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The Mystery of Stupidity

STUPIDITY, a formidable globalised trend, is gaining momentum. Living in Hong Kong, I can feel its pressure wave on my face each morning I wake up. This 21st century bliss seems a Darwinian mystery at first. 

Idiot genes don’t serve any obvious evolutionary purpose, yet are present in prodigious abundance. How did that happen, I wonder? Perhaps people supported imbeciles because they’re cute, or pathetic enough for charity? After all, plenty of garbage DNA, such as those that make pooches, are bred for their adorably lack of intelligence. 

Unfortunately, both conjectures don’t stand up to observation. 

People rarely adore idiots like they do poodles. In fact, even dummies despise idiots. Unlike folks sharing other handicaps, there is little evidence of solidarity among the stupid. A possible reason could be that fools, like us, don’t usually know themselves to be one.

Don’t think it’s sympathy either. Even unconditionally liberal and politically impeccable folks tend to be unkind to idiots. Idiots are simply idiots, more commonly fkng idiots. Few other derogatory remarks are made with comparable contempt and exasperation. People refuse to understand that nobody is dumb by choice, so it’s not really the dummies’ fault.

After much thinking, I still have no clue as to why dunces are so prolific. Perhaps, duh. . . Oh dear. No no no. Don’t be stupid. I ain’t dumb; I can make up an explanation for nearly everything. Let me show you.

On the surface, “Survival of the Dumbest” defies Darwin’s theories. But when I look deeper, Darwin’s insightful principles remain valid in the long run. Only that we need more time to tell.

My simpleminded interpretation of Natural Selection is that those fittest to survive in a given environment live longer, reproduce more, and their genes thrive. Unfit ones die off, taking their virginal genes with them into oblivion. Originally, the ruthless selection forces mainly came from nature. But human societies have long tried to compete with “nature”, even though Homo sapiens are but a miniscule subset of it. For the sake of this analysis, let’s pretend that “social selection” were an independent selection mechanism, which it could be, for a nano-blip on nature’s time-scale.

In social selection, dummies and smarties each started out with a useful role. Until recent time, a fool was valuable if he had hardworking muscles, or a brave heart which led him charging down battlefields, crying the name of his god or King. On the other hand, his scheming fellow men were better at directing and coordinating communal muscles for the strength of the collective. Society, like a body of human organs, was a symbiosis of brain and brawn, each serving different vital functions. One was NOT superior to the other, naturally. But the brain, being trickier, would be tempted to exploit the unwitting brawn, upon which it depended for survival. Exploitation was born many thousand years before capitalism.

Anyway, that was how non-brainy genes got passed down in quantity. 

Then one day, a huge fkng idiot mistaken for a genius had an appalling idea. Greed, grossly excessive greed, he pronounced, should be unchecked, enshrined, institutionalised. The reign of money thus began. Selection pressure shifted, breeding a new strain of politicians. They are good looking and fast talking, amorphous like amoebae. The brain is marginalised, unless it knows how to entertain popular inanity. Intelligence without a market is useless, therefore unfit for survival.

The role of the stupid has also changed. Muscular genes have been made redundant by technology. A few brave hearts are retained for the military, charging down oily killing fields, shouting new slogans. The rest are mostly turned into fat. They wallow in giant sofas, mouth stuffed with chips, eyes on TV, thoughtlessly wailing adopted opinions. Their new social function is to borrow, consume, and vote. They are the backbone of democracy, organic lubricants of the economic engine.

Modern humanity, basking in self-determined stupidity, feeling proud and free, thumbs its nose at natural selection.

Chinese version 愚蠢之谜 can be found in Guo Du blog:http://guo-du.blogspot.hk/2013/04/blog-post_27.html

  1. aahzmandius
    May 7th, 2013 at 07:20 | #1

    Btw, a fascinating blog.

    I found this an interesting post because, like you, I struggled with this idea for a significant period. It’s best highlighted in the movie “Idiocracy”, which has a brilliant opening that illustrates the point of the world getting dumber. Like you, I began to adopt the idea that our society is allowing the stupid to breed more.

    An interesting read is “The Selfish Gene”. In a long book, filled with quite a few atheistic attacks upon religion, it explored the idea of how genetics can explain altruistic behavior. That is, how can one consider “sacrificing oneself” or “being honest” to be a survivable attitude in life, when clearly those who lie and don’t sacrifice themselves are more liable to survive and reproduce? Using game theory and mathematics, he sensibly explains how such an attitude can survive, and his explanations also explain how stupidity and intelligence can be explained as a survivable genetic strand.

    If we truly do consider intelligence to be on a scale, for example, there must be a benefit to being more intelligent than other people. The person who is smartest will be able to figure out the best way to survive. That is, he is the guy who looks at the rocks and figures out how to make a sharper rock than other people. In this way, intelligent people will have more babies, and are more likely to breed. Stupidity would die out.

    However, there is actually more of an advantage if you are not intelligent, that is, if you don’t waste the resources needed to come up with the best way to survive. If you see the guy who is smart and just copy him, you will actually waste less energy. You are more likely to survive than the brainy guy just by copying, because you save valuable resources (brainpower, effort, etc) by just watching what he does and then doing the same thing. By this logic, then, a smarter man will always lose to a stupid man… if he’s open about his intelligence.

    So now becomes the complicated game theory. One intelligent person begets more intelligent people…but the idiots who learn to copy easily catch up! At some point, the intelligent people begin to breed more again, but then the idiots learn to copy. Assume, then, that there will eventually be an equilibrium of some intelligent people and some stupid copiers.

    However, he CAN cover his intelligence by pretending to be stupid. He can prevent others from seeing his creation, by perhaps pretending he doesn’t know anything. He can then make his creation in secret.

    So now, a new trait will emerge; the fake idiot. He will outbreed the others. However, to counter him, the idiots will learn to spot the fake idiot. They will breed faster, and the real idiot/fake idiot spotters will breed faster than the plain smart or the plain idiots.

    Taken on a scale of this method, what eventually works out best, though (and the hopeful part of his book that explains how we can be altruistic and self-sacrificing) is that a certain new breed appears. This is a breed that shares a little bit, and waits to get some kind of trade. If the other simply copies him, without giving him some kind of trade, then he becomes secretive. However, if the other gives him something, then he will continue to show his intelligence. The only reason this works is that the trick he has taught has increased ALL of their chances of survival, and by not cooperating the other individuals would damage their own chance of survival, and the organism has actually genetically internalized the instinct of “testing” other individuals and/or measuring how trustworthy they are.

    In this manner, a single individual who teaches others what he’s done has a greater chance to survive. His intelligence enables others within the community to have more children, and he actually increases his own chance of survival without affecting the opposing gene’s survival. Furthermore, his children are more likely to share his own “Smart-cautious” gene.

    In the end, an entire spectrum of idiocy is created. Ranging from the way-too smart who sacrifice everything for their intelligence to the idiots who copy and reap full advantage. In essence, none of this discredits what you say about the idiots being kept alive, and in fact, breeding more.

    However, it also provides a hopeful solution to the problem of idiots breeding. What in essence it says is that if anything the idea of “quantifiable intelligence” is what is at fault here. We assume that intelligence is on a scale (IQ ranging from 50 – 200 for example).
    However, what if this human-made construct is just as arbitrary as, for example, height? What if genetically, we are all equally stupid? What if, for example, instead of thinking it from 50-200, we think of it from 0.0000000000000005 to 0.000000000000002? Hardly a big step in difference even though to us it seems like orders in magnitude. It hardly makes a difference if the individuals who survive four hundred years from now average around 5’8″ are by then 5’11”, and it would probably not matter if the individuals are at that stage in the same degree of intelligence.

    Instead, it’s more at that stage a battle of competing genetic groups, not individuals. The most successful gene group will be the one that shares the most intelligence, reproduces the most, and at the same time uses the least resources. In this context, a semi-open democracy would easily triumph over a totalitarian regime, just a capitalistic creative society will out propagate a close-minded copying society. There may be more people in one society than the other, but it isn’t the gene or the individual that is being propagated but the idea that is spreading. In this way, the idea, or meme, is more strong-lasting than the idiot.

  2. May 9th, 2013 at 00:26 | #2

    I think you have misunderstood what natural selection is, Guo Du. Natural selection is not about producing the smartest but about producing fit within an ecological niche. The production of any trait more than it is necessary to fit some niche is simply a waste of calories. So it’s not a surprise and shouldn’t be when so many people are morons for we are adapted to survive in the planes of Africa, not in modern information society and many traits are adaptations to survive in such an environment, an environment wholly different from modern societies and likely require different adaptations. That’s not to say that humans are forever doomed by biology. Though human brains are very plastic and maleable, the brain also requires a level of education to change itself. But then since you did classify your post under satire, it may just be humor rather than a series analysis.

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