The Evolution of Stupidity

The other day Y commented to me (quoting somebody else) that while technology of our age has advanced, so has our stupidity. Stupidity evolves pretty fast. It is even more difficult to stop man from thinking naively on a single dimension than to stop the technology to advance.

I think there is another side of the story. While technology advancement facilitates the solving of problems, it also raises the complexity of the problems. The nature of societal relations has entered the phase of complex interdependence, meaning that a minor decision can incur high-stakes. In the past, a stupid decision will imply bad consequence within a limited range, while in our age we will see a radiation in the wake of a stupid decision. Stupidity is augmented through the high-stakes associated with it.

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  • yxysamurai  On February 19, 2012 at 6:24 am

    The original sentences are as follows:
    “Of course, even before Flaubert, people knew stupidity existed, but they understood it somewhat differently: it was considered as simple absence of knowledge, a defect correctable by education. In Flaubert’s novels, stupidity is an inseparable dimension of human existence. … But the most shocking, the most scandalous thing about Flaubert’s vision of stupidity is this: Stupidity does not give way to science, technology, modernity, progress; on the contrary, it progresses right along with progress! … Modern stupidity means not ignorance but the nonthought of received ideas.”

  • Qingqing  On February 19, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Your post reminds me of an experience of Thomas Sargent after he won the Nobel: he was asked “if there is one thing President Obama should do what is it”. And then he was silent, thinking, without a word till the end. People think this is disastrous for a TV interview, which made him look stupid to the audience.

    But is stupidity kind of tough word? Do you want to call this unsophistication?

    And I wonder which work of Flaubert is Y reading?

    • mumamme  On February 19, 2012 at 11:36 pm

      I think the opposite of stupidity is lack of wisdom, not lack of sophistication. An unsophisticated person can still possess some wisdom, while a stupid person does not…A stupid person, however, can possess enough sophistication to execute his/her stupidity. I even think that stupidity evolves partly due to the evolution of its sophistication:)

      The Sargent story sounds sexy!

      Y, what is the name of the Flaubert book??

      BTW, now I become the minority in the comments of this blog…

    • yxysamurai  On February 20, 2012 at 3:46 am

      Actually, I read Kundera’s lecture “Jerusalem Address: The Novel and Europe” (only 9 pages), the last part of his book “The Art of Novel”. He discussed what is novel and briefly summarized great contributions made by several novelists. Honestly, I don’t think I can find that out by reading Flaubert myself.

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