Atanu Dey On India's Development

A Taxonomy of the Stupid

| 8 Comments

I have mentioned the basic laws of human stupidity enunciated by Prof Cipolla before on this blog. For your convenience, I repeat the basic laws here:

  • First Basic Law: Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
  • Second Basic Law: The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
  • Third (and Golden) Basic Law: A stupid person is a person who caused losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.
  • Fourth Basic Law: 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 costly mistake.
  • Fifth Basic Law: A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.
  • Corollary to the Fifth Basic Law: A stupid person is more dangerous than a bandit.

I am sure you have questions. Who are the stupid? How can we identify them? Are they a heterogeneous or a homogeneous bunch? What can be done to help them? All excellent questions and we should address them.

Most certainly someone must have come up with the taxonomy of the stupid but I am too lazy to look it up on them internets. So as a public service, I will do the hard work of figuring out a taxonomic scheme of my own.

  • First Order Stupid: Plain old garden variety stupid. The cause of the stupidity is basic ignorance. This can be cured with knowledge. Pre-requisite: must be at least of average intelligence and have an open mind.

  • Second Order Stupid: Not just ignorant of the facts but what is worse that the head is filled with patent nonsense and falsehoods. As with First Order Stupidity, this can be cured but it requires the additional step of erasing before writing. Pre-requisite: as in the previous category and the ability to change one’s mind.
  • Third Order Stupid: Not only having wrong information but even when presented with the correct information, the inability to recognize the need to re-evaluate the situation and change one’s mind. Therefore it is nearly impossible to fix this kind of stupid.

For expositional purposes only, here’s an example. (The persons mentioned below are entirely fictitious and any resemblance to any person living or dead is quite likely coincidental. Or perhaps not so coincidental. You decide.)

  • Meet Ashok. Ashok does not know anything about a man (loosely speaking, of course) named Dr Manmohan Singh. He assumes that Dr Singh is about average when it comes to integrity. He is essentially ignorant of the fact that Dr Singh is a despicably dishonest person, but when presented with the facts, readily admits that Dr Singh is a spineless toady and astonishingly dishonest. Ashok is 1st Order Stupid.

  • Meet Basanti. Basanti is the gullible sort. She reads newspapers which claim that Dr Singh has personal “integrity.” If you ask her why, she will tell you because “everyone says so.” She’s not incorrigible, though. You first explain to her that she’s totally mistaken. Given the evidence, she updates her beliefs and correctly believes that Dr Singh is a despicably dishonest person. Basanti is 2nd Order Stupid.
  • Meet Chandan. Chandan is convinced that Dr Singh is competent and honest. His mind is made up and no amount of evidence about Dr Singh’s dishonesty is going to make the least difference to him. You can present all the damning evidence till the cows come home but he will steadfastly refuse to alter his belief and insist that Dr Singh is honest. Chandan is incorrigible. He is 3rd Order Stupid.

Moving on to a related matter. In a comment reader Mallikarjuna writes,

Our current PM, comes with impressive integrity, but is not a man, who can “Get it Done”.

Either I have totally misunderstood the meaning of the word “integrity,” or the current appointed PM is as far as one can get from integrity while still being in the same galaxy. I wish I could talk to someone who believes in the PM’s integrity. I want to know what their definition of the word is in the context of that man. Does integrity mean “the character trait that makes a person incapable of judging right from wrong; the total lack of moral conviction; the absence of all and any ethical considerations in one’s actions; devoid of all sense of fairness and justice” to them?

I would seriously like to know.

  • seadog4227

    6th Basic Law: Everyone is stupid at one time or another in their lives.

    7th Basic Law: All wives/mothers KNOW that their own husbands/sons are incredibly stupid .

    8th Basic Law: Nothing is foolproof because fools are ingenious.

    Other corollaries:
    1) 80% of a political party consist of permanently stupid people; the rest 20% are hardened criminals.
    2) 80% of the statements of a political party are issued by 20% of its’ members.eg. Duckvijay Singh.

    Just kidding!!

  • Anjana

    ha ha ha How very true!!!
    What is heartbreaking that most Indians are falling in the above mentioned categories…very few are aware of the real situation… But can we really blame them??? Our corrupt and biased media has gone all out to portray Mr MMS as a “man of integrity”. It has been some people’s efforts like yourself that atleast the 1st order stupids are being enlightened!!!!!!

    I have been a regular reader of your blog…..but never commented!!! Really thought provoking write ups.

  • Anonymouse

    Whatever happened to – Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish!!
    Isn’t that what Indians are doing..

  • http://themmindset.wordpress.com/ The Mindset

    The Third Law will fit on Muslims
    They cause losses to others while deriving no gain in the process.

  • Poltergeist

    Atanu,

    MMS is a spineless toady. In fact, he is to Sonia what “Giani Zail Singh” was to Indira G. Atleast “Giani” had to say in public that if Indira wanted him to clean her house, he would pick up the “jhaadu” immediately, to prove his loyalty to the late madam. With MMS, everyone knows that a signal from Sonia will be enough for him to vacate the chair. No public assurances necessary.

  • Anjana

    Hi Atanu,

    Another “stupid” viewpoint on Modi!!!! Check it out!!!!

    http://mytake-charakan.blogspot.com/2011/10/modi-is-criminal-sanjiv-bhatt.html#comment-form

    NO offence meant to the blogger….he is after all entitled to his view… Here’s praying that the light shines upon him soon!!!!! :) :)

  • Rajagopal S. Iyer

    Greetings,

    Stupidity is an opinion.

    Period.

    Just because a per is is a PhD does not disqualify him/her bering stupid. Rather their stupidity/servidtude got then their degree to arrogate themselvesves to being not stupid.

    period.

    Regards,

    aa no bhadraaH kratavo uantu vishvataH
    (Let auspicious come to us from the Universe — veda)

    Rajagopal

  • JP

    Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers! democracy!