culture history Philosophy politics

On Stupid Ideas and Clever Solutions

Countering stupid ideas proves to be a matter of some subtlety and intelligence…

Stupid ideas are on the whole about as common as clever ideas. It is not a necessary condition of a clever idea to be long and convoluted any more than it is a requirement for a stupid idea to be short and pithy. It does, however, appear to be the case that clever ideas expressed concisely tend to unpack or decompress into demonstrably useful extrapolations and further conceptually fertile informational iterations. Stupid ideas expressed concisely (as slogans or simplistic ideological mantras) do not possess any innate or implicit stored semantic or generally informational potential beyond the production of (self-)similarly vacuous statements and attempts at validation or value generation which under any considered rational analysis logically disassemble into falsehood and fallacy.

Information content in contemporary media and communications messaging is most often a property of successful message compression. Stupid ideas are easily compressed and communicated because they do not on the whole possess very much information content and only very rarely exhibit any new or novel sentential entities. In a world plausibly populated by around as many clever ideas as absurdities, a question might be asked of the apparent and uncanny power of a stupid idea to gain a foothold in the popular zeitgeist, to persist and self-propagate, to generate a momentum and self-validation all its own.

It seems that there exists an elementary symmetry at work which is biased towards the successful self-propagation of ridiculous ideas over the considered, rational and logical concepts or ideas which might effect the world in more positive ways. The unacknowledged elephant-in-this-room of just who defines good or bad, useful or stupid ideas has been intentionally left until late in this particular commentary.

Attempting to identify, define or describe stupid ideas is an exercise fraught with difficulty and is a little like seeking to define political directions and aspirationally historical moments (and movements) in terms of “national interest”. The vigorously contested contemporary spaces of partisan political self-interest have hyper-inflated to a point of Global developmental and intellectual paralysis. In such a discontinuous and pathological (international) communications environment, those few successful succinct messages which percolate out of political discourse and up into public consciousness are generally those ideas illustrating compound, belligerent insecurities and narcissisms of various stultifying kind and ideological flavour. Clever ideas are in general sterilised by the complicated selection mechanisms and conceptual or semantic compression gears of our shared information spaces.

Countering stupid ideas proves to be a matter of some subtlety and intelligence. This represents something of a Gordian Knot for which a successful alternative disentanglement remains yet to be formulated and implemented.



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