The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity

Laura

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The title of the book is in the subject field, but I don't think I want to put it in the books section.

It is written by historian/professor of economics, Carlo M. Cipolla and it is a real little gem. 71 pages.(basically an essay printed in a little booklet.) The entire text can be found here:

http://www.ecotopia.com/webpress/stupidity/

You can read about the author here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlo_M._Cipolla

You can buy an e-copy if you like: http://www.amazon.com/The-Basic-Laws-Human-Stupidity-ebook/dp/B005ZX622C

I chuckled a lot, but darned if he isn't onto something.

These are Cipolla's five fundamental laws of stupidity:

Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.

The probability that a certain person (will) be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.

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.

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.

A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.
 

luke wilson

The Living Force
The author is an economist. I believe this should invite some skepticism.

I particularly don't like the way he uses the word stupid.

Anyways his definition of stupid is

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.

Over here, I would immediately question his assertion. How is he measuring gain? Are we talking economic gain here? Material gain? emotional gain?

Also, how can he measure for example, emotional gain from causing losses to other people without outwardly gaining anything. People like this exist and they might be pathological but not necessarily stupid. But I suppose with his definition, they are stupid. I suppose his definition has nothing to do with intelligence. Or maybe he has changed the meaning of the word?

Also, for example, in poker you can cause loss to another player and incur loss yourself just to get a better idea of the other person e.g. see how far they will go before they fold or how they react under pressure or to irrational behavior or even to just put them off there game etc. With this knowledge, you can gain in future. So anyways, under his definition, the person who plays such a game is stupid until the point where he derives a gain but the truth is, they are not really stupid per se even if there strategy fails and they don't derive a gain i.e. they don't win that game of poker and end up causing both them-self and the other player to both drop out the game.

Also look at this scenario,

In football tournaments e.g. the world cup. Each group has 4 teams, winning gets you 3 points, drawing 1 and losing 0. They all play each other once. The top 2 qualify to the knockout stages. Since this is make believe, it doesnt matter if you finish 1 or 2 as you are already through anyways. So lets say a certain group has Brazil, New Zealand, England and Ghana.

They have all played 2 games each. Brazil has won 2 so has 6. New Zealand (Bless them) have lost 2. England have won 1 lost 1 and Ghana have won 1 lost 1. (6,0,3,3 respectively). So the last game is

Brazil vs England
New Zealand vs Ghana

England are 2nd by way of goal difference.

So for NZ to not be stupid, they have to lose there last game. Winning will stop Ghana from qualifying if England can minimise the number of goals they concede. NZ stand to gain nothing by winning, they are already out. But if NZ loses, then they stop England from gaining if england losses to Brazil thus NZ are also stupid in this eventuality. NZ are in a tough spot here. No matter what they do, they are stupid. There action or lack of action will affect both Ghana and England.

Just trying to illustrate his use of the word stupid is suspect.

A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.

Again, I would say that is a very bold statement (shouldn't it be pathological people? or is being stupid now pathological?). A stupid person is only dangerous to an economist who would like everything to be rational. They all think the masses of people are stupid because they mess up with there theories i.e. don't behave in a rational way in there everyday living!

I would say that rational/stupid is a very narrow way of seeing the world. It doesn't encompass the whole process a human being goes through before making a decision e.g. a phobia might appear completely irrational but if one can connect the dots in that person's life as a whole through time and experiences, they might find it is a rational behavior for that person e.g. it might be connected to psychological processes that have been re-directed to whatever the phobia is due to trauma etc. (I read that in a book!)

I am thinking what he is saying is some sort of joke.

He isn't using the word in a proper way. Maybe he needs to substitute stupid with another word.

Anyways, just my thoughts.
 
H

Hildegarda

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luke wilson said:
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.

Over here, I would immediately question his assertion. How is he measuring gain? Are we talking economic gain here? Material gain? emotional gain?

Also, how can he measure for example, emotional gain from causing losses to other people without outwardly gaining anything. People like this exist and they might be pathological but not necessarily stupid. But I suppose with his definition, they are stupid.


I understand your skepticism towards the economists. But I think in this case he got it exactly right. His definition of stupidity is very succinct and accurate, not necessarily in a measurable / quantitative level but in principle.

Regarding pathological people, they may gain emotionally from causing losses to others. But if they just go on doing it without offsetting the damage strategically, their victims will pull away from them and they will lose their feeding ground. It is the same type of behavior as killing a goose that lays golden eggs, i.e., stupid. The smarter pathological people wait, pace themselves, find other avenues for venting, plan ahead, and let others win once in a while as well, so the victims do not leave and the feeding continues. It comes down to better impulse control and intelligence, which, while not exactly the same, tend to go hand in hand. This is what separates successful, "smart" pathologicals from the stupid ones.
 

luke wilson

The Living Force
Hildegarda said:
luke wilson said:
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.

Over here, I would immediately question his assertion. How is he measuring gain? Are we talking economic gain here? Material gain? emotional gain?

Also, how can he measure for example, emotional gain from causing losses to other people without outwardly gaining anything. People like this exist and they might be pathological but not necessarily stupid. But I suppose with his definition, they are stupid.


I understand your skepticism towards the economists. But I think in this case he got it exactly right. His definition of stupidity is very succinct and accurate, not necessarily in a measurable / quantitative level but in principle.

Regarding pathological people, they may gain emotionally from causing losses to others. But if they just go on doing it without offsetting the damage strategically, their victims will pull away from them and they will lose their feeding ground. It is the same type of behavior as killing a goose that lays golden eggs, i.e., stupid. The smarter pathological people wait, pace themselves, find other avenues for venting, plan ahead, and let others win once in a while as well, so the victims do not leave and the feeding continues. It comes down to better impulse control and intelligence, which, while not exactly the same, tend to go hand in hand. This is what separates successful, "smart" pathologicals from the stupid ones.

I have a question.

Is a stupid person stupid all the time or are they only stupid in moments?


FYI, my football example was a bad example but I have seen scenarios in sports where a certain team will gain nothing by beating the other team but it doesn't stop them from doing it anyways.

A better example would be, premier league, top team has already won going into the last game of the season. They are playing against a team placed just below the relegation zone. If they win, they condemn the team to relegation. If they lose they give the team a fighting chance to stay in the top division. The top team has nothing to gain. So by his definition, are they stupid to win?
 

RflctnOfU

Jedi Council Member
Luke, did you read the essay? I only ask because the answer to your question "Is a stupid person stupid all the time or are they only stupid in moments?" is in the essay.

Kris
 

luke wilson

The Living Force
RflctnOfU said:
Luke, did you read the essay? I only ask because the answer to your question "Is a stupid person stupid all the time or are they only stupid in moments?" is in the essay.

Kris

I read but jumping bits as the first part made me averse to reading the rest in detail. Plus not to mention his constant use of the word stupid.

I take an exception to this general view. It is my firm conviction, supported by years of observation and experimentation, that men are not equal, that some are stupid and others are not, and that the difference is determined by nature and not by cultural forces or factors. One is stupid in the same way one is red-haired; one belongs to the stupid set as one belongs to a blood group. A stupid man is born a stupid man by an act of Providence.

For some reason it brought the image of the eugenicists into my head and thus I became averse to the author. I then skimmed down to see how extreme his views got. I also surprisingly thought of Nicola Tesla who had a very interesting view on his fellow man. I was just thinking, oh no, not this again.

I nearly googled his name and eugenicist just to see what came up. Anyways, apologies.
 

Laura

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Luke, you are just wiseacreing and producing noise if you have not read the essay thoroughly and have any legitimate points to make.
 

l apprenti de forgeron

The Living Force
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Hildegarda said:
luke wilson said:
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.

Over here, I would immediately question his assertion. How is he measuring gain? Are we talking economic gain here? Material gain? emotional gain?

Also, how can he measure for example, emotional gain from causing losses to other people without outwardly gaining anything. People like this exist and they might be pathological but not necessarily stupid. But I suppose with his definition, they are stupid.


I understand your skepticism towards the economists. But I think in this case he got it exactly right. His definition of stupidity is very succinct and accurate, not necessarily in a measurable / quantitative level but in principle.

Regarding pathological people, they may gain emotionally from causing losses to others. But if they just go on doing it without offsetting the damage strategically, their victims will pull away from them and they will lose their feeding ground. It is the same type of behavior as killing a goose that lays golden eggs, i.e., stupid. The smarter pathological people wait, pace themselves, find other avenues for venting, plan ahead, and let others win once in a while as well, so the victims do not leave and the feeding continues. It comes down to better impulse control and intelligence, which, while not exactly the same, tend to go hand in hand. This is what separates successful, "smart" pathologicals from the stupid ones.
I agree. And in social life in general, but more so "in the work", the stupid can ruin the crop of an entire group (destroyed and can not get any benefit from that). I hope that realize if someone close to me is stupid, for not to share any vital project of life with someone like that.
The text is really interesting, and provides food for the mind and it's pretty funny! Thank you very much for sharing, Laura.
 
A

Archaea

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Hildegarda said:
Regarding pathological people, they may gain emotionally from causing losses to others. But if they just go on doing it without offsetting the damage strategically, their victims will pull away from them and they will lose their feeding ground. It is the same type of behavior as killing a goose that lays golden eggs, i.e., stupid. The smarter pathological people wait, pace themselves, find other avenues for venting, plan ahead, and let others win once in a while as well, so the victims do not leave and the feeding continues. It comes down to better impulse control and intelligence, which, while not exactly the same, tend to go hand in hand. This is what separates successful, "smart" pathologicals from the stupid ones.

Yeah, and stupid people stay in these situations. :P
 

aragorn

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This was funny, and he is definitely on to something! Sure, he doesn't have the "whole banana", but I don't think he is even trying to claim that. It's just another piece of the puzzle.
 

Laura

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The text I linked above does not, apparently, have the whole text because he talks about graphs that he shows and those graphs and the discussion around them is very, very interesting. Perhaps someone can get the E-version to see if those graphs are well presented there as they are in the hardcopy, which I got from amazon.fr.
 

Kisito

Jedi Council Member
That sounds interesting and maybe I'm wrong but it seems to be linked with the scale of idiots G. At first you think that G has defined the wrong word, unless the book is fully lit. It always seems that the lack of knowledge leads to existential doubt. And to protect themselves randomly. This protection is often flagonerie. It flatters autruit to protect themselves. The more flattering, the more you protect, the more one is stupid. The idiot of G does not flatter, he must learn to be hated. Become selfish and the first sign to humility. I'm not saying that selfishness is good, but it is the way of our integrity and our awareness.
 

Scottie

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Laura said:
The text I linked above does not, apparently, have the whole text because he talks about graphs that he shows and those graphs and the discussion around them is very, very interesting. Perhaps someone can get the E-version to see if those graphs are well presented there as they are in the hardcopy, which I got from amazon.fr.

The Kindle version has the graphs.

I read the book last night, and I really enjoyed it. It's very simple, short, yet thought-provoking. He says a lot in a simple way, but you can take what he says, add in what we know about psychopathy and such, and you have much food for thought.

As for his use of the word "stupid", it is definitely necessary to prevent initial emotional reactions to the word itself, which would then prevent one from really grasping what he's saying. This is sometimes not so easy, especially since we've all been taunted, teased, and even abused with that word.

If I say, "You are not so smart", that's okay. But if I say, "You are stupid", then you might curl up into a ball. Well, set all that aside before reading!
 

Al Today

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As I have always said: "Ignorance can be taught where stupidity is genetic".


It is my firm conviction, supported by years of observation and experimentation, that men are not equal, that some are stupid and others are not, and that the difference is determined by nature and not by cultural forces or factors. One is stupid in the same way one is red-haired; one belongs to the stupid set as one belongs to a blood group. A stupid man is born a stupid man by an act of Providence.
 
This was definitely an interesting read especially after learning about the divisions of people from the graphs i.e bandits, intelligent, helpless, and stupid. It also made me think about where I fit into it. Nice article Laura!
 
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