[Question] Is Stupidity Expanding? Some Hypotheses.

“To be explained: It feels to me that in recent years, people have gotten stupider, or that stupid has gotten bigger, or that the parts of people that were always stupid have gotten louder, or something like that.

I’ve come up with a suite of hypotheses to explain this (with a little help from my friends). I thought I’d throw them out here to see which ones the wise crowd here think are most likely. Bonus points if you come up with some new ones. Gold stars if you can rule some out based on existing data or can propose tests by which they might be rendered more or less plausible.

-David Gross, “[Question] Is Stupidity Expanding? Some Hypotheses.” greaterwrong.com. October 15, 2020.

George Carlin kind of nails it for me: stupid, full of shit and fuckin’ nuts. While the Venn diagram has overlap, you really cannot think about this issue without the other two.

Prima facie evidence? See hypotheses in Section A, Hypothesis 11:

“There is no truth, only power. What I’ve been interpreting as truth and rationality has been my own attempt to align my thinking with the political clique that was in power when I was being educated. What I’m interpreting as rising stupidity has been the collapse in power and status of that clique and the political obsolescence of the variety of ‘truth’ and ‘rationality’ I internalized as a child. Those pomo philosophers were right all along.”

Or Section B, Hypothesis 10:

“Stupid choices used to reliably have undesirable results; now there is more of a disconnect where people are shielded from the results of their stupid choices, or even rewarded for them (man lights himself on fire in an easily-forseeable misadventure, becomes YouTube legend). So people may be appearing stupid not as a result of being stupid but as the result of a perverse cost-benefit analysis. People are no dumber than they used to be, but for [reasons] it has become advantageous to display stupidity and so smart people sometimes mimic idiocy so as to reap such advantages. The smarter they are, the quicker they caught on to this and the better mimics they are, so this makes it look as though the smart people are being replaced by morons, when really it’s more a matter of camouflage.”

Both are clearly in the full of shit category. Much of crazy is indistinguishable from stupid. Section B, Hypothesis 8, for instance:

“Back in the day, when a person had a stupid idea, they would be reluctant to put it forward as their own. Rather, they would wait to see if someone else would voice the idea so they could just agree with it. This used to be relatively rare, but now you just have to google “[my stupid idea]” to find that someone or other has said it first, and then you’re off to the races.

Replace stupid with crazy in that sentence, and it is every bit as valid.

The Limits of Growth

“Whether we find ourselves amidst the vast terrain of the commercial internet; in our libraries, archives and museums; or between the parks, public housing facilities and utility infrastructures of our cities, thinking beyond growth as an end in itself requires attending to maintenance and care: who deserves it, who performs it, and to what end. This new world is one that we can choose to build deliberately and in incremental steps—at a Triennale or a brainstorm at a conference–or it could be forced upon us, necessitating triage and reactionary care. We should start planning for the former.”

—Shannon Mattern, “Minimal Maintenance.” Lapsus Lima. October 2, 2019.

Elite Philanthropy

“…elite philanthropy is a world that exists to give a bunch of rich people something to do and a way to feel important, and gives people in the ‘fundraising world’ opportunities to rub elbows with important rich people.

—Duncan Black, “Been Saying It For Years.” Eschaton. September 20, 2020.

Job Descriptions

A good job description has the following:

  • A clear, concise summary of what the company does
  • A clear, concise summary of what you would be doing in this job
  • Clear, reasonable qualifications for the position / work
  • Clear, reasonable responsibilities listed for the position
  • No mentions of traits or qualifications that are not concrete (e.g. sense of humor, perseverance, determination…)

A bad job description doesn’t have the above.

“Don’t settle for bad jobs.”

Michael Vinh Xuan Thanh, “How to Spot Toxic Software Jobs From Their Descriptions.” Medium. August 28, 2019.

Imagining Chapel Perilous

“Once you are in the Chapel [Perilous], Wilson insisted, there are only two ways out: as an agnostic, or a stone-cold paranoid. “There is no third way.”…

…Like so many drugs, the Imagination is both poison and cure, and we are not getting rid of that paradox any more than we are getting rid of pop paranoia or conspiracy politics or apocalyptic psyops. Living with Imagination does not involve the transcendence of pathology, but something more daemonic, more ironic, and also probably more tragic. The Imagination provides forms of sense-making that do not deny the chaotic disorders of our inner wilderness, and it nourishes us to the degree that we approach it as an ally to barter with rather than an overlord to slavishly believe or a “cognitive bias” to avoid.

—Erik Davis, “Wilderness of Mirrors.” Burning Shore. No. 8., August 25, 2020.

WoW Gamer House as Metaphor for U.S. COVID-19 Response

“There’s six guys who live in this flat and all they do all day is play WoW and watch movies. Waking up at 2pm every day and there’s always just someone asleep on the bed near all the multimonitor computer setups. There’s always music playing and it feels like a recovery day every day, padding around blearily in pyjamas or underwear. Old hoodies from defunct school teams. They’ve got this system where they’re selling their excess computing power to companies and hosting all this warez, and they’re stealing the internet from the business next door anyway and getting welfare on top of all that. They’re self sufficient and never go outdoors except to buy more fast food, and even then only in the dark. But then one of them wakes up dead some heavy afternoon. He’s just dead and they don’t know why but maybe the floor covered in fast food wrappings is a clue. They don’t want to tell the cops because of the purgatory den they live in and the illegality that supports it, and as far as they know he never had any actual parents. So it’s trouble. It’s taking a long trip out to the forest and thinking about how stars are so far away for the first time in a long time. It’s sweating in the cold air and digging a hole all night with your brand new shovels to leave him alone in. And it’s a long few days cracking all his passwords to keep his identity and associated payments persisting. Until the rhythm of waking up every day at 2pm to play WoW for nine hours and half watch a movie on your other monitor takes over again. It’s the same as it ever was except now there’s a room no one ever goes in.”

—grimelords, “There’s six guys who live in this flat…” tumblr.com. April 26, 2014.

h/t Garbage Day. Missed a day, so I thought I’d backfill it with this piece of modern horror. If you’re finding it anyway, well, sorry about that.