Over the last few years I've been increasingly interested in stupidy as a phenomenon, how it is socially constructed, how our perceptions square with realities, and what the implications of it are on society. It is a peculiar issue in that many people tend to see others as stupid, and if everyone is calling everyone stupid then who is smart? Besides the inner contradictions of this mass phenomenon, and given that the costs of stupidity are all too obvious to intelligent people, I decided to see if I could rationalize any benefits.
Interestingly, I found that in a given social context, remarkably stupid and insensible comments can actually increase outside the box thinking. For instance, we might say that a statement is stupid just in case it lies outside the range of possibility. In contrast, a sensible statement is one that lies within the range of possibility. So when Malthus claims that infinite geometric growth is impossible against a finite physical base, this statement is sensible in that it demarcates a limitation on what is possible. Yet, we are increasingly learning from quantum physics that possibilities become actualities when they are brought to fruition with the collapsing of wave functions. It would seem then that each of us is bounded by our own range of possibilities, and that the birth of an idea in another, however random and tenuous, in the very least challenges us to attempt to rationalize a possibility that was otherwise foregone.
This is epitomized in a game of chess, where at a certain point in a game a complicated position is reached. As a sensible person, you immediately scan the board and rationalize a range of possible next moves and eventually decide on one. But imagine a chessmaster appears at the board and tells you to move a particular piece: a move that seems so outside the range of logical progressions and common intuition to you. Maybe it is a queen sacrifice. You sit at the board, mesmerized, trying to rationalize what appears to be an utterly stupid move. Eventually, you realize that there is a mate several moves down to follow that was never considered. What was excluded from your range of possibility, and was ostensibly a stupid move, turned out to be a genius move. Just as life and death, good and evil, creation and destruction, sex and aggression, even right down to a fundamental yes and no require eachother to exist, genius and stupidity in many ways feed off of each other. It is not suprising that historically certain geniuses have made completely outrageous statements that seem beyond sense but therein often lays the cleverness. People are not altogether stupid, they may be mediocre or ordinary but that is something different.