As stupidity is entropic, extropians look forward to superintelligence, as
indicated by the dominant theme of Extro-5:
MACHINE INTELLIGENCE & FRIENDLY SUPER-INTELLIGENCE
Accordingly, we ought to examine the power of stupidity, if only for the
sake of avoiding it. The following outlines some of the hazards of that
examination. --J. R.
The Power of Stupidity
Here are the Five Laws of Stupidity according to Carlo Cipolla:
We always underestimate the number of stupid people.
This is not as obvious as it sounds, says Cipolla, because:
people we had thought to be rational and intelligent suddenly turn out to
be unquestionably stupid;
day after day we are hampered in whatever we do by stupid people who
invariably turn up in the least appropriate places.
He also observes that it is impossible to set a percentage, because any
number we choose will be too small.
The probability of a person being stupid is independent of any other
characteristic of that person.
If you study the frequency of stupidity in the people who come to clean up
classrooms after hours, you find that it is much higher than you expected.
You assume that this is related to their lower level of education, or to
the fact that non-stupid people have better chances of obtaining good
jobs. But when you analyze students or University professors (or, I would
add, computer programmers) the distribution is exactly the same.
Militant feminists may be incensed, says Cipolla, but the stupidity factor
is the same in both genders (or as many genders, or sexes, as you may
choose to consider). No difference in the sigma factor, as Cipolla calls
it, can be found by race, color, ethnic heritage, education, etcetera.
Third (and Golden) Law
A stupid person is someone who causes damage to another person, or a group
of people, without any advantage accruing to himself (or herself) -- or
even with some resultant self-damage.
(We shall come back to this, because it is the pivotal concept of the
Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid
people. They constantly forget that at any moment, and in any
circumstance, associating with stupid people invariably constitutes an
That (I would say) suggests that non-stupid people are a bit stupid -- but
I shall get back to this point at the end.
A stupid person is the most dangerous person in existence.
This is probably the most widely understood of the Laws, if only because
it is common knowledge that intelligent people, hostile as they might be,
are predictable, while stupid people are not. Moreover, its basic
A stupid person is more dangerous than a bandit
leads us to the heart of the Cipolla Theory. There are four types of
people, he says, depending on their behavior in a transaction:
Someone whose actions tend to generate self-damage, but also to create
advantage for someone else.
Someone whose actions tend to generate self-advantage, as well as
advantage for others.
Someone whose actions tend to generate self-advantage while causing damage
We already have this definition in the Third Law.
There's a Part II at
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