smart people in the age of stupid.
Before I start, I just want to say: I am not a smart man. I'm not a 4.0 student. I'm not someone that knows enough to survive out there in the "real world." But, I think one thing separates me from many other people: I like to learn. Now, don't get me wrong, I hate school; fuck all of that noise. But I like learning. I like gaining information, it's like candy to me. Keep that in mind when I tell you this next part:Last week, it was sitting in the library, not doing homework (remember, don't like school?). I saw a sign that said: "3 Minute Thesis: Open to the Public." There was some other stuff on the sign, but it was last week so I don't remember. After starting my homework assignment, I decided to check it out. The assignment was due in two and a half hours, but 3MT would only take one and a half. I got time. Now, if you don't know what 3MT is (I'm going to reasonably assume you don't. I didn't know what it was until I went and sat through it) here's a quick rundown. 3MT is a national competition where grad students have to condense their million (or whatever) word thesis into a three minute presentation. They're graded on how well they get their point across, and win money or something. It's a pretty cool idea because it theoretically bridges the gap between the elite graduate students, with their superior intellect, with plebeians like myself by dumbing down all their smart-making and making it a whole lot less boring. If there's one thing I like more than getting knowledge, it's making knowledge accessible. Anyway, I went in and a man standing just inside the door stopped me and asked me if I was presenting, and I politely replied that I was just there to watch. And then he blanked out for a moment. I took that moment to look around the mostly empty presentation hall. He snapped back and handed me a small sheet of paper. On the paper was a list of the names of the presenters and their theses. He told me that was to vote at the end for my favorite presentation, and then he told me to take a seat wherever I wanted, which I did. Five minutes before the presentations were supposed to start, the room is still mostly empty. There are about ten people sitting on the other side of the room, who I later realized were the presenters. There were another four people in front of me, three judges and an emcee. And there were three people behind me who I later realized were the mentors of the graduate students who will be presenting their theses in just a few moments. If you get anything out of this paragraph, it's that I was the only spectator there. The sign clearly said "Open to the Public," it was a national event, and this room had like, a hundred chairs in it. But no one [from the "Public"] showed up. No one, except some random English major that really does not want to do this Marketing assignment. Then the graduates got up and did their thing: talking about roofs, muscles, education, snails, etc. I can't do them justice, so I'm not really gonna try. After they presented, they all got awards, and some of them got bumped to finals. The person that I voted for on the little sheet won People's Choice (no shit) and then everyone went on their merry way. But the point is, these people worked hard to do something that was going to (potentially) change the world as we know it. These are the weavers working the loom of the mind, weaving the rug of tomorrow (somebody get some salt for this corn) and no one is here to see them.
I spend a lot of time on the internet. The internet (and TV too) is just filled with stupid people, and people eat that shit up. The number one source of comedy on the internet (according to an in-depth analysis of word usage in comment thread across multiple platforms on the internet that I just made up) is stupid people. If you want to see a girl twerking her way into Lulu Lemon en Flambé, you can. If you want to read or hear about a woman who set her husband's car on fire because a debate McFlurried out of control, you can. If you want to read a comment longer than this blog post about why Justin Beiber is a god among men, you can. If you want to read another comment twice as long about how the first commenter's mother is a whore, you can. I'm not going to link to any of those things because 1) you've probably already seen it and 2) I'm in the middle of that stupid marketing class right now. In fact, back to the marketing class: they're talking about how a man sued Subway because his Footlong was ten inches (girlfriends everywhere responded by calling their lawyers). This is news! Stupid people are doing stupid things and other people care about it. I hear very often: "People these days are so dumb." I firmly believe this is not the case. I think (I can't confirm because my TARDIS is on the fritz) that stupid people have always been around, the only difference is now: they're louder. In this Internet Age (ironically called the Information Age), dumb people have a soapbox on which to babble. Back in the proverbial "day," to get published, one would have to have their work worked, reworked, and referenced, cross-referenced, peer-reviewed, and rear-previewed. To get published, you had to be smart, dedicated, and most of all, people actually had to give a shit. Books, in those times and (less so) these, provided entertainment, but they were laborious, thought provoking pieces of art. In the today's day, it takes precisely none of that to get published. This blog post is published with the same legitimacy as image macros of adorable cats and a graphic depiction of The Doctor sodomizing Barack Obama in order to procure a the plans for a secret device that would turn all the freshwater on Earth into cheeseburgers and mucus (is that a thing? I so want it to be a thing). I am a published author, meaning somewhere in an Amazon warehouse and a High School library, is a collection of pages with a shiny cover and my name all over it. My book has joined the glorious ranks of Fifty Shades of Grey (I'd call it porn, but it has less depth of character than, f'rinstance, College Sluts Like it Big 14) and Shit My Dad Says (a book so easy to write that a TV show about community college but still refuses to touch on actual academia made fun of it). And then, of course, there is the meme. The laziest, yet one of the most popular forms of entertainment. Memes are the lowest common denominator of humor, and yet they are successful. They are, by definition, the same thing over and over. There's very little variety, and even less depth, but people eat that shit up like hungry, hungry hippos.
I'm not a psychologist (except when I pretend to be one, but this is not one of those times), so I cannot speak to any reasoning about why this emdumbening occurs so profusely. I just want to address it, and leave it up to you. I'm sure there's a point in here somewhere, let me check. Ah, right. So, people are dumb. Well, not really. Let's assume, for the sake of this argument, that people are dumb. Then we have two stimuli (there I go, pretending to be a psychologist): one is a smart, important thing that's been dumbed down; the other is an inconsequential dumb thing, dumbed further. Now, the dumb, dumb thing is wildly more successful than the dumb, smart thing. It would seem that people want to be dumb. And the world that we live in not only accepts that mindset, but accommodates,and even encourages it. What we need is a push in the opposite direction. Smart things are dumbed down not for the sake of lowering standards, but to act as a stepping stone to reach higher standards. I'm talking about intelligence standards. We simplify smart things to make intelligence more accessible and maybe even cool (see: Thug Notes, etc). Instead of embracing this step upwards, people have seemed to take the example of dumbing down and apply it to everything. "You can idiot-proof as much as you want, they'll just invent a better idiot," is a bastardized quote from someone that I'm not looking up because I'm still in class (English, now), but it rings true. It is, sadly, the norm to be dumb, and we (as not-dumb people) seem content to let that happen.
Let's take a look finally (FINALLY!) at Cosmos. Cosmos is a show about science, and it is awesome. It uses simple language in a soothing voice, and has a high production budget. For all of the intense porpoises (porpoising intensifies. Damn memes.) Cosmos is entertainment. It is entertainment and entertaining and educational (edutainment gets a bad rap, so I'm not gonna call it that). But it gets people back interested in learning. It is a step in the right direction. But what's more sensational(ized) about it is the stupidity surrounding it. When you see Cosmos in the media (aside from commercials for it and Cosmos itself) it's usually not about what it's doing, you see what Cosmos is not doing. Cosmos is not being dumb. And to some demographics, that's a big huge problem. Cosmos is not in the news because it's inspiring a new generation to pursue science, it's in the news because it's not teaching creationism. Cosmos is a science show, and science has certain standards. For something to be scientific, it needs to be: observable, repeatable, falsifiable, and a bunch of other things. Creationism misses pretty much all of that criteria and thus is not included in this showcase of science. Makes sense, right? Awesome, problem solved. Except it's not, because creationists, have a soapbox to stand on; they're loud, they're dumb, and they get views. The people that are shouting praise for Cosmos are on the same level as the dummies spewing hate, but the hate mongers get more representation because we love watching people be dumb. It doesn't help that people are so willing to jump to a conclusion based on a technical difficulty. The point is (and there is a point) that even when something smart happens, people look at the dumbest part. I'm not telling you how to live your life, but if I was, I'd say: "stop it". What's the point in advancing as a society if it only let's the individuals of that society fall, and worse, be okay with falling? You can say, as I've said here, "people are dumb." But people are only dumb because other people let them be dumb. Don't let people be dumb, otherwise, who's really the dumb one. You are, you big dumb dummy. Well, by that logic, I am too, me big dumb dummy. You see where the problem is?