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Tycoonism “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

May 18, 2009

Truth be told, we human beings are very good at refusing to accept facts or scientific evidence we do not want to hear. There is a long history of our doing so.

There are too many people to count that are intelligent yet choose to remain ignorant which makes them appear stupid. Education is not something that stops when you graduate from school. It is an ongoing process, but requires an open mind. Every subject, new and old, must be examined in light of facts previously not known or previously rejected. This is a very difficult process.Nothing should be accepted without questioning who presented it and why. Today’s political arena is a great example. What is being said is not as important as what has the person saying to gain and do they believe it. Putting the “fact” under a microscope reveals more than shows on the surface. The revelations may dispute long held ideas.

What is ignorance? Ignorance is a word we don’t like to use today. It feels too much like a value judgment. But perhaps we should consider reclaiming it. We need to name this tendency, which seems to be ever more common in recent years, of ignoring facts we do not like. Call it willful ignorance. In this case, the value judgment is intended. By reclaiming the word ignorance, we reclaim also the 19th century sense that there is something inherently dangerous in not knowing.

I was right to say that the problem is not with the accessibility but the willful ignorance of facts. How important is this to you and your development as a human being and how is this related to your quest for financial freedom? In the nineteenth century, the predominant theory of ignorance was grounded in the notion of information access. People were ignorant, went the belief, because they did not have access to information. They could not know what they needed to know. From that follows the natural supposition that simply by finding a way of providing access to information, ignorance will depart, and knowledge will emerge.

But now, in the world of the fast and new media, you simply cannot deny access to information. There are at least one or two public libraries open to everybody in the community. Community colleges are open to non-students as well. Information is so abundant that the danger is not with the inaccessibility of information, but there are simply too much information floating around everywhere, that your judgment is challenged everyday.

Between 1883 and 1929 Carnegie built thousands of libraries in the United States and other countries. Behind these actions stood the optimistic belief that if learning was fostered and information in the form of books made widely available, ignorance would wither and disappear. The same thinking prevailed a century later. In the 1990s government and philanthropists teamed up to make sure every school and classroom was wired to the Internet. There was, we were told, a ‘digital divide‘ that separated the poor and disadvantaged from access to information. Bridge that divide with Internet access for all, and the achievement gaps that exist within our schools would soon dwindle and disappear. Today, thanks to those efforts, 99 percent of American schools have Internet access.

But does access for all bring knowledge to all? Does more information bring more understanding? The evidence suggests otherwise. Unfortunately, ignorance is still with us—and more and more of it is willful ignorance. Beware: it is still the herald of society’s doom. A fact, even if we do not like it, is still a fact. We must not ignore truths just because they make us uncomfortable. We must all beware the very real and understandable human tendency to ignore or obvious facts, and findings of science, that discomfort us for reasons of ideology, politics, religion, or personal taste. What do you do to accumulate and learn? Opportunities are abound. However it is indeed unavoidable for us to get confused and just tend to pick up what we are comfortable to tackle. But what about the fact and the obvious truths? Ignorance is never bliss.

It’s a crucial task for each one of us to be constantly on guard against the dangers of stupidity. Non only what other stupid people can do, but also what we can make happen because of those elements of stupidity that exist in every human being. The worst fools are those who don’t realize how foolish they are. And when human stupidity is multiplied blindly by technology according to other studies.

But we can make an intelligent use of technology. If we use the internet (as well as, and in combination with, other sources of information) to check the reliability of what we are told – and to understand if our opinions and perceptions are reasonably accurate or need to be corrected. In Pitkin’s opinion, four people out of five are stupid enough to be called “stupid.” That was one and a half billion people when he wrote the book; it is over four billion now. This, in itself, is quite stupid.

He observed that one of the problems of Stupidity is that nobody has a really good definition of what it is. In fact geniuses are often considered stupid by a stupid majority (though nobody has a good definition of genius, either). But stupidity is definitely there, and there is much more of it than our wildest nightmares might suggest. In fact, it runs the world – which is very clearly proven by the way the world is run. In part his observations confirm existing knowledge. Such as the fact that “the number of stupid people” is broadly underestimated. That is something that we can all notice every day. Aware as we may be of the power of stupidity, we are often surprised by its surfacing where and where we least expect it.

Two consequences are pretty obvious in any analysis of the problem. One it that we often underestimate the awful effects of stupidity. The other is that, because it is so unpredictable, stupid behavior is more dangerous than intentional mischief. What is missing in this perspective (as in the case of Walter Pitkin and almost every author dealing with this subject) is a consideration of our stupidity – or, in any case, of the stupidity factor that exists even in the most intelligent people. But it’s clear that the greatest improvement is the result of “intelligent” action – and the worst deterioration is caused by stupidity. In other words, if each person or group of people mind too much their own interest, and don’t consider the effect of their actions on everyone else, there is a general decay of society as a whole – and so also those who thought they were being “smart” turn out to be stupid. But it often happens that this is understood when it’s too late. This confirms the basic concept: the most dangerous factor in every human society is stupidity.

Now what shall we do about this?

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