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James Francis
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In the name of stupidity

04 February 2013, 13:00
Albert Einstein said that only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity. It’s hard to think of anything that brings this home more than the Internet, where the diaspora of human intellectual agility is on display. In other words, we have no want for more videos of people jumping off roofs or accidentally setting themselves on fire. Well, actually we do, since the current ones get old fast and there is always room for a video of someone doing something stupid. Schadenfreude is best served in 30-second clips.

Social media has also lifted much of the lid that hide our mental shortcomings. Facebook delivers its share, easily witnessed on sites like Twitter, the bastion of talk-before-you-process, is also a pack leader. When the Titanic disaster hit its 100 year anniversary, there were a fair number of people surprised that it was indeed an actual ship and not just a movie. Then the Olympics reminded us of this again: more than a few Twitter users were confused by comments that the first ancient Olympics took place 3,000 years ago - because it is only 2012 now.

Yes, I know. I shook my head too.

But at the same time it’s actually pretty encouraging. It is obvious that these people can count and have a grasp on basic arithmetic. But sarcasm aside, I like that people who haven’t heard of the BC/AD thing at least still attempted a logical conclusion and then questioned the information given to them. Sure, their questioning made them seem ignorant, but at least they asked.

The rest of us didn’t...

What do I mean? Well, that Einstein quote... it is used everywhere, but there is no real proof that he ever said it. The original quote, found in a book called Hunger Instinct, simply refers to ‘an astronomer’. The connotation to Einstein developed through creative license by writers.So on the one hand we have people who think the world started on the year 1 and 3,000 year old Olympics sound suspect. On the other we have a world which accepts Einstein said something pithy about stupidity. One of those two groups sought to question the information they were given. I’m not saying the Olympiad-deniers are the smart ones, but they don’t appear to be the idiots...
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