The science of human stupidity broken down into 5 universal laws
Many years ago, a brilliant professor took a look at the world around him and startledly realized he was surrounded by idiots. There were so many idiots, he believed, that their stupidity would inevitably become the ultimate threat to mankind’s existence.
Carlo M Cipolla was a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, when he became fascinated with the phenomenon of human stupidity. He studied the fundamental traits that these simpletons share, and published an essay on the subject, in which he broke the elements of our ineptitude down to a science.
Cipolla believed that human stupidity followed five fundamental laws. Understanding these would be necessary, he insisted, if the non-stupid were going to avoid being destroyed by their half-baked brethren.
Law 1: Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
We’re surrounded by more morons than we can ever truly comprehend, Cipolla asserts. Essentially, if we were ever to guess how many halfwits are among us, we would endlessly underestimate their numbers. More idiots can always be found to “appear suddenly and unexpectedly in the most inconvenient places and at the most improbable moments,” he hilariously claims.
Law 2: The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
Contrary to popular belief, cultural indicators like a person’s job, their education level, or their income are not indicative of intelligence. Morons can materialize in every corner of society. There are imbeciles with master’s degrees. There are dumb-as-bricks billionaires. Cipolla examined blue collar workers and white collar workers, and on every rung of the social ladder there were a persistent proportion of simpletons. It makes no difference whether they’re black, white, male, female, Asian, or South American — stupidity don’t discriminate.
Law 3. A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.
This principle, the professor claims, is the Golden Law of stupidity: An idiot will cause problems for the people around him without benefitting himself in the slightest.
This definition makes the most sense in reference to Cipolla’s four basic categories of human beings: the helpless, the intelligent, the bandit, and the stupid. The actions of the intelligent enrich both himself and others. The bandit benefits himself at the expense of others’. The helpless person will enrich others at his own expense. The four categories of society can be illustrated in the graph below:
As you can see, stupid people occupy the lonesome left corner of the chart, where they produce no benefit to anyone at all. The actions of an idiot are especially dangerous, the professor explains, because reasonable people find it difficult to understand their unreasonable behavior. Since there’s no logical basis behind their actions, when an idiot attacks, “a) one is generally caught by surprise by the attack; b) even when one becomes aware of the attack, one cannot organize a rational defense, because the attack itself lacks any rational structure,” Cipolla says.
Law 4: Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.
Simply put, never underestimate the dangers of associating with a dumb-ass. This lesson wraps up perfectly with the fifth and final law…
Law 5: A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.
It seems reasonable that among the four categories of humans, the bandit would be the most threatening. But as the corollary of law 5 proclaims: A stupid person is more dangerous than a bandit. Because nitwits create only losses in their interactions, society as a whole is impoverished by the stupid.
In this way, the population of pinheads can easily endanger an entire society. The difference between communities that are crushed under the weight of their dim-witted citizens and those who overcome them are the efforts of the non-stupid. A society only stands a chance if it can counterbalance the stupid’s losses with the intelligent’s gains.
It seems you can’t keep stupid people off the roads, out of government, or away from customer service jobs. But if you keep these five universal laws in mind as a tool to transcend the idiocracy, there’s hope for humanity yet.