovative solutions. Great heroic gestures, for example, often arise from an unreasonable idea. Just think of all those who drown to save those who ask for help at sea: stupidity often brings with it something poetic and epic.
12 STUPIDITY IN THE MYTH: EPIMÈTEO
Even his name (which in Greek means “the one who reflects later”) does not promise anything good. Indeed, Epimèteo was foolish and imprudent, unlike his brother Prometheus, who was ingenious and wise. According to the myth, Prometheus received the beautiful Pandora as a gift from Vulcan, carrying a mysterious vase with him: smelling the scam, he refused the gift. Epimèteo, on the other hand, did not think twice: he married Pandora and opened her box, thus releasing all the evils of the world that were enclosed there. He made another nonsense when he distributed the qualities to all living beings. Epimèteo distributed them at random and only when it reached the man did he realize that he had nothing left. To repair the damage, Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to men along with technical knowledge, intelligence and culture.