The Strange Case of Stupid-o-land
The Lockdown had me simply sitting on my bed staring into space for a borderline worrisome amount of time, my mind a chaotic stream of several thoughts, ideas and philosophies all squeezed into a millisecond. “Does the President ever skip baths? Could I sneak a friend onto my college campus and get away with it? Can bugs fall in love?” All of this mess led me to rather erratic, philosophical question;
Would I rather be an intelligent person in a world full of idiots or an idiot in a world of intelligent people?
I couldn’t quite make a decision about this and so took the most obvious millennial course of action. I created an Instagram poll. Replies poured in and I messaged each one asking their reasons and having long discourses. It was an interesting 48 hours.
The days of diagram making and internal deliberations that followed were even more insightful due to which I could finally summarize the observation of this extremely small-scale research down to the following;
- People who wanted to be the only smart person relied mostly on being able to fool others easily and dominating the world by being the only smart person. They saw smartness as a manipulation tool. In other words their motto was “Survival of the smartest.”
- Some thought their smartness would be recognized and accepted by all and hence they would gain some kind of overlord powers over the world.
- The ones who wanted to be the only fool chose so mostly because they saw social politics as a begrudging task. They wished to walk the “Ignorance is bliss” route.
- Some believed a comedic situation would arise where an idiot would lead the happiest life, the luckiest one when it comes to worldly possessions thanks to sheer coincidence.
- Some people who chose the fool’s path thought their choice would lead them to being pitied and taken care of.
To stay consistent with the authenticity of this survey, I must also mention the delusional few who said, ”I already live in a world where everyone is smarter than me” and the other even more delusional batch claiming to be the only smart one in a dumb world.
Before we try to make sense of Instagram polls that no one thought about for more than 20 seconds (except me of course), let us go down into the assumptions of what we will consider being “smart” in this problem.
Lets say, in this hypothetical universe the smart ones are equipped with at least one of many of the categories we classify intelligence into based on Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. The only condition being, the rest of the world lacks intelligence of all kinds. Would a certain combination be better than the rest or would any intelligence at all be beneficial? Would it be a constant source of frustration or something even worse?
While some types like Musical or Bodily intelligences in a fool’s world might not be as rewarding, some like linguistic and interpersonal give the most obvious benefits that involve smooth talking, politics and persuasion.
Hence, I was interested in the ones that lie in the middle and whose benefits/drawbacks don’t seem that obvious. Intrapersonal intelligence would really help one figure out that they seem to be smarter than the rest, and this self reflection would help them make better decisions. It would help them understand the problem statement that their world is and once they know it, it will be like playing a quiz you know all the answers to. Logical intelligence would be able to figure this out too but would take longer and would have to rely on experimental data and observations that can’t be explained mathematically. While intrapersonal smartness has no issues going with their gut and trusting instinct, Logical intelligence may have a hard time believing in their theory without peer review or experiments with quantitative results(which wouldn’t be easily available in our hypothetical universe).
Spatial intelligence and naturalist intelligences may make one very sharp and give the best survival chances in the wild and from an evolutionary perspective. While one would be amazing at sensing changes in nature, make the correct life saving decisions and map out complex structures and terrains mentally, judge distances and depths, it might not be the best bet if the world has been organized into society.
A society works on coordination and leadership alike. If our only smart person isn’t the leader, they would pretty much be bound to the societal rules and be held back no matter how smart they are. In this case the most beneficial smartness to have is the linguistic and interpersonal kind to function well at a lower hierarchy. If our smart main character is going to be a leader they need linguistic and interpersonal, intelligences to get there.
Organized society would unfortunately hold back the mathematical geniuses. The people who study, understand and uphold scientific and logical theories form the backbone of beauty, application and appreciation of logic and reason. Such things have no place in stupid-o-land.
Meanwhile, living on genius-o-land as the only fool might decrease your chances exponentially at any success if the society is organized based on the less social intelligences like Logical, Musical, Spatial or Kinesthetic. These don’t make way for empathy and don’t involve any use in human interactions. hence our poor Fool will have no benefits to reap from this smart community.
BUT, if society is organized with more importance to Linguistic, Intrapersonal, Interpersonal and Naturalistic tendencies, our Fool will be heard, understood and noticed. He may be studied and observed a lot(its a world full of geniuses) but might have a chance at a good life based on the morality of the people around him and respite is more likely to be found where there is empathy for our protagonist.
Like Albert Einstein said, there is no limit to human stupidity, and hence, we will not be considering the countless more cases with society organized with different rules, power plays and presence or lack of moral values. Each kind of world structure giving rise to a different intelligential superiority.
In both our hypothetical universes, the extreme cases give rise to better survival of one intelligence over the other. Doesn’t that sound wrong?
An ideal society would take into account all of these and give close to equal importance and opportunities to each of them. Our Earth is shrouded in an imbalance of what is considered smart. It is far from ideal which leads some to live the life of an unfortunate genius in a world of fools or a poor fool in a world of smart people.
If you could swap Earth for genius-o-land or stupid-o-land what would you choose?