Rollin' Like Sisyphus

Welcome To Lake Wobegon

Posted in A Chronicle Of Decline by Huckleberry on May 14, 2014

Slide rules make you smart, while calculators are like Oreos for your brain.

Slide rules make you smart, while calculators are like Oreos for your brain.

One of the truest axioms of philosophic thought, what they literally teach you on Day 1, is that you don’t know what you don’t know – an old idea that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously orally assaulted during a press briefing at the height of the Iraq war.
And it’s generally true; a body simply cannot fathom the breadth and depth of his ignorance until he at least attempts to circumambulate it. But that takes time, and deep questions, and as our resident astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson so eloquently put it, there’s “no time for that.”
When patience turns to impatience, when we “don’t have time for that” and when thoughts recede from the edges of tomorrow to lap around in the tide pools of today, we lose sight of the shape, breadth and depth of our ignorance, leaving ourselves to wallow in the false comfort that we know all we need to.
To wit:

Fifty-five* percent of Americans think that they are smarter than the average American, according to a new survey by YouGov, a research organization that uses online polling. In other words, as YouGov cleverly points out, the average American thinks that he or she is smarter than the average American. A humble 34 percent of citizens say they are about as smart as everyone else, while a dispirited 4 percent say they are less intelligent than most people.

Now before you say it, yes, I understand that surveys such as this, where it’s all self-reporting, are bull feces. And generally I agree, but in this instance I’m more concerned with the self-report than with the reality of the situation.
Obviously, from a purely mathematic perspective, the “average” is the sum total of intelligence in the nation divided by 330~ million.
I’ll sit here and wait while you scrawl out an equation that can quantify what this means.
Go on.
I’ll be right here, holding down the fort.
Now, if we wanted to compare ourselves to the median American, well that’s an easier wicket to unstick, sort of.
But semantics aside, the dumber we get, the smarter we think we are, because we no longer have the time to probe our ignorance, we’re impatient and ill-tempered at even the slightest afront, and it’s simply easier to go on believing that knowing 100% of what we know is better than knowing 10% of everything.

* And yes, the idea that slightly more than half of survey respondents believe they are above average should not be surprising in the least. Technically half the country is above average. But fuck it, let’s roll.


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