Natural Stupidity

If one has difficulty defining a term or a situation, then considering and defining the opposite can be helpful. In workshops with companies thinking about how to prepare for the future, the following questions provide a lot of new thinking and insight: “What if we stopped making money with our most important product?” or “Would it stand out if we no longer existed?” or “How would we make life most difficult for our customers?

So let us ask ourselves the following question: What is the opposite of intelligence?


Even Amos Tversky, who was a cognitive scientist, Stanford professor and research partner of Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman, quipped:

“My colleagues may study artificial intelligence; I study human stupidity.”

So how can stupidity be described? The late Berkeley professor Carlo M. Cipolla dealt with this long before his compatriot Silvio Berlusconi began to dominate the already chaotic Italian politics and defined five basic laws of human stupidity:

  1. We all always and inevitably underestimate the number of stupid people among us.
  2. The probability that a particular person is stupid is independent of other characteristics of that person.
  3. A stupid person is one who causes harm to another person or groups of people without benefiting himself or herself, or who even suffers harm in the process.
  4. Non-stupid persons always underestimate the possible harm effect of stupid persons. Especially non-stupid persons forget every time that at any time, in any place and under any circumstances dealing and associating with stupid persons will always turn out to be a costly mistake.
  5. A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person. It follows: A stupid person is more dangerous than a bandit.

Everyone is talking about artificial intelligence or intelligence itself and how it should be defined, but equally we should look at the opposite – stupidity. It could provide revealing insights about us and machines.

Leave a Reply