Thursday, May 31, 2012

10 Stupid Things You Do Everyday

Common sense is an oxymoron.


How smart do you think you really are? If I asked you if you had common sense, what would your answer be? Some of you might think that you're pretty intelligent. I wouldn't be surprised if there are even some of you who think that you have above average intelligence. If you have ever thought this to yourself, then I'm going to prove to you that this is probably not accurate.



Studies show that people tend to overestimate their own intelligence. It's called Illusory superiority and it's very common. In fact it's so common that I regularly get e-mail (or tweets) from people who actually think that I'm a genius. I assure you gentle folks, as kind as your words are, I am far from worthy of being called a genius. I am barely average intelligence. I just do better at lateral cognition than many people I seem to know. Does that make me above average intelligence? Far from it. I'm not feigning humility here. I'm being deadly serious.

We are actually not as smart as we tend to think are largely because we have a very inaccurate idea of what intelligence actually is — especially since cognitive scientists are still struggling to define it. This post seeks to prove that for all the high praise we heap upon ourselves, we're probably a lot dumber than we think we are. Don't take this personally. It's a slice of humble pie I swallow everyday. In fact, I have ten good examples of incredibly dumb things many of us are guilty of doing on a daily basis that we are probably oblivious to:

10. Educating ourselves into insurmountable debt

What exactly is the point of being educated and broke? I know that getting a degree from a prestigious ivy league university could go a long way to getting you that dream job, but is it really worth the gamble? What is the probability that you don't get that dream job? Do you genuinely think that dropping that kind of dough on education you can get elsewhere for a tiny fraction of the cost is really worth it? I can assure you kind reader, that is a matter of luck.

What you thought you knew

How many of you have a degree from an elite University, but no job to pay off the monumental debt that it has left you with? At some point before or after (hopefully before) you embarked on your study, you must have realized that the staggering cost of ivy league education vastly outweighs the statistical probability of success. This is hard for most people to compute because one of the things most people still struggle to understand is probability. This is how ivy league colleges continue to enslave their alumni for most of their professional adult lives.

While several studies prove that college grads are guaranteed to make more money with their degree, what those studies never tell you, is how difficult it is to actually become employed once you graduate, if you don't already have some connections, know somebody, or as luck would have it, you just happen to be in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. If you're not, you are essentially screwed. I'm not even going to mention the current economic status and the global unemployment figures. But wait, there's more! I'm just getting started!

Why it's stupid

When you travel to countries like Canada, one is not hard pressed to find Taxi drivers with advanced degrees in physics, or people with medical degrees working at McDonald's. Canada's matriculation system is fiercely patriotic. Having a medical degree from Calcutta doesn't mean you automatically get to be a doctor in Toronto. Meanwhile, having a medical degree from Yale would probably get you a medical position almost anywhere in the world—if you are willing to work for only pennies on the dollar of your ridiculously expensive education.

That is where most college grads start working.

Even if the monumental weight of ivy league tertiary education was somehow worth it, most of the fields that actually teach useful skills are so over saturated that you are essentially in a rat race to enter the rat race. You and a million other people who have the same degree are fighting to get a promotion (or make partner) to pay off the same incredible debt. Every day that you spend under employed post graduation is a day that your now gargantuan education debt is enthusiastically compounded. You are keeping the ivy leagues in business indefinitely.

But what's worse, is that there are loads of students doing pointless degrees at Ivy League Universities that cannot possibly get them a job to pay off the ivy league debt. For example: Why would you do a degree in History at Harvard without following it up with a degree in law? What kind of job could you possibly get that could have helped you pay off a Harvard degree in a subject that has no practical value outside of academia, but costs more than the second mortgage on your parents house that was used to pay for it? Does that make sense to you?

Why would you spend four years doing a catchall degree like a BA when everybody has one of those? In the working world, a substantial number of tertiary educated professionals are in a field that is completely unrelated to their degree. It was as if they spent their student loan paying for a college experience, but not the college education. With no discernible talents, such a degree is as cost effective as buying a Space Shuttle just to travel to the supermarket.

How to correct it

You probably shouldn't seek education at an Ivy League college unless you are ridiculously talented.  They will ignore your application unless you can convince them that you're specially worthy of their debt. Then again, studies show that talented people make more money irrespective of where they are educated. However, by being selective for those types of people, the ivy league uses their exceptional post graduate earnings to prop up themselves, thereby fooling you, the average person, that this is the money you would make if you attend.

This is clearly a misrepresentation—a flat out lie. Why? Because even if you were as talented as folks like Mark Zuckerberg, you probably wouldn't need the ivy league education anyway. Zuckerberg, like many of the other extremely talented billionaires never even completed his education, opting to drop out and start his own business (Facebook). If you are that talented, then you probably don't need to get into college at all. It wouldn't be a necessary expense.

If you are going to drop that kind of money at a super expensive university, you better also have plans to start your own business or ensure that you have connections in the work world to get you into a high paying job that can help you knock off that student loan debt. Students graduating with practical engineering, science and technology skills are doing the best at cancelling their student loans because they are being snatched up by Silicon valley in droves.

Students who graduate with expensive degrees that endow them with actual in demand skills (like surgeons, accountants, engineers, architects, scientists, software developers, etc.) will also do quite well because we live in an age of rapidly abounding scientific and technological evolution. Doing anything less (as the large majority of people currently are) would be stupid.

The colleges however, don't mind.

09. Correcting someone who is obviously a fool.

Can you tell me why Wolf Blitzer felt it necessary to corner Donald Trump about his birther comments? Why would anyone choose to argue with a fool? Doesn't the act of correcting a fool assume that he isn't a fool, ergo invalidating the whole point of correcting the fool in the first place? We have all heard the expression that we should "not to argue with a fool as they will bring you down to their level and beat you". But there is far worse to be concerned about.

What you thought you knew

Arguing with a fool presumes the fool will play by the rules of logic. So if someone said for example that they believe in dragons, but not dinosaurs (yes, that's a real belief from some creationist circles), you essentially have two options: 1) Elucidate the fact that dragons were early man's misappropriation of what dinosaur bones probably were before paleontology was a science or; 2) Walk away. If you were foolish enough to choose option 1, you may face the obvious backlash of "how do we know that science isn't wrong and the dragon idea isn't right?"

Why it's stupid

If you think the few brain cells you have left are worth pursuing this kind of conversation, bear in mind that the very premise of the question is devoid of logical thought. You must remember that a grammatically correct sentence does not automatically imply a logically sound argument (or question, for that matter). Contrary to the popular adage, there are such things as stupid questions. You probably don't realize it yet, but a question that queries a logically sound argument by proposing an equally unsound proposition isn't a question worth pursuing at all.

...not without correcting the flaw in its underlying premise.

However, the whole point of not doing that is not so much that it requires assuming that the fool will follow as much as it assumes that the fool is willing to accept. What many people fail to realize is that not every act of stupidity requires a response. Some fall below the threshold of sensibility. The adage that one fool makes many applies here. For a fool is often one who is quite wise themselves, but deliberately opts for foolishness with a view to confound the wise.

How to correct it

Apropos, it is fair to say that some fools are foolish explicitly for the sake of folly while some folly is implicitly for the sake of fools. Either way, a fool and his folly are inexorably bound to find their mutual ways to each other (unlike a fool and his money). Thus any attempt to come between a fool and his folly, is tantamount to ice skating uphill in the middle of an avalanche.

Doing that is stupid — really stupid.

08. Fearing embarrassment more than harm

I was once told by someone that they loved to sleep naked. So out of curiosity, I asked them; "What if there was an earthquake?" Their response? They would rather die in the collapsing building than run outside naked. The response is clearly the stuff of inexperienced ignorance as your body's natural fight or flight response would cause you to flee a collapsing building even if naked. However, it proves that a fundamental flaw exists between the ID and the Ego.

What you thought you knew

Running naked from a collapsing building is a bit of an extreme example. Thus a more mundane example is holding in the inevitable plume of flatulence while in an elevator, despite the fact that doing so does more harm than simply letting the methane compound fly. The obvious discomfort to others who may enter the elevator after you have freed yourself of wind is always secondary to the body's need to get rid of dangerous waste gases. Yet the vast majority of us would rather hold it in until we have safely disembarked to a discreet location.

Why it's stupid

Etiquette aside, holding in flatulence (or urine, or feces) is quite dangerous — even if you are in the middle of a presentation. Urinary tract infections and colon polyps are no laughing matter. Quietly excusing yourself not only guarantees that you will be able to present another time, but it also saves you the further embarrassment of soiling yourself when your body gives you the finger in your final, but futile attempt to restrain its waste disposal. ID ultimately wins.

This type of behaviour where we assiduously try to avoid embarrassment even at risk of personal endangerment is a testament to an evolutionary disconnect between good manners and well being. It's stupid because this type of behaviour runs contradictory to evolutionary viability. Our society is so ridiculously over amped on politeness that if you were to walk into a public area where people are seated and boldly ask someone to give up their seat with a tone of authority, in most cases they will promptly do so just to avoid  any possible embarrassment.

I'm not kidding. You can try it yourself.

This is how people become easily bullied by obnoxious individuals who have no authority over them. They would rather walk away than face the potential embarrassment of dealing with such a personality. Because of this fundamental flaw in our politically correct social psychology, you can easily take advantage of someone by just speaking to them in an authoritative tone.

How stupid is that?

How to correct it

Before you become engrossed in the thought of being embarrassed, try to remind yourself that you're not as significant as you think you are. Humans are essentially over glorified animals who have become high on the stink of their narcissistic perception at being the most intelligent creature they know of in the universe — so far. This is a reality only because a giant meteor had killed off the dinosaurs. There are still billions of meteors floating around out there.

So get over yourself.

With that said, good manners are a cultural approximation that have no value outside of your immediate demography. They are therefore ultimately irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Whether your survive to tell the tale naked or survive your body's need to purge, your survival guarantees the immortality of your DNA — provided you're not too embarrassed to ask someone of the opposite sex to help you pass it along. So carry on: burp and fart away.

Your progeny will be glad you did.

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E-mail: accordingtoxen[at]gmail[dot]com

1 comment:

  1. I prefer the Mainstream Science definition of Intelligence