Infinite stupidity: attribute postulated by ►Einstein as belonging to individuals or groups who always act against their own long-term interests due to errors of judgment or selfish short term objectives*.

Contrary to popular opinion, stupidity does not always arise from a lack of intelligence or knowledge. Many intelligent and educated people have fallen prey to their own blatant stupidities. The philosopher Seneca, for instance, loyally served the tyrant Nero as teacher and advisor until the latter eventually had him executed as he had so many others. ►Leibniz proposed a resumption of the Crusades in order to overcome the battle between Reformation and Catholicism. The German philosopher Heidegger welcomed the Nazis' seizure of power in 1933, became a member of the NSDAP, and worked to become an advisor to the Führer. The space pioneer Herrmann Oberth became in old age a member of the NPD (the German Neonazi party). To be sure, sometimes stupidity is chosen as a strategy. In the 1990s, the Austrian poet Peter Handke, whose fame had declined, was able to regain attention by publicly worshipping the war criminal Slobodan Milošević.

Embracing Stupidity

In many cultures stupidity is negatively viewed. People therefore tend to hide it. Not so in the ►Land of Unlimited Possibilities, where this human trait is treated with tolerance and sympathy and publicly acknowledged on instruction manuals and packaging labels, as we see in the following examples:

  • "CAUTION: Contents may be hot after cooking" (Healthy Choice instant meal)
  • "CAUTION: Ingestion may cause fatigue" (Sleepinol sleeping pills)
  • "CAUTION: Objects in mirror are behind you" (Cycle Aware rear view mirror)
  • "Not suitable for the transport of children" (Rubbermaid air-tight plastic bin)
  • "Not suitable for persons" (Alliance Laundry washer)
  • "Do not swallow" (fish hook, unknown manufacturer)
  • "Not for oral use" (toilet brush, unknown manufacturer)
  • "Do not turn over" (Tesco's Tiramisu, printed on the bottom of the package)
  • "Remove child before collapsing" (collapsible buggy)
  • "Take off clothes before ironing" (Goldstar iron)
  • "Clothing does not enable you to fly" (Halloween Superman costume)

Stupidity is not restricted to humans but can be found also in the animal kingdom -- especially in animals that are regarded as intelligent. The South Indian Monkey Trap consists of a hollow coconut that is tied to a tree. Inside the coconut there is a half banana. The banana is accessible through a small hole just large enough for a stretched-out monkey's hand. When the monkey reaches into the hole to grasp the banana, he will suddenly notice that he cannot pull out his closed fist. He would have to release the banana in order to come free. But his avarice prevents him from doing so -- or perhaps it is his unwillingness to acknowledge that he made a mistake. Thus, the only option left is for him to wait for the monkey catcher and to talk himself into believing that everything so far has gone perfectly well.**

The monkey might not be completely wrong. As scientists from Switzerland discovered in 2008, stupidity is an evolution advantage. Stupid fruit flies of the species Drosophila live up to 30% longer than their more intelligent conspecifics. As reason for this phenomenon the larger energy dissipation of a better developed brain is suspected.

* Here's the proof, announced in the foreword to this dictionary, that Einstein was correct about infinite stupidity. Let me be the number of selfish decisions of an individual person at a certain time; of these, let mi be the number of decisions that promote the long-term interests of that individual, and mj the number of those decisions that are detrimental to those interests. Then the degree of stupidity D is determined as

, from which we get

** The South Indian Monkey Trap is unknown in South India. It is an urban myth, based on a remark in Zen or the Art of Motorycle Maintenance by R. Pirsig and mutated into an African variant in James Algar's movie The Living Desert. Thus, the above description is purely fictional, and any similarities to any living or dead monkeys are unintentional.

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