1386: People are Stupid
|People are Stupid|
Title text: To everyone who responds to everything by saying they've 'lost their faith in humanity': Thanks--I'll let humanity know. I'm sure they'll be crushed.
G. K. Chesterton wrote in an essay: "It is stupid to say that “most people” are stupid. It is like saying “most people are tall,” when it is obvious that “tall” can only mean taller than most people. It is absurd to denounce the majority of mankind as below the average of mankind."
It is a common thing for people on the Internet (on forums and comments sections of various websites) to make vague generalizations about the "stupidity of all people" or "losing faith in humanity," for instance when the topic is actually the stupidity or irrational/extreme behavior of one individual or group of individuals. The comment can come in any type of Internet forum, regardless of the subject.
However, the overall world population ("people") is not more stupid than the average - by definition. There is also no other human population to compare to to draw the conclusion this population is stupid. So it is a stupid comment that White Hat makes. The award being given to him by Cueball is thus a very sarcastic one.
It is possible that for a non-normal distribution of intelligence a median individual could be less intelligent than the mean. However, the statement as it is usually formulated (including here), "People are stupid," refers to humanity as a whole. White Hat's anecdotal and subjective experience has led him to make a statistically impossible statement.
White Hat's self-perceived superiority may be an example of the Lake Wobegon effect, so named because Lake Wobegon (a fictional city) is "where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average".
The last panel may be a reference to the First Annual Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence which is a fictional award in the story of The Simpsons episode Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes? where it is presented to Homer Simpson.
In the title text the other phrase about having lost their faith in humanity also gets a comment on the way from Cueball. There are people who use this phrase every time someone disagrees with them or say something they think is stupid. He jokes that he will let humanity (everyone other than the guy who makes the comment) know that he has lost faith in them - and very sarcastically remarks that humanity will probably be crushed (i.e. the rest of the world does not care if that guy has lost faith in them).
- [White Hat and Cueball are standing next to each other.]
- White Hat: Well, you know, people are stupid.
- Cueball: *Sigh*
- [They have moved a little further apart.]
- Cueball: No, people aren't stupid. On average, people are of average intelligence. When you say "people are stupid," you mean stupid compared to your expectations.
- [Close up of Cueball.]
- Cueball: What you're really saying is "other people aren't as smart as me."
- Cueball: And maybe you're right! In which case
- [White Hat is presented with a trophy by Cueball.]
- Cueball: I'd like to bestow upon you the
- [In the panel there is a close up of the trophy plaque (the text is in a frame):]
- First Annual Award for Excellence in Being Very Smart
- Cueball: May you continue to grace our internet with your wisdom
add a comment! ⋅ add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ refresh comments!
On average yes, an individual is of average intelligence. But taken as a population of a whole, well, that's a different story entirely. Randall needs a vacation, ever since he jumped the shark with the dead baby it just feels like the downward trend is getting steeper. --220.127.116.11 13:20, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
- I don't really think that he jumped the shark. I don't quite get what you are trying to say, and individual can't be of average intelligence. You must first define the average, if we take the mean intelligence of the whole population, then take a person from the sample, then we say that the individual is of average intelligence. You can't say people is stupid while referring to the whole population, because of the definition of stupid, if we take a sample of low IQ people then those people are going to be of average intelligence within the sample, the same goes to the whole population. So this comic is perfectly valid. --18.104.22.168 04:50, 27 June 2014 (UTC)
Isn't that a reference to the Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence? 22.214.171.124 04:49, 25 June 2014 (UTC)krayZpaving
White Hat being burned? This certainly will not end here.--126.96.36.199 04:52, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb. This wiki is founded on the very principle that people are stupid. 188.8.131.52 05:35, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
- You make an intelligent point, which I both appreciate and like. 184.108.40.206 13:41, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
This comment is one that makes me scratch my head and wonder... surely Randall is able to see that intelligence is not a relative but rather an absolute thing (if one were to kill the 10% most intelligent people the rest wouldn't get dumber, nor smarter). Surely intelligence is not to be measured in units of the common denominator. Surely it is obvious that 2nd panel is a pure strawman. Sigh... Oh and btw an IQ of 100 is the median, not the average. 220.127.116.11 09:18, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
- I am wondering if the explanation should not include a mention of the Median/Mean problem because it is entirely possible for a majority of a population to be above or below some mean (average) statistic depending on the distribution. Also stupidity is a standard that is not dependent on either median or mean.Sturmovik (talk) 11:46, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
- The IQ of 100 is actually defined to be the median AND the average (and also the mode). It is also defined that the distibution around the IQ of 100 is a perfect bell curve. The IQ just tells you how many people in the world have your IQ (It is also defined that two values that have same distance from hundred, e.g. 80 and 120 have the same amount of people, 'cause it's a perfect bell curve (this means that there are as many people with IQ 120 as people with IQ 80). If the overall population gets more intelligent they have to make the IQ tests harder, so that 100 is again the average and median (This really happened). This and some other things are reasons why I think that IQ tests are BS. --18.104.22.168 14:01, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
- "A test device with numerous correlates measures an amount of environmental influences beside innate determinants, therefore bullshit"... What are your other objections to I.Q. testing? 22.214.171.124 14:17, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
The mocking "award", which is an analogy of saying "intelligence isn't everything" (an EXTREMELY common cliche), reflects the fact that Randall, like just about anyone, is oblivious to the magnitude of the totality of positive correlates of intelligence, and even (TRIGGER WARNING, TABOO CONCEPT AHEAD) I.Q. Intelligence, I.Q., not only makes you happier, it also makes you more helpful to other people, more creative, more socially stable, better-to-do, less susceptible to mental illnesses, more likely to remember events in your life, etc. etc. etc... Basically, there isn't a positive trait or quality of life with which intelligence doesn't correlate. But people positively LOATHE awareness of how highly intelligence, in fact, matters. Hence the vehement denial whenever someone indicates its importance, all the "I know an intelligent person who is miserable/mean/...", all stressing of exceptions, all ridicule of the notion of intelligence in general, all the "don't think about it"-mentality, all writing off of I.Q. as "antiquated, grossly limited, racist, metric" rather than the extremely potent predictor that it is. tl;dr Randall at all, take time to actually STUDY intelligence or the g factor before you mock it like that. 126.96.36.199 09:25, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
- IQ is based on an arbitrary test and isn't necessarily accurate or reliable. Cognitive ability (which IQ does not accurately measure) WOULD make you more creative, have better memory, etc. I don't know anything about the mental illness thing, but it doesn't make you happier- you can be extremely intelligent but still have a miserable life. Also many "geniuses" in history have emotional issues and unbalanced lives. Intelligence doesn't make you more helpful, either. Yes, you might be more ABlE to help others, but only if you were educated, and only if you WANT to. Plus, this is a webcomic poking fun at people generalizing humanity, not an in-depth analysis of IQ. This whole argument is pointless, and I don't know why I just wasted a bunch of time on it... I guess I have fallen for the trap described by comic 386, Duty Calls. Random xkcd Fan (talk) 00:41, 26 October 2016 (UTC)
- In other words (and this is going to be my last addendum to this note, because it is a vast subject), whenever people say (or imply, as in the comic's case) that "intelligence isn't everything", the question to ask in return is, "okay, now what is the degree to which intelligence enables, facilitates, contributes to, 'the rest' to which you're opposing intelligence here?". People minimise the depth and breadth of the intellectual substrate of achievement. 188.8.131.52 09:33, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
- Also, Randall (and everyone saying that) is being highly unjust in equating "people aren't smart" with "people aren't as smart as me". A perfectly valid alternative sense is, "people aren't as smart as to be rationally expected to contribute to rather than damage the discussion/situation/position at hand"--having the objective good, the objective recognition that certain situations (for instance, a certain online conversation which is expected to be competent) require certain minimal intellectual thresholds (for instance, an I.Q. of 120), in mind rather than egotic comparison. Lower intelligence, deny it all you please, comes with temperamental problems for instance. Selection for intelligence will largely filter them out. 184.108.40.206 09:46, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
- tl;dr of my entire production here: people must learn that BOTH situations of the Dunning-Kruger are equally harmful, the one that's less often considered perhaps actually even more so. Mistaken self-perception as intelligent is bad for the individual, but refusal to acknowledge the importance of one's own cognitive capacity (which is as good as universal in intelligent people--"I am not that smart" (who hasn't heard that one innumerable times?), "I just like doing thing x, my proficiency in it has nothing to do with my intelligence or I.Q.", "I have areas in which I'm 'stupid' too", "effort counts too") has societal consequences, of contributing to erroneous dismissal of the notions of intelligence & I.Q. & g etc. Shutting up for good now. Night. 220.127.116.11 10:11, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
- GAHHHHH just one more thing. Consider this: the fact that people dismiss I.Q. is the best indicator of how important a trait it really is. Thing is, people would not feel compelled by modesty to deny its importance had it not been vitally integral to many, many things. We deny what we value, so to give hope to those who lack that thing (to comfort those who lack intelligence). 18.104.22.168 10:15, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
- Okay, no offense, but maybe you should calm down a bit. It's just a WEBCOMIC, not the Universal Decree of All Things Correct and Accepted as True. Also, I'm pretty sure you're overthinking it. Randall is just poking fun at those who say, "oh, people are stupid, you know". Cueball isn't seriously giving statistics (although I do agree with his logic- intelligence is NOT absolute, it's relative. And IQ is obsolete; it's based on arbitrary tests and vary based on things like race and social class, which should be evidence enough that it isn't some divine, and 100% precise way of calculating cognitive ability). Cueball is simply making fun of White Hat's statement that "people are stupid". Also the comic generally points out making remarks about the human race as a whole doesn't help anything... -- Random xkcd Fan (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- Hey 22.214.171.124... I wonder if you have something to say, but despite my best efforts, I'm having trouble following everything you're saying - I have a feeling you were a bit emotional (perhaps tired?) when writing that, or you might have had fewer "more things" immediately following "I'm done" statements. If you're up for it, I'd appreciate you taking the time to make sure you're saying what you want to say, and then say it, because you seem to at least have good grammar (though there were a few British spellings... :-D), so I suspect you probably have a good point. It's also conceivable that I'm just not smart enough to get what you're saying (?) or perhaps it's just too early for me. BTW the best way of making sure I see what you're saying would probably be to let me know on my talk page... might even have the conversation there if you'd prefer. Thanks for your time. Brettpeirce (talk) 11:25, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
- I don't know why you think that 126.96.36.199... No where does the comic say that. The mocking award is simply mocking people who may or may not have higher intelligence than the people they're addressing taking a Better Than Thou attitude because they think they do. In other words: "Higher intelligence doesn't give you an excuse to act like a jerk." I'm sure you can agree with that too 188.8.131.52 04:42, 26 June 2014 (UTC)
I would add one "people are stupid" angle not yet mentioned: judging by behavior, most groups of people are less intelligent that any member of that group individually. This is valid even for the "all people" group - just look at the planet. Surprisingly, judging by content of most wikis, the "editors of wiki" groups seems to immune. -- Hkmaly (talk) 10:05, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
- Good point--conforming to pressures of one's group or one's position to the detriment of one's judgment is a separate personality trait. The phenomenon is remedied by intelligence, but independent from it. 184.108.40.206 10:11, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
- Beat me to it. I'd like to add that even individual people have their occasional stupid and intelligent moments, with the stupid ones typically being of greater magnitude. Thus, it's not unreasonable to say that the average actions of people are at least slightly less intelligent than the average intelligence of most people on most days. 220.127.116.11 12:13, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
- Similar to the statement in the film "Men In Black". Agent J says, "Why the big secret [about the aliens among us]? People are smart. They can handle it." Agent K responds, "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it." 18.104.22.168 01:15, 26 June 2014 (UTC)
I can't believe people say things like that, man, people are stupid Halfhat (talk) 10:52, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for the Lake Wobegon references. Not only is it on-target, but I take personal joy seeing mentions of uniquely Minnesotan culture anywhere I can find them. --BigMal27, Minnesota-born, Minnesotan-raised // 22.214.171.124 11:53, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
Instead of saying, "People are stupid," we would do better to say "People make poor decisions / statements / judgments." And this, for multiple reasons, few of them I suspect tied to basal intelligence. Stage of life, level of health and stress, experience relative to the topic, level of education and the quality of that education, cultural idiotic beliefs that interfere with optimal choices, and a zillion others. Plus, as a large percentage of humans are either just coming online in experience and education, or are winding down in health and mental function, we are guaranteed to see a large percentage of stupid decisions right across the IQ landscape. No help for it. 126.96.36.199 13:04, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
- I.Q. affects level of health and stress, rate of acquisition of experience, level of education, quality of education obtained, preference of cultural beliefs. It doesn't seem to defy reason that it affects the zillion other factors, too. 188.8.131.52 13:17, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
- Remember, in interaction between psychological and social factors, the question is never of *existence* of a connection, but of its magnitude. It is fine to posit a multitude of environmental factors that determine (ir)rationality, but as long as such position keeps people from connecting I.Q. with those factors' actual occurrence (how much I.Q. does it take to finish a good school? to develop a habit of reading a book every month? this is not at all trivial question, and it needs to be resolved with more than anecdotal evidence of "I know an intelligent illiterate person"), there might be an elephant buried underneath the room which no one knows about. 184.108.40.206 13:25, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
I know Cueball's explanation can be construed to illustrate otherwise; but I doubt the comic was meant to be a comment on the relative intelligence of humanity. It seems more likely, to me, that the purpose of the comic was to comment on the stonewalling that the mindset, "I'm better than you," induces. 220.127.116.11 15:12, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
The cartoon never mentions I.Q. at all, Just "Average Intelligence", so the Mean/Median discussion is moot. As for the other discussion on this page, I'm just going to quote Blaise Pascal: "I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time" Jim E (talk) 16:00, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
As mentioned above, in other comments that it's hard to find a way to indent from, there's a difference between different 'average's. (To compare "the median" with "the average" is not a good way of doing it, because one needn't know whether you're talking mean or mode in the second sense. I could even say that I have more than the average number of arms, for a human.) The assumption that the median [i]and[/i] mean (and, perhaps, also mode) are a single location at which 100IQ can be placed is dependant upon the bell curve being symmetrical. Just one hyper-intelligent could skew the mean well above the median. (Ok, so we're talking about comic-book "hyper"ness, to make it significant, in a world's worth of population, but the principle still stands for any more manageable population.) And about IQ tests being recalibrated... there is already a common convention that there's a score-adjuster (or a look-up table, based on this) that gives you different IQs for the same number of correct answers but for people of different ages (and sometimes male/female). Which seems to me like "we give up trying to be demographically neutral, let's just find how well different people answer in our test and then work out where their own arbitrary sub-group's bell-curve stradles". That said, I like IQ tests. I do well in them, and have fun doing them, even if I don't actually believe in them any more than I believe in Sudoku puzzles! And, sorry, I ended up typing far more than I had intended... 18.104.22.168 16:31, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
I see a lot of discussion on intelligence, but nothing on "losing faith in humanity". The way I see it everywhere is not in response to stupid people, but to acts of inhumanity. Random acts of violence and hate, for example. Or not random, but large scale. "Restored my faith in humanity" comments often refer to the opposite (in my experience) which involve random acts of kindness, or large-scale altruism. 22.214.171.124 08:48, 26 June 2014 (UTC)
What about people using Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and any other "social network web 2.0" thing? They certainly aren't an individual or small group, they are stupid and I've lost my faith in them. :) 126.96.36.199 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
There are distributions where majority of the population would indeed be below average. Luckily for humanity, intelligence is on a bell curve! I am happy beyond words that this is the case. 188.8.131.52 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
This has to be one of the most entertaining boring conversations I've ever come across! Brilliant! (Or not.) Taibhse (talk) 14:12, 26 June 2014 (UTC)
I think when someone says "people are stupid", they actually usually mean something like "people systematically make mistakes that I feel are readily avoidable", rather than making an actual judgement regarding general intelligence. So this comic feels rather off to me. 184.108.40.206 08:01, 27 June 2014 (UTC)
- If you read xkcd long enough, you'll find a lot of Randall's comics feel "off." 220.127.116.11 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Interestingly, the people making comments about average people being stupid tend to be, eh, below-average-smart themselves. 18.104.22.168 00:47, 28 June 2014 (UTC)
- "Interestingly," huh? You sound smart. 22.214.171.124 14:39, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
When I say "People are stupid" I mean that a group of people making a decision is much stupider than a person. 126.96.36.199 04:33, 28 June 2014 (UTC)
"No, people aren't stupid. On average, people are of average intelligence."
Hey, guys. Consider that average intelligence is stupid. 188.8.131.52 14:39, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
- Yeah, this is how I've always interpreted "People are stupid" it means, considering we all think we're a smart species, our average intelligence is really low. It's not "I'm better than everybody/average/most people" but "Everybody/the average person/most people is/are worse than most people believe" 184.108.40.206 13:15, 15 July 2014 (UTC)
- You stupid, stupid humans. 220.127.116.11 02:25, 25 September 2015 (UTC)
What if the distribution of intelligence is bimodal? If no one is of "average" intelligence, might the more extreme stupidity of a large portion of the population give the impression that the actual average is lower than it appears? Bppubjr (talk) 14:48, 1 July 2014 (UTC)
"People is dumb." 18.104.22.168
All the (admittedly online) IQ tests I've done have always been focussed on logic, mental manipulation of shapes, maths, deduction etc. While this favours those with a certain type of brain, I can't help but think it is heavily biased against those with creative types of thinking. Hand me a paintbrush and canvas, and my logical brain is of no help at all --Pudder (talk) 15:17, 20 October 2014 (UTC)
- Intelligence is the ability of learning, the use of logic and solving problems. While being creative is good, necessary and a very useful thing by itself, is NOT intelligence. So a person could be creative and being dumb at the same time, or the opposite. Also, there are not different kind of brains. The whole left-brain vs right-brain thing is a myth: http://www.livescience.com/39373-left-brain-right-brain-myth.html 22.214.171.124 21:07, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
Not XKCD's best work. This is a normal response that smarter people initially feel when encountering others, having taking themselves as the baseline. This actually reflects a lack of elitism, where you expect other people to be the same as you and are surprised they are not (pretty much the opposite as portrayed here). Case in point is Freeman Dyson. Here's an excerpt from the Atlantic Monthly piece on him:
The prodigy in question, Freeman Dyson, now middle-aged, stared ahead, his incessant concentration on the road unbroken. He seemed mesmerized by the oncoming pavement, or by some idea or formulation glimpsed in the immateriality beyond the pavement. I asked him whether as a boy he had speculated much about his gift. Had he asked himself why he had this special power? Why he was so bright?
Dyson is almost infallibly a modest and self-effacing man, but tonight his eyes were blank with fatigue, and his answer was uncharacteristic.
“That’s not how the question phrases itself,” he said. “The question is: why is everyone else so stupid?”
126.96.36.199 00:41, 6 November 2015 (UTC)
386 + 1000?
In Duty Calls (386) http://http://xkcd.com/386/ people were just wrong. Fast forward 1000 strips and they are stupid. Hananc (talk) 13:55, 23 July 2016 (UTC)
I disagree with the author here. Due to ambiguities of language it can correctly be said that most people are stupid. On one hand, we have the strict definition of average intelligence: it is defined by the intelligence of the average. If, however, one defines intelligence based on each person's average use of what they have, well, averaged over time, most people don't use what they have. That is why I assert that most people are stupid: because they have the ability to be average or above, but in practice their lack of thinking leads to decisions as bad of those who would score far worse on any real or theoretically perfect test.
note: The form of testing and its accuracy is irrelevant. It's just a score generated by a process.
188.8.131.52 07:37, 13 November 2018 (UTC)
Anybody else notice how TRIGGER WARNING: DO NOT READ IF YOU CAN'T TAKE CRITICISM might be proving White Hat's idea right? Just look at the arguments! Note: While not all people are stupid, a moderate percentage of internet contributers have been observed to act stupidly.184.108.40.206 19:50, 6 November 2019 (UTC)
Analysis of definitions
1. "People are X" can mean either "all people are X" (1a) or "most people possess the property Y at least to the degree X" (1b), in this case " a majority of people are unintelligent enough to be called stupid"
2. "Stupid" can mean "below average intelligence" (2a) or "less smart than a reference value (ex. the intelligence of the speaker, or how intelligent the speaker would like humans to be, or than required to deal with a task or problem at hand)" (2b).
Now we just need to go through the combinations of the definitions.
1a/2a. All people have intelligence below average. Impossible by definition of "average".
1b/2a. A majority of people have below average intelligence. Possible if the distribution curve is skewed, i.e. if most people have intelligence slightly below average and some people are a lot smarter than the average. My sample, however, says that the opposite is the case, though it might also be skewed in respect to general population.
1a/2b. No people are smart enough for X. Possible depending on the definition of "enough". The speaker is very probably not the smartest human being in existence, but some statements such as "no living human have demonstrated enough intelligence to formulate a definite proof of Riemann hypothesis as of yet" are objectively true.
1b/2b. Most people are not smart enough for X. Again possible depending on the definition, moreso as most if not all problems could be solved well enough if all or most people just cooperated better and prioritized the global good over their own.
Therefore, the statement can be fine as long as the speaker has a good reason to say it in a particular context and/or includes himself in it. In any other case, Cueball's reaction is justified.
I have to disagree with this comic. Yes, on average, people are of average intelligence. However, if the average intelligence is "stupid", then the average person is stupid. R3TRI8UTI0N (talk) 00:11, 30 March 2023 (UTC)
- As long as you're happy with calling half* of all people very stupid.
- - Or you could be mean and assume it's an extreme outlier dragging the number down.
- Which begs the question how smart one needs to be to be considered smart. 220.127.116.11 00:49, 30 March 2023 (UTC)