Tag Archives: stupid

Internet is Making People Stupid– Less Creative, Less Thought: Click-Bait, Pawn of Commercial Interests…

The internet is changing the way people– think, behave… But does it make people– smarter or stupid? Stronger or weaker? Freer or more enslaved? Do people control it, or does it control people? Does it change the way people think and process information? According to Nicholas Car; people don’t think the way they used to think; they are deeply dependent on networking technology, and it’s changing not only the way people think, but also it’s changing the structure of the human brain… People don’t write down or memorize detailed information any more, they just do an internet search to retrieve it…

The internet is a global prosthesis for collective memory. According to some; that means people are losing some capacity for contemplative thinking… and as people get better at hopping from page-to-page, link-to-link… they become less creative in their thinking... However, the idea that the brain is a kind of zero-sum game, where engaging the internet is somehow diminishing the ability to think creatively may be a little far-fetched… In fact, it may be complete opposite where the internet stimulates people to think and act more creatively because they are exposed to new and different ideas and experiences…

In the article Internet Makes People Stupid by Kabir Sehgal writes: The internet enables a dizzying array of decisions, e.g.; click here, watch this, share that… These may seem like trivial decisions but it means that the human brain is consequently reshaping itself on how it learns, reads, thinks… According to UCLA study; researchers found that people who are more experience with the internet have heightened mental activity, particularly in part of the brain that affects decisions…

But there is a downside; when people encounter distractions, such as; hyperlinked text… the brain asks the question: To click, or not to click… And since a person is constantly being interrupted to make these decisions they rarely concentrate on content, consequently they don’t retain information as deep knowledge… According to Nicholas Carr; the constant redirection of a person’s mental resources from reading to making judgments may be imperceptible but its been shown to impede comprehension and retention when repeated frequently…

In the article Internet Changing People’s Brain?  by Sarah Churchwell writes: Not surprisingly, internet usage rewires the brain and even a little usage changes the neural pathways of the brain… Hence some people become mindless consumers of information… According to Geoff Dyer; people’s ability to concentrate is being nibbled away by the Internet… But does that really matter? Possibly. Human creativity is predicated on engaging the long-term memory, in order to create new neural pathways and associations.

But by reading ‘snips’ of information, incessantly, on the internet, the mind is scattered and has less focus, which diminishes creative thinking… According to Bidisha; the internet is definitely affecting the way people think… it means people are constantly being distracted, interrupted… They are being pushed, pulled in different directions and, literally and metaphorically, they can be anywhere in the world through a simple click…

In the article Internet is Making People Stupid by Richard Bennett  writes: Click-bait is making people stupid. This isn’t a new fact, it’s a reality and it’s increasingly harder to ignore… But  people are getting smarter because they have  easy access to an ocean of information: These are the realities of the internet. Yes, the internet makes more information available but most of it is ‘click-bait’ because that’s where the money is… The more people surf the internet– the more links are clicked, more pages are viewed… that means more companies collect more information about the habits and behavior of more people… So they can feed more advertisements to sell more things.

It’s in an organization’s best commercial interest to collect crumbs of information about people as they flit from link-to-link and drive people to distraction. But it’s not in their commercial interests to encourage a leisure read or slow concentrated thought… According to Walter Quattrociocchi; this creates an ecosystem in which the truth value of information doesn’t really matter… All that matters is whether the information fits in a specific narrative… Finding information that fits in the narrative makes a person a good candidate for commercial engagement…

In the article Internet Making People Stupid by David Weinberger writes: Suggesting that the internet is making people stupid is a relative notion, i.e.; it’s a matter of whether it makes ‘you’ or ‘other people’ stupid… We all, or maybe most people, spend time bouncing around the internet as if it were a global pinball table. One link leads to another and then to another… Sometimes topics are worth knowing about and sometimes they’re just mental itches that spawn more itches every time scratched. Often people can’t remember how they got there and sometimes they don’t even remember where they started and why…

But it’s undeniable that the internet is immeasurably powerful, it’s the conduit for much of the information that flows to people’s minds. The advantages of having immediate access to incredibly rich store of information are many and widely described and duly applauded… According to Clive Thompson; its huge boon to thinking: But does this boon come at a price? According to Marshall McLuhan; it’s not just a passive channel of information, it supplies stuff of thought and shapes the process of thought… chips away at the capacity for concentration, contemplation, creativity…

People who read text studded with ‘links’ comprehend less than those who read words printed on pages. People who watch busy multimedia presentations remember less than those who take in information in a more sedate and focused manner. People who are continually distracted by emails, updates, messages... understand less than those who are able to concentrate. And people who juggle many tasks are often less creative and less productive than those who are focused…

The more people use it, the less they are engaged in quieter, slower attentive modes of thought that underpin contemplation, reflection, introspection… it’s not that people’s habits have changed but it’s the way people ‘thinking’ has changed. One thing is for sure– the internet, with just a simple click, unleashes an unlimited wealth of discovery. And if that makes a person stupid, well then that person made a choice… 

 

The Stupidity Index– Power of Stupid, Idiocy, Lunacy, Folly… Stupidity-Based Theory of Organization and Management…

Stupidity is a quality or state of being stupid, or an act or idea that exhibits properties of being stupid. According to Pitkin; the problems with stupidity is that nobody has a really good definition of what it is. In fact, geniuses are often considered stupid by a stupid majority (though nobody has a good definition of genius, either).

 But stupidity definitely is all around us and there is much more of it than our wildest nightmares might suggest. In fact, it runs the world – which is very clearly proven by the way the world is run.

According to Jaspreet Kaur; stupid management mistakes never cease to amaze me, and every day I hear stories from people who leave me wondering why smart managers can be so dumb, for example: Got a problem? Set-up a committee? Want someone to do something? Throw them in to the deep end with little training, then come down hard on them when they screw-up…

Ask your workforce for feedback, and then ignore everything that’s been suggested… Want to treat your staff like demented idiots who can’t think for themselves? Just micro-manage everything and talk down to them when they come up with ideas…

According to Susan Heathfield; organizations do dumb things to mess-up relationships with the people they employ, for example; failing to tell people what they’re supposed to do and then wondering why they fail, adding layers of paperwork and bureaucracy to stop things getting done, treating people as if they are untrustworthy, or telling employees to change the way they are doing things without providing good explanation why, and then sending them off to ‘change management’ training or Siberia, when they resist…

According to Carlo Maria Cipolla; there are five fundamental ‘laws of stupidity’, here are three: The probability that a given person is stupid is independent of any other characteristic possessed by that person… A person is stupid if they cause damage to another person or group of people without experiencing personal gain, or even worse causing damage to themselves in the process…

Non-stupid people always underestimate harmful potential of stupid people; they constantly forget that at– anytime, anywhere, and in any circumstance, dealing with or associating themselves with stupid individuals invariably constitutes a costly error…

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Stupidity Index: According to Nikhil; we are all born with a ‘Stupidity Index’ of 3. The scale is from 0 to 5, where 0 is the least stupid and 5 is the most stupid: I am at 4. What about you? Assess yourself. You’ll be surprised to know where you stand… Anyway, when Charles Darwin wrote ‘Origin Of Species’, he overlooked one major fact – The Stupidity Index… The scale is explained as follows:

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Wall Street Stupidity Index: The day Twitter went public not only was it profitable in the fiscal sense, but also illuminated a metric that has heretofore been under-appreciated by those attempting to comprehend and thereby profit from the laws that guide the market. We will call this potent new tool– The Wall Street Stupidity Index…

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In the article Never Underestimate The Power Of Stupid People In Large Groups by George Carlin writes: I’ve said it before– stupid people are dangerous. Sure they are amusing some of the time and annoying all of the time, but they are also dangerous a lot of the time too. Whether it be the stupid idiot who gets drunk and thinks it makes him a better driver, or someone in a company who has been promoted well beyond his or her level of ability just because the number of years of service he or she has accrued, or one of those despicable ‘jobs-worth’ morons you inevitably find in bureaucratic government non-jobs, their stupidity poses a danger to the rest of us…

A lot of the time the idiots get away with it, without anyone noticing much. The smart people get on with their lives and quietly accept the interference of the stupid. But recently idiots have been steadily encroaching on our private lives, into things that are clearly none of their business and things that pose no danger to society at large or to any individual within it: The idiots want power, but they don’t know what to do with it, when they get it. But they want it, and more and more of it.

My own theory is that at heart, although they try to appear superior, the idiots know they are idiots and actually feel inferior to normal people… We’ve been through the NSA fiasco when they were outed by a former employee. We know they look at our emails, listen to our telephone conversations, probably even snoop in our mail or scrutinize our blogs (gosh!)…

And we are currently in midst of one of the most idiotic standoffs in history: Washington with the President, Senate and House of Representatives seeing who can balance on one leg the longest while the country becomes the laughing-stock of the rest of the world. Yes folks, never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups to destroy society and drag the rest of us down along with them…

In the article A Stupidity-Based Theory of Organizations by Mats Alvesson and André Spicer write: Management and organization studies are a bound with positive-sounding reports of the importance of well-educated and bright-workers in knowledge-based firms that are at the forefront of the knowledge economy: There is broad consensus that modern economies is becoming increasingly ‘knowledge-intensive’…

Many assume that being able to put knowledge to work intelligently is the essence of what (successful) organizations do… However, we think that this consensus needs to be challenged; and perhaps modern economies and organizations should become more ‘stupidity-intensive’… To develop this challenge, we offer something different by drawing attention to significance of ‘functional stupidity’ in organizations– where functional stupidity can help to marginalize sources of friction and uncertainty…

However, in our view, what is crucial is that functional stupidity is not just an aberration in organizational life, but in many cases it’s central and supported by organizational norms and facilitates smooth interactions in organizations. Being clever and knowledgeable is fine and necessary, but so is refraining from being reflexive and avoiding asking for justifications for decisions, structures, minimizing substantive reasoning about values and goals. In this sense, functional stupidity can be helpful in producing results– for organizations as well as for individuals. It’s productive because it cuts short– costly and anxiety inducing questions and creates a sense of certainty…

But, like many things in organizational life it’s a mixed blessing: It’s ‘functional’ because it has some advantages and makes people concentrate enthusiastically on the task in hand. It’s ‘stupid’ because risks and problems may arise when people do not pose critical questions about what they and the organization are doing… We see functional stupidity as being created not through intellectual deficits but through political expediency and the exercise of power.

In other words, organizational members become functionally stupid through a series of cultural and institutional beliefs… reinforced by managerial (and self-managerial) interventions, such as; encouraging narrow action orientation, celebration of leadership, attachment to structure, strong belief in institutions… which discourage substantive reasoning and justification… This happens through a combination of indirect and more systemic stupidity management…

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Stupidity Defense– Incompetence, Misunderstanding, Trickery– Malice: Ascribe to Hanlon’s Razor, Occam’s Razor, Grey’s Law…

Hanlon’s Razor: Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the universe. ~Albert Einstein.

Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence. ~Napoleon Bonaparte. hanlon 514_400x400_NoPeel

Hanlon’s Razor is an eponymous adage and it reads; never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity, but don’t rule out malice… and this particular form is attributed to Robert J. Hanlon.

Other maxims that convey the same basic idea are; misunderstandings and neglect create more confusion in the world than trickery and malice. The Razor part of Hanlon’s Razor is derived from Occam’s Razor, which is the– principle of reducing assumptions to their absolute minimum (as Albert Einstein once said: Things should be a simple as possible, but no simpler).

Also, a less-known corollary of Hanlon’s Razor is Grey’s Law that imitates Clarke’s Law, which says; any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice. This quote appears to be particular favorite of hackers, often showing up in signature blocks, fortune cookie files, bookmarking website, login banners of BBS systems and commercial networks… spread through email, and it appears to be of recent origin. This probably reflects hacker’s daily experience of environments created by well-intentioned but short-sighted people.

As mentioned, Hanlon’s Razor is essentially a special case of Occam’s Razor, which says; if you have two equally likely solutions to a problem, then choose the simplest; or, the explanation requiring fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct. Also, the word ‘Razor’, in philosophy, is a conceptual device allowing one to shave away unlikely reasons for a phenomenon; for example, refuting a conspiracy theory when the conspiracy is not supported with specific evidence… then, the issue is more likely to be ineptitude or apathy rather than malice…

Now, all this information sounds great, but I don’t get it… Why is this relevant? One reason is that there is a fair amount of over-drama in our lives and we tend to attribute the actions of many people to malice instead of stupidity…and not because of being ‘mean‘ but because, well; we’re stupid that way. But, more important, business at its heart is about people. No matter what your role, better you are at understanding people the more effective a business person you will be. Here are a few rules:

  • Never assume malice when stupidity will suffice.
  • Never assume stupidity when ignorance will suffice.
  • Never assume ignorance when forgivable error will suffice
  • Never assume error when lack of information will suffice.

In the article Shaving Rancor with Hanlon’s Razor by Wee Mama writes: Most of us know Murphy’s Law, and perhaps in this form; anything that can go wrong, will. We’ve had more than enough moments that this seemed true. Still, few people know a related rule, i.e., Hanlon’s Razor. Hanlon’s Razor is a relational tool of immense but rarely appreciated power both for the relief it offers to the user and for the possible strategies it suggests for change.

Perhaps a concrete example will clarify: Suppose you are on a crowded subway which suddenly jerks, impelling you backwards. You take an abrupt step to keep balance and accidentally stomp on the foot of the person behind you. The stomped person is likely to say one of two things: (A) Ouch! That hurt! (pure description) or (B) You oaf! You don’t own the whole car! In this example: (A) In addition to being descriptive, implicitly applies Hanlon’s Razor; you were incompetent (unable) to keep balance, hence there were undesirable consequences.

(B) Implies you acted intentionally even though there was no evidence of intention. However, if you applied Hanlon’s Razor: Then, how are you likely to react? To (A) you will likely say: ‘I’m so sorry! This train is really riding roughly today’ (confirming your absence of malice). To (B) you might make any of several responses; e.g., stew in silence or angrily rebut or even perhaps stomp down a second time just to assert your freedom…

Using Hanlon’s Razor, in most situations, means that a much smaller portion of the world is out to get you (i.e., conspiracy theory), than a simple ‘harm=malice filter’ suggests. Dealing with ignorance or incompetence, while still a struggle, feels like less of an assault than believing that most of the world is malicious. Also, Hanlon’s Razor suggests strategies for change: Ignorance is overcome with facts, if they are presented– clearly, repeatedly, within different contexts… also, incompetence can be overcome with guidance and experience for most folks…

Then, applying Hanlon’s Razor for ignorance and incompetence means; rebutting errors, not maligning characters. However, applying Hanlon’s Razor in context of the larger world means– committing to mutual education, sharing skills, showing by example that we want to work together, and a more grounded realistic grasp of the issues… It may be worth trying…

In the article Hanlon Razor-Assumption of Stupidity by Bernard Schiffer writes: Whenever I’m having a hard time dealing with the resistance of change– struggling with emotions and unreasonable colleagues, or facing the stubbornness of a friend, or whenever it seems like I’m dealing with some kind of malice, I find a lot of comfort in Hanlon’s Razor… However, the assumption of malice is a good way to kill any communication– it puts all kind of ugly pictures in your head– it’s an effect known as; fear, uncertainty, doubts (FUD), and it’s used against opponents in sales, marketing, public relations… with the goal to spread disinformation.

But, by applying Hanlon’s Razor, it often turns-out that there’s a misunderstanding somewhere. But, it’s a huge step– from assuming malice to identifying a misunderstanding– it’s often the assumption of malice preventing identification of misunderstandings. By assuming malice you often turn away from the real issues; because it’s unpleasant to deal with malice and that’s when someone seems to be working against you. However, identifying a misunderstanding, then suddenly no one’s left to blame… Hanlon’s Razor can help a lot in various situations by giving you the opportunity to put myself in someone’s position, and turns-out that often you are lacking information that effects your judgment…

Although Hanlon’s Razor is helpful in most contexts, Grey’s Law might be helpful in other situations, it states; any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice. In other words: If you find someone acting so stupid that you can’t believe their doing it without the slightest chance of knowing that it’s stupid, then they might be acting out of malice… When I tell people about Hanlon’s Razor, they tell me that they don’t like it because it’s disrespectful to call others stupid; I agree.

However, Hanlon’s Razor is not about calling someone stupid, it’s about putting you in a position to interpret the message that’s transmitted to you by changing your assumption (i.e., if it’s not malice it may be stupidity)… Hanlon’s Razor can be one of the best tools in life– It can help you to stay cool in difficult situations, because it’s a source of comfort to know that someone may be acting out of stupidity rather than out of malice…

In the article Stupidity is no Excuse by John Scotus writes: When we speak of stupidity, we are not speaking of mental deficiency. As the word ‘stupidity’ is most often used it refers to people who– putting it bluntly– go around with their head-up their butts… According to Hanlon’s Razor; such people should be judged by a lesser standard than others who are motivated by malice.

Some people suggest that there is very little difference between someone who acts in malice and someone who constantly behaves like an idiot– the result is more often than not identical, and what’s often passed-off as stupidity is really just a lack of concern for others. For example, using the phrase; I should not blame him, since he was merely incompetent– is the ‘stupidity defense’. I have often noticed that people who claim the ‘stupidity defense’ have little or no problem handling their own affairs. However, often what is called stupidity is really just manifestation of behavior, such as; laziness, selfishness, greed, general lack of concern for others and, yes, malice… Stupidity is often just a cover for selfishness and narcissism…

A practical observation on stupidity was made by General Kurt von Hammerstein-Euord in Truppenfuhrung in 1933, he said: I will divide my officers into four classes; clever, lazy, industrious, and stupid. Each officer possesses at least two of these qualities: Those who are ‘clever-industrious’ are fitted for the highest staff appointments. Use can be made of those who are ‘stupid-lazy’. The man, who is ‘clever-lazy’ however is for the very highest command; he has the temperament and nerves to deal with all situations. But whoever is ‘stupid-industrious’ is a menace and must be removed.

According to triumfant: So how do you stop stupid? What is needed is something that is doggedly persistent-tireless in its defense against stupidity… something that never throws up its hands in face of relentlessly repetitive stupidity...

According to ‘mlmskeptic’; an expanded version of Hanlon’s Razor is made by M.L. Plano, he says; never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity… Don’t assign to stupidity what might be due to ignorance. And, try not to assume the opponent is the ignorant one — until you can show it isn’t you.