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Are we already beyond the point of no return of human stupidity?

Sometimes people ask me if I believe in intelligent life on other planets. I always answer by saying that my doubts are not about intelligent life on a distant planet, but about the possibility of intelligent life on this planet. After all, there are plenty of indications everywhere that, collectively, we, humans, are not that intelligent.

After tens of thousands of years of evolution and after several millennia of “civilization”, and now with all the technology we have at our disposal, we have not yet solved any of the major problems affecting humanity. Quite the opposite, some of those problems are getting worse. Meanwhile, we are still electing the same politicians (or their clones), watching the same soap operas or sports events, and counting the “Likes” we get to give some meaning to our lives.

For reasons that will become obvious momentarily (because the laws I am about to mention apply perfectly to me), I didn’t know that four decades ago (1976), an Italian professor living the United States, Carlo Cipolla, developed what he called “The five basic laws of human stupidity”. We share here those laws not to irritate anybody, but to become aware of the magnitude of the problem.

The “laws” say that “Inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation”, that “The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person”, that “A stupid person causes losses to another person while himself/herself deriving no gain”, that  “Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals”, and that (paraphrasing), human stupidity is the most dangerous challenge for humanity. (Don’t get mad at me. That’s what Dr. Cipolla said.)

It is easy to find many proofs of those laws. Read the reviews of products or services, for example. Recently, somebody gave a one star to an Italian restaurant because that person went by mistake to a different restaurant and then, when that person arrived at the “right” restaurant, he/she didn’t have time to eat there, so he/she ordered take out. But then, that person was too tired to eat and threw the food into the garbage. Hence, one star.  

And somebody gave one star to a certain brand of interior painting because when he/she opened the can, the can fell from his/her hands, causing “a disaster” and “ruining the experience” because of the time spent in cleaning the spill. Therefore, others should not buy that brand.

In which planet going to the wrong restaurant should be blamed in the “right” restaurant? Or a company should be blamed if somebody is careless handling a can of paint? No doubts, in our planet.

As Milan Kundera well said both in The Unbearable Lightness of Being and in The Art of the Novel, we live in “the planet of the inexperience” where we spend time “fabricating vague fantasies” and never achieving true maturity or wisdom.  

Or, as Isaac Asimov said (paraphrasing Friedrich Schiller), “Against human stupidity, the gods themselves struggle in vain.”

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