“Courage is often lack of insight, whereas cowardice in many cases is based on good information.”Peter Ustinov
Stupidity is highly dangerous. I can say with great assurance there have always been stupid people. I also feel pretty confident saying there will always be stupid people. The danger arises when idiocy becomes an epidemic. And well, if you can’t see that we are undergoing a stupid outbreak, you may be infected.
I know what you are thinking, this is harsh and judgemental, but let’s look at what stupid actually means. What is the definition of stupid?
Stupid is defined as “having or showing a great lack of intelligence or common sense.” It’s not just some hurtful term that we throw around, it has meaning. I would like to highlight the term “showing”, as not to suggest that intelligence does not exist, but that it is not shown.
Just for good measure, however, let’s look at some synonyms to solidify this concept before we move on. Mindless, foolish, simple-minded, half-witted, idiotic, gullible, and naive. Now, that should make the point.
When I speak of the nuclearization of stupidity, I am talking about the spreading culture of ignorance, and the danger that it poses. People are not stupid in the sense that they are unable to learn. The problem is that they are un or misinformed. Sometimes that is a matter of choice, and at others, it’s a matter of suppression.
In any case, it is not just individuals that are acting foolishly, it is institutions, governments, businesses, and even whole families. Stupid people have always posed a small threat, but an entire society that is being steered towards uninformed, or misinformed is as dangerous as an unsecured nuclear weapon.
What is causing this rapid increase in single-mindedness? I think we all know the answer to that question, its connectivity, stupid. The very technology that should have made us increase our knowledge has led us to do the exact opposite.
Digital networking and social media have caused us to live in “echo chambers.” These are environments where we are “only exposed to beliefs and opinions that coincide with our own.” It’s like how my Mom used to tell me how smart I was when I was a little boy, now I have a complex. Well, you have a complex too, it’s probably whatever your beliefs are, and your echo chamber is telling you that you are right, right, right. But wait for a second, you are wrong, wrong, wrong, and your ideas suck, at least according to my echo chamber. This is why every time we peer into another chamber, like say, watch Fox News, we run back to our own chamber for comfort. Who is the smartest little boy in the whole world? “You are Son.” Ahhh, I love my echo chamber, it tells me exactly what I want to hear.
Kind of, some of these chambers we create for ourselves, like our Twitter or Facebook, but others are designed for us, bummer. The ones we create for ourselves are super harmful. The ones created by others are pure fu ***** evil..
Greed, for example, creates echo chambers of stupidity all by itself. The more you know, the less you buy. The more we know what the actual cost of our consumption is, the less we want to participate in such a vicious cycle. And so, we go on, being conditioned like a Pavlovian dog, we are fed tailored information, while other information is suppressed. By suppressing, I mean deleted from public consciousness.
The more we know where our food comes from, and what is in it, the more we start asking questions. Corporations don’t like questions, nor do politicians, or governments. They much prefer talking points. Fewer questions, more cooperation, and a steady stream of information (talking points) that support buy-in are on replay all day in this echo chamber, stay tuned.
Politics is more of the same. Idiotic partisanship perpetuated by information limited to our own personal echo chambers, and the information we are getting is not making us any smarter, quite the opposite.
We are quickly becoming the most uninformed, informed population in the history of civilization. We think we know what we know, but what we know is just what we have been told, in the echo chamber. Sadly we have become so conditioned to supporting information, that we have a tough time digesting unbiased information. Biases have replaced impartiality. Why analyze when you could further firm up your own bias.
Playing stupid is shockingly a go-to strategy for businesses and politicians alike. Even churches are trying it! Are you poisoning an entire city for profit? Just play stupid. Are you gambling with clients money, and insanely overleveraged? Just play stupid. Are you ignoring climate change because you fear it could affect your profitability? Just play stupid. Again, stupid people, not new. What is new is the theatrical ignorance in the face of ubiquitous data.
We know when corporations or politicians are lying, we don’t have to guess anymore. This is where the danger of stupidity arises. “Stupid is as stupid does.” Madness lies in the actions of a person. What we are doing to ourselves is stupid. We have the data, we have the information, our efforts, however, signal ignorance.
I am a parent. I see what connectivity is doing to my children. It disconnects them from reality. Their echo chamber tells them it isn’t harmful, necessary even. Ours tells us that they are just being kids of today and that everything will be fine. None of these things are true. Our children will not be fine, and they are not okay now. They are being altered by this chamber of stupidity.
This new normal is effectively stripping our children, and us, of any and all organic material in their lives. Emotions, rewards, reinforcement, and even relationships are being influenced by third parties, tech, and the technical stupidity that accompanies it. We are being conditioned to believe that the new normal is normal. It isn’t, it’s stupid. It is a culture of ignorance, and we are feeding it with our cooperation.
Ignorance was once a threat to an individual, but it now endangers our entire country, possibly the world. Our modern day environment of increased connectivity and tailored information poses us grave danger.
“Patience has its limits. Take it too far, and it’s cowardice.George Jackson
Naievity as a strategy is unbelievably reckless. It sets a precedent for a reactive governing of our country, our businesses, and our lives. Emphatically denying any knowledge or understanding of a problem until it is too late is cowardice. Are you a coward?
Aaron L. Carroll
Photo by Andrew Neel