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Stupid Things Smart People Do

April 18, 2014
Once again, here is a smattering of what the internet says.  I observed some of this behavior at the IT companies I worked for.  Many of them were brilliant on the IQ scale, but couldn’t find their way out of the social (real not web) wet paper bag.
I found most of this on the internet.  If you don’t agree, try arguing with the internet.  BTW, that is one of the stupid things smart people do.
free nobel peace prize
Stupid Stuff smart people do:
Fail to recognize their own cognitive bias
Fail to recognize the cognitive bias in those whom they care about.
Underestimate theal gore Horses-Ass-Awardir own stupidity.
Overestimate the stupidity of others.
Fail to understand Psychological projection

Getting into an argument on the internet.
Believe in global warming.
Believe what’s written on Quora.
Believe that socialism works.
Get frustrated and give up too easily when something doesn’t come naturally to them.

Related to this perhaps is not learning to lose gracefully.

And care more about being perceived as smart rather than doubling down and becoming smarter through failure.

They value intelligence over kindness.

Assuming other people think the same way about things as themselves. Also, assuming people act according to rational cost/benefit analysis of outcomes instead of according to their “gut”, habits or emotions.Also, conflating education (college degrees) for intelligence. This can lead them to pay too much attention to people with the right Ivy League credentials and not realize that it is often people who are “working in the trenches” who know more about what is going on.

They don’t spend enough time wondering “what are some smart things that stupid people do?”Underestimating people is a dangerous habit.
  1. Not reading the instructions.
  2. Never learning the value of practice.
  3. Underestimating the value of experience.
  4. Not learning how to study — really study — so they are unprepared when study is the only thing that will save them.
  5. Procrastinate

A study of successful con-men will show that they choose smart people to con.This is because smart people think they are smart in all things as against just their area of expertise.Smart people are commonly successful from a young age so do not have to experience the problems of  surviving on a daily basis. They are not forced to work for people they don’t like or do jobs they hate.They do not have to live without hope, or accept insults and attitudes of others who denigrate them.In all, they become divorced from the realities of life. They mix with others of their kind, and this reinforces their belief that they are smarter than those of lower social rank.They indulge in conspicuous consumption to keep up with their peers. They develop a lifestyle that assumes they will always have the means to live that way.They are easily conned because con-men flatter them on how  smart they are.

The smart people who end up in jail are rarely short of money, they do what they do because they think they can outsmart others.

How we love to see pride come before a fall.

They are the fodder of movie makers and writers.

Wow, there are so many.  Here are but a few of my favorite stupid things smart people tend to do:

  • Ignoring the importance of design and style – When the iPod originally came out, technical people complained about its lack of features and perceived high price (“ooh, who cares about another MP3 player, I can go buy one at Best Buy for $50”…).  In the meantime, it was so cool and easy to use that normal people went out in droves to buy it.
  • Using terrible tools, and taking pride in their awfulness – Especially common with programmers, who take pride in using programming languages and text editors that have been designed by programmers, not updated since the 1970s, and never touched by anyone with a modicum of design sense. They believe that mastering arcane, overcomplicated commands and processes are a mark of pride, rather than a waste of time.  I will refrain from singling out specific programming languages and tools here, because smart people also like to get caught up in pointless flame wars about this sort of thing.
  • Following the pack – Many smart people often seem to be followers, probably because they grow up spending so much time pleasing others via academic and extracurricular achievement that they never figure out what they really like to work on or try anything unique.  Smart people from top schools tend to flock into the same few elite fields, as they try to keep on achieving what other people think they should achieve, rather than figuring out whatever it is they intrinsically want to do.
  • Failing to develop social skills – Some smart people focus exclusively on their narrow area of interest and never realize that everything important in life is accomplished through other people.  They never try to improve their social skills, learn to network, or self promote, and often denigrate people who excel in these areas. If you are already a good engineer you are going to get 10x the return on time spent improving how you relate to other people compared to learning the next cool tool.
  • Focusing on being right above all else – Many smart people act as if being right trumps all else, and go around bluntly letting people know when they are wrong, as if this will somehow endear others to them.  They also believe that they can change other people’s minds through argument and facts, ignoring how emotional and irrational people actually are when it comes to making decisions or adopting beliefs.
  • Letting success in one area lead to overconfidence in others – Smart people sometimes think that just because they are expert in their field, they are automatically qualified in areas about which they know nothing.  For instance, doctors have a reputation as being bad investors: http://medicaleconomics.modernme….
  • Underrating effort and practice – For smart people, many things come easily without much effort.  They’re constantly praised for “being smart” whenever they do anything well.  The danger is that they become so reliant on feeling smart and having people praise them, that they avoid doing anything that they’re not immediately great at.  They start to believe that if you’re not good at something from the beginning, you’re destined to always be terrible at it, and the thing isn’t worth doing.  These smart people fail to further develop their natural talents and eventually fall behind others who, while less initially talented, weren’t as invested in “being smart” and instead spent more time practicing.…
  • Engaging in zero sum competitions with other smart people – Many smart people tend to flock to fields which are already saturated with other smart people.  Only a limited number of people can become a top investment banker, law partner, Fortune 500 CEO, humanities professor, or Jeopardy champion.  Yet smart people let themselves be funneled into these fields and relentlessly compete with each other for limited slots.  They all but ignore other areas where they could be successful, and that are less overrun by super-smart people.   Instead of thinking outside the box, smart people often think well within a box, a very competitive box that has been set up by other people and institutions to further someone else’s interests at the expense of the smart person.
  • Excessively focusing on comparing their achievements with others – Smart people who have been raised in a typical achievement-focused family or school can get anxious about achievement to the point of ridiculousness.  This leads to people earnestly asking questions like: Success: If I haven’t succeeded in my mid 20s, could I be successful in the rest of my life? and Are you a failure if you are not a billionaire by age 30? What about 40?
  • Ignoring diminishing returns on information – Smart people are often voracious readers and can absorb huge quantities of information on any subject.  They get caught up in reading every last bit of information on subjects that interest them, like investing, lifehacking, or tech specs of products they’re planning on buying.   While some information is useful in making a decision, poring through the vast amount of information available online can be a waste of time.  They end up spending a lot of time gathering information without taking action.
  • Elitism – Smart people often use smartness as measure of the entire worth of a person.  They fail to see the value in or even relate with people who are different.  This is illustrated by the Yale professor who doesn’t have the slightest idea what to say to his plumber: http://www.theamericanscholar.or….  And questions like Am I an elitist to think that most people are stupid?
  • Try to click on the red links above
They become arrogant. They forget they aren’t really the smartest person in the world and flaunt their intelligence to others to the point where it’s annoying and it loses them friends and can hurt a lot of people.On the flip-side smart people can also sacrifice their smarts to fit in by trying to appear dumber than they really are to please others, talking about low-intellect topics which require no thought.Others over-estimate how clever they really are and use what they think is an almighty amount of smarts to pick on others, leaving themselves open to huge critiquing and losing a lot of potential friends.Some even think they’re smarter than they really are when it comes down doing certain tasks which would be much simpler had they taken the time to develop a proper approach to whatever they are doing.
Focusing on thinking to the detriment of doing.Smart people love to think.  It comes naturally to them, and they’re good at it.  But thinking only takes you so far, especially when you’re trying to make an impact on the world.  At some point, you have to do.Because thinking comes so easily to smart people, doing becomes relatively* harder. Research and planning are great in moderation, but can offer the dangerous illusion of progress. In the end, the only way to make a difference is to do something.  Start now.* Note that I say relatively–doing is generally easier for smart people than stupid people.  But thinking is so much easier that smart people tend to fall back on where they have the greatest comparative advantage.

Here is the opening ofSlavojZizek’s magnum opus, Less than Nothing. He is a self-described idiot, imbecile, and neurotic. Others call him the most important philosopher alive:

There are two opposed types of stupidity. The first is the (occasionally) hyper-intelligent subject who just doesn’t “get it,” who understands a situation logically, but simply misses its hidden contextual rules. For example, when I first visited New York, a waiter at a café asked me: “How was your day?” Mistaking the phrase for a genuine question, I answered him truthfully (“ I am dead tired, jet-lagged, stressed out …”), and he looked at me as if I were a complete idiot … and he was right: this kind of stupidity is precisely that of an idiot. Alan Turing was an exemplary idiot: a man of extraordinary intelligence, but a proto-psychotic unable to process implicit contextual rules. In literature, one cannot avoid recalling Jaroslav Hašek’s good soldier Švejk, who, when he saw soldiers shooting from their trenches at the enemy soldiers, ran into no-man’s land and started to shout: “Stop shooting, there are people on the other side!” The arch-model of this idiocy is, however, the naïve child from Andersen’s tale who publicly exclaims that the emperor is naked— thereby missing the point that, as Alphonse Allais put it, we are all naked beneath our clothes.


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