Computer-Enhanced Idiocy


I’m very pleased to have been chosen as one of the few individuals to receive a pre-release copy of the keynote lecture that Lady Cecelia Montgovern-Baggley, Professor of Applied Cognition at the University of Slumberside, will be holding at the upcoming First Annual International Symposium on Computer-Enhanced Idiocy. Here, in full, is Lady Montgovern-Baggley’s speech:

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for inviting me to give this keynote address at this ground-breaking symposium on the new field of research known as computer-enhanced idiocy. It is a great honor, an honor I, of course, share with my colleagues at the University of Slumberside who worked tirelessly with me in our investigations into this exciting new field of how human behavior is influenced by modern computer technology.

First of all, a few words on nomenclature. As some of you may know, I am actually opposed to the use of the word “idiocy” with respect to the field of cognitive studies that we are engaged in, preferring to call it “alternative intelligence”. However, I was out-voted at the last steering committee meeting, and I do, of course, respect that decision. Incidentally, I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize for my outburst at that meeting, when I accused the chairman of displaying superlative alternative intelligence.

But now, to the subject at hand: The exciting new field of research into computer-enhanced idiocy.

There has been much discussion and a certain amount of research into the related question of computer-enhanced intelligence. Most scientists are in agreement that computers have indeed increased our species’ level of aptitude. We have all human knowledge gathered together in Wikipedia, we have instant access to news from around the world, we can search for information and we can communicate with each other in ways that only a few years ago would have been incomprehensible. So there is little doubt that computer-enhanced intelligence is here, and that we as a species are the better off for it.

Unfortunately, what those who work with computer-enhanced intelligence often forget is that intelligence is not a dominant trait in the human species. We humans exhibit many other traits that outweigh intelligence, including idiocy. Our research at the University of Slumberside seems to indicate that humans, in general, tend to display approximately twice as much idiocy as intelligence, although there is a very great deal of individual variation.

This news that human idiocy outweighs human intelligence may be surprising to some in the audience here. It is, however, an irrefutable fact, at least according to our research. For a simple example demonstrating the truth of this claim I suggest that you consider the current state of television programming. If, after watching a typical television channel for 24 hours, you don’t agree that idiocy far outweighs intelligence – well all I have to say is, “I rest my case.”

Now, what we are observing is that although technology is enhancing human intelligence, it is also enhancing human idiocy. And since idiocy is the stronger trait, computer-enhanced idiocy is winning out over computer-enhanced intelligence.

Here’s an example of what I consider to be almost pure computer-enhanced idiocy: The idea that American President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, and is therefor an illegitimate president. Without computers and without the Internet this idea would never have gotten started, let alone spread so much and gotten so much attention and support.

So there you have it: Idiocy, when enhanced by computer technology, becomes powerful and pervasive. Think of the number of conspiracy theories that flourish on the Internet. And note that no amount of proof, no amount of intelligence, computer-enhanced or otherwise, can counteract this computer-enhanced idiocy.

Furthermore, as technology moves on, so will technologically-enhanced idiocy. The latest example of this is Twitter, which runs not only on the Internet but on our mobile devices. Twitter is creating a kind of “collective consciousness” or “hive mentality” for the human species, and the results are quite remarkable.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. When Apple recently, with much fanfare, introduced their new iPad device, the “third most-talked about trend on Twitter” was related to remarks linking the name of the product to female hygiene napkins!

So what I’m saying is that with Twitter we can see human nature as it really is, and let’s face it, it makes Beavis and Butt-head look smart! Idiocy, ladies and gentlemen, is in the ascendancy.

In conclusion, I’d just like to say that I am convinced that now, at the start of what some have called the “tweety-first century”, that we are entering a new golden age of idiocy. This is, of course, great news for those of us who are studying this fascinating aspect of human behavior – we have exciting times ahead of us as computer-enhanced idiocy may become the all-dominating attribute of our species.

Thank you for your attention, and have a great conference.

One Response to “Computer-Enhanced Idiocy”

  1. First posted Feb. 6, 2010.

    The weird thing is there are people who think it’s very important that the name iPad can have connotations to female hygiene napkins. There were several who were trying to update the Wikipedia article about the iPad, insisting that this “fact” be made part of the article.

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