[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.

Play the Plot: Tabletop Games for Your Favorite Fantasy Book

“In honor of this glorious, beautiful, multitude of games that are just begging to be played, I’ve set up a few tabletop roleplaying games with some new pieces of genre fiction. I tried to pick out games that have been written recently, and none that originated in the 70s! Take a look, and maybe support a game or two. We’ll start with Fantasy, diving right in with games and books that go from epic to short, historical to urban, so take a deep breath, and let’s dive in.”

Linda H. Codega, “Play the Plot: Tabletop Games for Your Favorite Fantasy Book.” Tor.com. October 5, 2020.

Librem AweSIM

“Major cellular providers are creating unified customer identifiers based on customer account information (name, address, billing information) and unique identifiers on your mobile devices so they can ‘identify users across multiple devices and serve them relevant advertising’. Librem AweSIM adds an extra layer of privacy to your customer data to protect you from targeted tracking. We register your phone number in our name on your behalf and keep your personal and financial data private and out of the hands of companies who would sell it to others.”

Librem AweSIM

The Precautionary Principle and Innovation

“First, there are issues of scale: small-scale explorations by lead users are relatively harmless until they are scaled up to become the dependence of mass consumers. Innovations may grow so popular that their production and consumption affect the stability of ecosystems and democracies, such as plastic waste choking our oceans, or Facebook becoming an increasing threat to the stability of democracies around the world.

Second, there are end-of-product-life considerations that are not properly taken into account, such as dismantling a nuclear energy facility or the recycling of electronic waste. 

Third, the harm from innovation may come not from regular use, but from unanticipated consequences, as shown in the Chernobyl disaster.

Fourth, innovation may be undertaken to deceive consumers and regulators about the nature of a product. The classic example from recent history would be Volkswagen’s intentional programming of its diesel engines to give misleading measurements of NOx emissions during regulatory testing. We might also mention here the case of complex financial market innovations designed to trick unsophisticated investors. 

A fifth dimension relates to the social injustice whereby those who gain from an innovation differ from those who lose. A recent Oxfam report estimates that the richest 1% of the world’s population is responsible for more than twice the carbon pollution of the poorest half of humanity during a critical 25-year period of emissions growth. 

Taking into account the downsides of technological innovation as well as the advantages leads us to think about the tradeoffs involved. The ‘precautionary principle’ suggests that regulators should not wait until an absolute scientific or societal consensus is achieved before taking regulatory action against dubious products and processes.”

-Alex Coad, “Innovation is harming us in ways we have yet to understand.” Pando. October 5, 2020.