Whenever I was particularly frustrated with either the state of the world in general, or the type of music played everywhere, yet another braindead-hence-extremely-popular TV show, or even more moronic popular gadgets/appliances/food/whatever becoming available, I started wondering why exactly such bad ideas could succeed. My friend Pierre used to give the least exciting but most convincing answer:
It's because 9 out of 10 are stupid.
Not the most positive view on the world but charmingly misanthropic and disappointingly consistent. It seems like Erik has come to a similar conclusion, with his friend Dave providing the same numbers. But I don't like the conclusions he draws in his piece. Not because of its readily rebutted political incorrectness but rather because of 'digital divide' he suggests, making it seem like computer-related mailing lists are the heavens of literacy.
I enjoy reading many of Erik's posts and am convinced he's not stupid. Still he seems to share many habits of stupid people: Liking oversized cars, watching crap telly or even worse commercial junk, even regularly, as it seems. And of course he's a programmer. Now, in my mindframe the words stupid and programmer go together naturally – there are just too many examples. So, unlike Erik, I think a programmer has to prove he's not stupid, rather than assuming he's clever from the beginning. In fact, the ways in which programmers can express themselves are often limited by 7-bit ASCII. [This seems to be the beginning of the path of discussing the habit of being condescending vis-à-vis other professions, nationalities etc – interesting, funny even, but not to be taken today.] And if this had been the first thing I learned about him, I probably wouldn't have bothered reading further. I guess you could find some things about most people that would make someone consider them stupid.
And concerning discern of non-computer related mailing lists, I think Erik is very wrong. In fact that's the main reason I'm writing this. The first mailing list I subscribed to many years ago was f-minor, a list dedicated to my favourite pianist Glenn Gould. Many extremely knowledgeable and friendly people are on there whose expertise on music frequently made me feel inadequate and uneducated. Many interesting things to learn and colourful people to get to know. Not a hint of stupidity there.
I guess it depends where you're looking. SUV aficionados will have a different kind of sophistication than lovers of serious music. Almost all of my friends are/were at university. Surely they're not representative for all the population. Being used to having educated people around you inevitably makes everybody else look more stupid than they'd seem from a different perspective. Still, this is my perspective, I enjoy it and I don't want to change it.
On the other hand, having this perspective, isn't just about sneering at other people. That became boring a long time ago. And them being 90% of the population means that they rule the world: Most businesses and countries aren't run by the people whom we'd consider the brightest. The most successful books, films, music, entertainment, food, software, gadgets, cars, your-dictionary-here ... aren't the best but those most easily to shove down the throats of stupid people. And that means that to establish the 90% rule, all it takes is a trip down to the supermarket, the internet or your TV.What you see there is worse than what Erik saw on that mailing list. The only thing the mailing-list incident highlights – and Erik doesn't mention this – is that people who are on that list probably aren't quite 'The Common Folk'. They most likely have jobs, enough money to buy huge cars, computers, internet access, ways of finding communities to share their thoughts about the cars, enough spare time to actually do this. And that may be depressing – these people have 'made it' and still they're extremely gullible or even stupid. Might shake your trust in the so-called meritocracy or even the American Dream™.
Pulp, Common People
My previous two entries have touched off a little discussion. However, the piece I found most interesting was this one from Michael Hanscom: Intelligent people…
Thanks to my paper, I haven’t had a whole lot of free time. But I finally made some time (i.e. I’m burned out for the moment) to go and read the long discussion that’s been happening on Erik’s site along with number of other sites as well. Erik starts off
Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of everything is crud.
Received data seems to be invalid. The wanted file does probably not exist or the guys at last.fm changed something.