Science Says “Smart People Are Idiots”

Right off the bat, congratulations on being in the top eighty percentile. We can read, and that puts us well ahead of the seven hundred million adults that can’t (I know the pictures are pretty, but focus. Focus!). Let’s bump us up a few more pegs for knowing what a percentile is as well. You’re smart; you know it; and I’m so so sorry… turns out this is bad news. Smart people are idiots.

Don’t panic!!! You’re obviously one of the exceptions. For God’s sake, quit panicking. Quick mental test:

In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake?

You said 24, right? Good, that means you’re smart. Unfortunately, the right answer was 47. I’m afraid you may be suffering from a condition called smart-idiot-itis, an affliction on the rise amongst intellectuals. See, because you’re smart, your brain immediately heard “half” and “48” and karate-chopped out a quick 24. Oops, this mental shortcut is called dysrationalia. Dysrationalia afflicts 100% of people who, when asked the question “how much dirt is in a hole 6 ft. by 3 ft. by 9 ft?” answer anything but zero, zero dirt (There’s no dirt in a hole, silly). Dysrationalia is the leading cause of smart-idiot-itis.

Don’t take my word for it. According to a long string of individuals with PhD’s, MBA’s, and various other impressive acronyms, “smart people are stupid.” The idea they present about our educational system can be summed up nicely in this quote by one of the said intellectuals (Michael Sherman):

Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons.

Essentially, smart people are used to being smart people, so they assume they’re right, because usually they are, even when they aren’t, right that is. Wow, that’d make more sense if I was one of those smart people, but if I were, it’d be wrong apparently. Thank you, brain.

It seems to boil down to something called the bias blind spot. Everyone is biased, and everyone who is biased believes they are not. This is why it’s so obvious when someone else is doing something stupid, but our own dumb actions confound us. Since we’re stuck in our own heads, when we put our briefcase in the dishwasher last week, or tied our shoes and completely forgot we’re not wearing pants yet, we don’t see ourselves as the bumbling morons we all are from time to time. It’s because of the cloud of justifications and excuses always swirling around our heads.

Sorry to say it, but being aware of this makes no difference, apparently. Currently, medical science has no cure for smart-idiot-itis, short of a lobotomy. As research into this horrible affliction progresses, should a cure be found, how could we ever trust these brainy buffoons anyway?

For more information on this disease, see Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” If you think you may have smart-idiot-itis, seek medical attention immediately, and cross fingers that your doctor didn’t nail his hand to his refrigerator for no apparent reason.

 

Sources:

Literacy Rate (worldbank.org)

Why Smart People are Stupid (The New Yorker)

Rational and Irrational Thoughts (Scientific American) 

Dysrationalia: Defects in Real-World Intelligence (Talent Develop Resources)

Why People Believe Weird Things (Michael Shermer)

We Struggle With Objectivity: The Bias Blind Spot (Psychology Today)

Cognitive Sophistication Does Not Attenuate the Bias Blind Spot (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Implantable Telescope Restores Elderly Vision

It’s too late for the elderly of the world to undergo laser eye surgery, but all hope is not lost.  Researchers have developed an implantable telescope that completely restores vision, well sort of.

The easily implanted, pea sized telescope doesn’t actually restore vision, but in fact redirects incoming light to healthier areas of the retina.

The telescopic implant restores vision by projecting images onto an undamaged portion of the retina, which makes it possible for patients to again see people’s faces and the details of objects located directly in front of them.

Virginia Bane, an 89 year old artist from California, was the first person to undergo the surgery. According to Bane:

I can see better than ever now. Colors are more vibrant, beautiful and natural, and I can read large print with my glasses. I haven’t been able to read for the past seven years. I look forward to being able to paint again.

Richard Van Buskirk, an optometrist, explains that Virginia will continue to regain vision as she retrains her brain to see. The implant, which is only in her left eye, will help her to see details and small text, while her right eye will provide peripheral vision.

I’d like to get a pair of these telescopic eyes to help me be more romantic. I could view spectacular sunsets all around the world at anytime of the day! Sure, ocular telescopes might not be the most aesthetically pleasing sight, but they improve vision, so that totally equals out.

 

Sources:

http://gizmodo.com/5945406/this-tiny-telescope-implant-gives-eyesight-to-the-blind