There’s really only one web comic I read anymore: xkcd. Randall Munroe continues to turn out thoughtful gems, and I really appreciate the ad-free nature of the site. I also find his What-If? series delightful; the first episode is one of my favorite interweb jewels!
But it’s his insight to the human condition and ability to nail a point with such brilliant brevity that I most relish. I value some of his comics as highly as I value favorite quotes; both are pithy petards against our myths and illusions.
And sometimes he even hoists my petard a bit!
Last time I wrote about willful ignorance as one good definition of stupidity. This time, I want to explore some ideas about why there seems a growing amount of it in modern society. Of course that necessitates first addressing the question: Is there a growing amount of it? I believe the answer is yes, but I also believe a lot of the reason for it is the growing complexity of society.
There was a time when a clever person could fix their washing machine or their car. Our machines were fairly simple then: a motor, a few hoses, some wires and belts. It wasn’t hard to figure out. A clever person with experience and tools could even fix their radio or TV. Replacing a burned out “tube” was a common household activity.
Now our machines bear the warning: “No User Serviceable Parts Inside”
The title above is deliberately a little inflammatory, but people who know me, and people who read this blog, may — not without reason — think this is a common sentiment of mine. And it sort of is, but it’s actually a code for something much more intricate and involved. Last time I wrote about Leon Wieseltier, whose ten-word critique of modern society blew me away, especially his central clause: “Not enough critical thinking.”
This time I’d like to explore — or at least begin exploring — exactly what (to me) the phrase, “People are stupid!” really means. There are some key distinctions to be made. For example, I don’t think people are more, or less, stupid than they’ve ever been; our brains haven’t changed in many thousands of years.
And let’s face it, we all take a Stupid Pill now and then.
Sometimes you encounter someone who seems to really hit the nail on the head in terms of how they see the world. The brilliance of these moments is that — especially if you tend to be a social outlier — you’re given the gift of knowing you’re not alone. There are people who not only see the world as you do, but see it even more clearly and intelligently than you ever could.
Leon Wieseltier appeared on The Colbert Report last Tuesday (Oct 7), and I was so blown away by his words that I kept rewinding and rewinding so I could write it all down and record here what he said.
I was especially impressed by his ten-word critique of modern society!
Computer programmers are exceptional thinkers. By which I don’t necessary mean they are “exceptional” in the sense of “outstanding” (although no doubt some are). I mean they are trained to think about exceptions (to the rule), about what might happen.
Computer programmers, in general, think about all the possible paths a system could take. When creating email software, they have to think about all the possible ways a user might use the software. There are the obvious actions the user is supposed to perform to read or write email. But there are also “What happens if I click this?” moments to consider.
It’s not about just of the “correct” ways but also about the “incorrect” ways!