People aren’t stupid

Remember Wizard’s First Rule – “People are stupid.”   It is a pretty horrid (although not uncommon) sentiment.  And here is scientific basis to back it up.  Try this.

I have three issues with the article while not saying that the bias doesn’t exist.

First, if you phrase it less as “people overestimate their abilities” to “No one likes to think they are below average.” It seems to become less a comment on general stupidity and one more on self-esteem.  It is a common saying that the first knowledge of the wise is how much they have yet to learn.  I remember back in junior high I began to think that there wasn’t much more about mathematics that could be left to learn.  I didn’t even have to make it as far as university before that became an obvious error.  On the reverse, it became obvious that there was too much for me to ever know it all.

Second, the idea that we have biases is hardly new although the article makes it seem like it is.  I’ve done a whole blog on cognitive biases somewhere in the aforetimes.  I have used this quote in the past too, “People aren’t rational, they are rationalizing.”  What seems amazing to me is what we are able to accomplish despite all these built-in biases.  Logic, math, scientific method and philosophy – taken together they hold so many ways to evaluate the world around us.  We shouldn’t sit around and boggle at the people who overestimate their skills – likely suffering the same bias and assuming that we wouldn’t be among that group ourselves – but instead marvel at our group ability to succeed anyway.

Finally the article rushes over some good bits.  Namely that the upper end of the test subjects tend to underestimate the ability and that with even a little remedial learning the ability to estimate ones skill vastly improves AND that the bias might be culturally based.  The one I’d like to focus on is education.  A little training may not improve your skills and take you out of the bottom percentile, but it will result in your knowing what your relative knowledge level is.  An article like this might encourage us to throw up our hands and give up, but it should do the opposite and encourage us to share our knowledge or even better a love of learning.

It isn’t a world filled with stupid people, but one filled with people looking for just a little more knowledge – even if they might not realize it themselves.

Now, I must go read something about comic books.  There is a localized comic book drought going on and I am suffering dearly.


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