The basic laws of human stupidity

From this article comes a nice, succinct definition of “stupidity”:

The Third Basic Law assumes, although it does not state it explicitly, that human beings fall into four basic categories: the helpless, the intelligent, the bandit and the stupid. It will be easily recognized by the perspicacious reader that these four categories correspond to the four areas I, H, S, B, of the basic graph (see below).


If Tom takes an action and suffers a loss while producing a gain to Dick, Tom’s mark will fall in field H: Tom acted helplessly. If Tom takes an action by which he makes a gain while yielding a gain also to Dick, Tom’s mark will fall in area I: Tom acted intelligently. If Tom takes an action by which he makes a gain causing Dick a loss, Tom’s mark will fall in area B: Tom acted as a bandit. Stupidity is related to area S and to all positions on axis Y below point O.

A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.

When confronted for the first time with the Third Basic Law, rational people instinctively react with feelings of skepticism and incredulity. The fact is that reasonable people have difficulty in conceiving and understanding unreasonable behaviour. But let us abandon the lofty plane of theory and let us look pragmatically at our daily life. We all recollect occasions in which a fellow took an action which resulted in his gain and our loss: we had to deal with a bandit. We also recollect cases in which a fellow took an action which resulted in his loss and our gain: we had to deal with a helpless person. We can recollect cases in which a fellow took an action by which both parties gained: he was intelligent. Such cases do indeed occur. But upon thoughtful reflection you must admit that these are not the events which punctuate most frequently our daily life. Our daily life is mostly, made of cases in which we lose money and/or time and/or energy and/or appetite, cheerfulness and good health because of the improbable action of some preposterous creature who has nothing to gain and indeed gains nothing from causing us embarrassment, difficulties or harm. Nobody knows, understands or can possibly explain why that preposterous creature does what he does. In fact there is no explanation – or better there is only one explanation: the person in question is stupid.

Note that I’m in no way implying that I’m NOT stupid 🙂


It’s like, argh, you know?

Stating that she wasn’t in the best place right now, and that things have been sort of you know, Belmont resident Megan Slota announced Thursday that sometimes she just feels….

Due to a general sense of…well, it’s hard to explain, the 28-year-old dental hygienist reported that she just needed to work some stuff out, and that she would probably be a little I don’t know for a couple weeks or so.

“It’s not anybody’s fault, honestly,” said Slota, standing in her kitchen and holding a mug of tea with both hands. “Sometimes I just get like this where it’s like I’m not, I guess, whatever. We don’t have to get into it right now.”

Added Slota, “I’m really, like, argh, I don’t know.”

Ah, The Onion… 🙂

Extreme measures for final examinations in South Korea

Today, across South Korea, 650,000 high school seniors will face the most crucial evaluation of their young lives: the national college entrance examination. And on this day each year, a nation of 48 million holds its collective breath: Grounding airplanes and shushing car horns, noisy vehicular traffic, even loud conversations.


Efforts to ensure fairness are often mind-boggling.

In Seoul this year, nearly 100 domestic flights at nearby Gimpo Airport will be either delayed or canceled so as not to conflict with the exam at surrounding schools, according to the Korea Airports Assn.

Morning commute hours will also be delayed in most large cities so students won’t get tangled in traffic en route to their test sites. Those who do can request a police escort to make it on time.

Even the national stock market opens an hour later, to account for tardy employees.

At each school where the exam is given, a team of police officers patrols the surrounding neighborhood to ensure quiet. That means no roaring motorcycles or unnecessary horn-blowing.

Full story

Mingling in the international community

A friend of mine wrote this:

In international environments, such as Geneva, you will encounter people from many different cultures and backgrounds. Without proper precautions, encounters with people so different from yourself might quickly go awry. Having observed interactions between many people for a while, I was able to compile the following list of tips to ensure smooth sailing in a sea of sensitivities. Note that this list only contains only genuine items – techniques tried in practice. All of them have been observed, not made up, it all really happened, and I was lucky enough to be present to bring you these gems of diplomacy.

Tips for people from …

Check your passport to see if any of these tips apply to you.


  • Cook and eat like in you’re in China, preferably while other people are trying to eat.
  • Explain that Falung Gong members are involved in politics and not just religion. Proceed to say that therefore it’s logical that they’re being persecuted.


  • Ask someone for his or her nationality. Remind them how many days it took the Nazi’s to conquer that country.


  • Make sure your presence is noted. Use your accent to alert a whole room or train at once.
  • Mix in “y’know”, and “like” when speaking a language other than English to make things clear.
  • Act surprised whenever somebody has never heard of something only found in the US.

Upon encountering people from…

Once you’ve figured out the nationality of whomever you’re talking to, use the following tips to get a conversation going.
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You awake as a hamburger

A Cuil is a unit of measurement:

One Cuil = One level of abstraction away from the reality of a situation.

Example: You ask me for a Hamburger.

1 Cuil: if you asked me for a hamburger, and I gave you a raccoon.

2 Cuils: If you asked me for a hamburger, but it turns out I don’t really exist. Where I was originally standing, a picture of a hamburger rests on the ground.

3 Cuils: You awake as a hamburger. You start screaming only to have special sauce fly from your lips. The world is in sepia.

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