Selling access to knowledge vs. the honest humility of idiots

Response to a comment by Heaviside on the big caffeine one.

>Aside: Curiously, Glenn has noted that we tend to overestimate the intelligence of high-AH people and underestimate the intelligence of low-AH people.

My dad used to tell me to make 100% of what I know look like 10% of what I know. I told him that I had been doing this involuntarily since I was born.

Insofar as we do this consciously, I think it is a pretty natural strategy for those people who self-identify as “smart”. A so-called knowledge worker (or a person who specializes in crystallized IQ) can only be as wealthy as he is perceived to be knowledgeable, but he can also pretend to know more than he really does. In such economic transactions as he experiences, perception is nearly everything (we’ll say 90%, like your dad did). If the people buying access to your wisdom knew better, they wouldn’t have needed you in the first place.

That this comes naturally to you- or probably anyone with a neocortex, by degree- is unsurprising. The neocortex is all rules, regulations, archetypes, perceptions, and pretty much all the other things we modern fools call “thought”. Being a social creature, it is also a highly devious configuration of neurons.

It is also unsurprising that your dad tried to pass this to you via cultural transmission (no doubt he was a knowledge worker himself). Once we’re born, the further selection of a specialized economic archetype is pretty much down to imprinting and other nurture stuff. (If we couldn’t adapt to conditions after birth, the wizard archetype would probably go extinct in the first event of real material scarcity.)

How much is from column A and how much is from column B? I think we can get halfway to the answer by considering the paradoxical correlation between humility and intellectual honesty. Mind the strange phenomenon of Charlton’s “clever sillies” versus the wisdom of idiots.

Today, an idiot (often) knows he is an idiot because he has participated in public schooling. (Perhaps this is less true in the era of gradeless nonjudgmentalism and self-esteem.) Emotional intelligence and other ego-saving tricks aside, his actions reveal that the point has been made; after failing countless math classes, he does not pursue g-loaded careers or hobbies like economics, physics and philosophy.

This leads the idiot to a very useful sort of nurture-based humility (at least within the domain of math). He distrusts technology he doesn’t understand, and is not apt to be fooled by salesmen rattling off impressive specifications. A clever silly, on the other hand, will spend an extra $15 to buy the 3.4 GHz CPU over the 3.2 GHz CPU, and later congratulate himself when Microsoft Word boots so fast.

About Aeoli Pera

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3 Responses to Selling access to knowledge vs. the honest humility of idiots

  1. hyper says:

    Woah I had never noticed the all-encompassing absence of curiosity completely pervading society.

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      An off-topic overgeneralization is not a great first impression. Especially not if it was meant sarcastically, because then you would reveal yourself as a clever silly. Otherwise, maybe you can still learn a thing or two.

  2. Pingback: A mnemonic for bullshit detection: PPEECS | Aeoli Pera

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