Critical Section


Back in the Elevator

Wednesday,  02/19/03  09:23 AM

I few days ago I posted In the Elevator and asked for your feedback.  Many of you responded - thanks! - and the consensus was that Ms. X would be intrigued.  That is good.  However, a few of you also felt it was "harsh".  That is not so good.  So I ruminated on this for a bit...

I think the problem was the word “dumb”.  It doesn't only mean “not smart”, it also conveys “bad”.  The strange weird amazing thing about intelligence is that unlike many other human attributes, there is an implied moral judgment.  Just because you're tall or blond or left-handed or blue-eyed, doesn't make you “better”. You could equally be short or brunette or right-handed or brown-eyed.  But smart is perceived as better than not as smart.  This is a tough thing to get around.  People identify smarter with better, and so adjectives which mean “not as smart” also have the connotation “bad”.  This is not accidental, in fact it is deeply significant and relevant.

So - what to do?  Well, first, I've amended In the Elevator to use "less intelligent" and "not as smart" instead of "dumb" and "dumber".  Perhaps you could check it out and tell me if this is an improvement.  Second, the idea that "not as smart" = "not as good" deserves some air time.  I've actually planned a whole section of the book on "Why is This a Problem", after all, it doesn't follow that just because humans are becoming less intelligent, this is bad.  Humans are also becoming taller and heavier, and this doesn't seem bad (except possibly to furniture manufacturers).

I played around with adding something about dumb=bad to the elevator statement, and then I realized it is not necessary.  (And it would consume two or three floors... :)  Although there can be debate on this point - and there will be in the book - most people accept that IF humans are becoming less intelligent, THEN that's a bad thing.  Showing the premise is true is the job of part one ("What's Happening?") and showing the conclusion follows is part three ("Why is This a Problem?").  In between we have part two ("Why Isn't This Obvious") which discusses the masking effects shielding the problem.

[Please see Baby Steps if you have no idea what's going on here...]


© 2003-2017 Ole Eichhorn

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