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Stupid people

Hello guys,

I think this is an important topic. It was explored by many people, especially Carlo M. Cipolla in his book: The basic laws of stupidity.

These are Cipolla's five fundamental laws of stupidity:

  1. Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
  2. The probability that a certain person (will) be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
  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.
  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.
  5. A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.

Helpless people: contribute to society but are taken advantage of by it (and especially by the "bandit" sector of it); note, however, that extreme altruists and pacifists may willingly and consciously (rather than helplessly) accept a place in this category for moral or ethical reasons

Intelligent people: contribute to society and who leverage their contributions into reciprocal benefits

Stupid people: whose efforts are counterproductive to both their and others' interests

Bandits: pursue their own self-interest even when doing so poses a net detriment to societal welfare

Here is the latest lesson I learned on the topic, coming from this documentary in French (you can use auto-caption in your own language):

The lesson I learned from one of the interviewees in this show is that:

(paraphrasing this one)"The most stupid person is the one who does not have the humility to admit that they might be wrong, they are the ones who do not consider that there is another perspective"

"The opposite of stupidity is not intelligence. It is wisdom: a mix of skepticism, cautiousness, understanding and tolerance towards others and ourselves."

The sentence in bold is the one that made me understand why I thought many Swiss people are stupid or that some of my colleagues in healthcare are stupid. Yes, they know a lot of things, yes they went to school and studied,yes they can analyze events and draw logical conclusion. However, what many of these people miss is that they might be wrong, biased or have wrong basic assumptions. In Switzerland, because people learned things in School or through media or any other thing, they mistake it for the truth. So they think they are right. They have this arrogance. So that is why open-mindedness and wisdom go hand-in-hand: if you're willing to take on somebody else's perspective, you might actually enrich your own.

So humility is the antidote to stupidity. By admitting you could and are stupid sometimes, you prevent yourself from more stupidity, which is helpful and desirable.


Interesting take.

I'm not sure I'd call it stupidity as then one should come up with a new term for "low IQ people", but the concept is a strong one.

Ego, hubris, or over-confidence can get people stuck in a "stupid" state indeed.

I particularly liked this one:

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.

Basically, that would someone who goes for lose-lose, or lose-neutral.
One could also expand the category to include "people who miss out on the possibility of win-win, collaboration, and pie-enlarging opportunities".


Matthew Whitewood has reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewood
Community, new content and Confidence University moved here.

It's definitely bad when stupid people are in high positions, like a boss at work, or worse, a leader of a country. They just make things lousy for everybody under their influence.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

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