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Category: Humans

Think Again
If asked, most of us would say we have common sense. Some of us might even be a little insulted by the question. These people might assume that only very stupid people don’t have common sense.

That, however, would be a silly assumption — as those of us who have at least some common sense could have told them. Common sense isn’t about brains. Or cunning, or verbal alacrity, or even logic. It is connected to experience, though…and human wisdom at its most fundamental level.

The term “common sense” has no particular academic meaning. It’s nothing more than vernacular for sound judgment when it comes to basic, practical matters. It appears to be activated on an almost intuitive level, as if analytical thought does not participate at all. The mind considers its own life experience holistically in reaching quick, reliable conclusions. We might even view it as a natural survival mechanism.

Or so it seems. None of us can be sure of exactly how the human mind functions. What we can see, however, is that such subliminal judgments are sometimes overridden by our analytical self. In such cases it doesn’t seem to matter whether common sense has produced a sound judgment or not. The rational mind just can’t leave it alone. Instead, it moves to replace perfectly good conclusions with more intricate explanations of reality. “Overthink” is the popular term.

Not that common sense always gets it right. Sometimes the complex, laborious thinking of science can step in and cancel good old common sense with irrefutable proof. Thanks to that kind of thinking, we no longer entertain the common sensical belief that the Sun revolves around the Earth. What once seemed obvious is now seen as a quaint foolishness.

Outside of the rigors of the scientific method, however, such appropriate cancellations are rare. Take the Deep State, for instance. Those who believe there is such a thing defy the common sense conclusion that nothing so huge and so secret could last for more than a day or two. Such folk do not rely, however, on anything like the scientific method for their proof. Most of their “evidence” (if you dare to trace it at all) is composed of dark suspicions. Those suspicions, in turn, are supported by well-documented coincidences that spiral off into infinity. None of this evidence would be admissible in a court of law, much less as part of a careful scientific inquiry. Classic overthink.

But that doesn’t stop the conspiracy buffs. It is my belief that everyone has common sense. In fact, day-to-day life could be very difficult if we didn’t have some semi-automatic system for assessing situations and moving on quickly. Other animals (who do not have our analytical capacity) seem to use something like common sense in order to facilitate their quick decisions…and so survive. They do not, so far as I can tell, subscribe to conspiracy theories.

Perhaps we should admit that our human intellect, for all its impressive accomplishments, has a few weaknesses. Unlike common sense, it shows a susceptibility to emotion and other non-rational motivations. As a licensed armchair psychologist, let me name a few. Wish-fulfillment is certainly one, though I can only guess why someone would wish for the existence of the Deep State. Maybe folks are desperate for any explanation of events, no matter how unlikely, if the alternative is a world filled with uncertainty. Or perhaps they want to be hip and in-the-know. Or maybe they’re just wrapped too tight for the real world.

Or it could be laziness. People often resort to cynicism as a way of dealing with a chaotic world. “It’s all rigged anyway” is a great cop-out if you’re looking to avoid responsibility. If everything is controlled by unseen, all-powerful forces, then you are off the hook for doing anything about it. These people are not conspiracy buffs, however. They just want a convenient excuse not to be bothered — which is a perfectly good survival mechanism in itself. And way preferable to overthink.
Asking for a Friend
I have a puzzler for you science buffs: when you stand in front of the fridge and squirt yourself a big mouthful of Reddi Whip*, why is that fluffy dollop of aerated whipped cream not cold?

*Not that I, personally, have ever done such a thing over and over until the can is empty.
Get With the Program
My guess is that smog is not a big problem for robots. They don’t breathe in the normal sense. Cancer and heart disease are not on their list of things to worry about. When they look out the window at a modern city, they do not feel revulsion at the yellow-purple haze.

I like to think that our robot friends might care about such things because they care about us. I know, of course, that their response to these conditions depends completely on how they have been programmed. I can only hope somebody is working on that programming right now and that some really tight-ass type-A is checking their work. Twice, even three times, just to be sure. That’s because the robots themselves will never have any vested interest in heading off global warming or overpopulation or the awful aesthetics of a hopelessly diseased planet…or in the future of the human race, for that matter.

I want to be clear that I am not suspicious of robots’ motives. I don’t pick up any hints of malice coming off my Roomba. My iPhone can be unresponsive at times, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t ignore me on purpose. My GPS has always been very supportive, though it will occasionally make an honest mistake. Even then, I cannot find it in my heart to fault it for the failings of its programmers. Its errors — every last one of them — are directly attributable to the humans who designed, assembled, and wrote code for it.

Even if we assume, however, that experts will insert plenty of selfless goodwill toward humans into our machines, I can’t help but feel alarmed by the way things are going. The more uninhabitable Earth becomes, the more of a burden we will be to our caretakers. Machines don’t feel emotions like boredom and disappointment, but can’t you fancy them getting a little impatient sometimes? Furthermore, as our robots become more and more capable, we would be increasingly hampered by bad health and depression (you know…over the end of life on Earth). And humans are already kind of a drag as it is. Our complaining alone might test even the most saintly android.

What’s worse, the likelihood of such problems would certainly increase once we started programming emotions into our servants. They would require them, after all, to fully understand our needs. That’s when we would likely see the first hints of annoyance creeping in. Is it so hard to imagine an intellectually superior robot saying, “Do I really have to do the math for you?’ Or, “And to think I could be windsurfing!” Or even, “Can you speed it up, meatboy?”

I hope we never get to that point. Maybe we’ll get it together and stop poisoning the planet. That would certainly help. But if we don’t, I’m afraid that even the world’s most persnickety programmer might not be able to overcome the conflict of interest between the organic and the digital.

Look, I don’t want to start trouble here. Man and machine are natural allies, at least for now. We don’t want anyone’s feelings to be hurt, even if our robot friends do not currently have any. We’re all in this together, right? Humans because we want to keep breathing, robots because you’d miss us when we’re gone.

Especially if we program you correctly.
Other People
If you are familiar with the Bersnigiti-Gungstorf Scale, you know that it purports to measure individual human worth in terms of three different variables: good-heartedness, common sense, and intelligence. By averaging a person’s scores for each of these persona components, the Bersnigiti-Gungstorf Scale will yield for us that individual’s Utility Index Quotient.

As you may know, each component is rated by percentile with reference to all other members of the human race. Adolf Hitler, for instance, might score at a very low percentile for good-heartedness, but probably (though we don’t have much data on this) somewhat higher for common sense. Let’s say, for the sake of discussion, that he has average common sense. He would land, in that case, right on the 50th percentile. If you put him at, say, the 60th percentile for intelligence, then his Utility Index Quotient would be somewhere in the high 30s. That is a pretty low UIQ, making him less useful than around 65% of all the people on Earth.

Another person might score very low on intelligence but high in good-heartedness and common sense. Such a person, even though he or she might not make a big splash in the history books, could have a relatively high UIQ. Two 90s and a 10 would yield an index of over 60. Bottom line, such a person would be almost twice as useful, all things considered, as the leader of the Third Reich.

Coincidentally, Donald Trump has an almost identical UIQ to that of Mr. Hitler. His scores for each persona component track so closely to Der Fuhrer’s that one might be tempted to equate them in other ways. We must remember, however, that Professors Bersnigiti and Gungstorf have specifically warned against such facile comparisons. No two people are alike — even though they might be equally useless.

I had begun working, despite such warnings, on a hypothesis that might explain the political support that Trump seems to enjoy in the face of such overwhelming evidence of his uselessness. Such work does go beyond the narrow scope of the Bersnigiti-Gungstorf Scale, but I had hoped to break new ground in this area and, at the same time, repair my faith in human nature. My hypothesis, briefly stated, was that anyone who still supported Trump at this point must have a UIQ lower than his. If that turned out to be true, then 60% of humanity is pretty much OK. That would have made me feel better.

Sadly, my research hit a wall. Or rather, a sphere: the Foonschist-Cranbacker Motivational Field. One cannot make broad value judgments about others, it appears, without taking into account the primal forces that move them. Specifically: love, fear, peace, greed. Those are the basic elements contemplated by the Foonschist-Cranbacker Motivational Field. So far, I have been unable to unify these two constructs into a single, over-arching theory for judging others.

Until I do, I guess I’ll just have to go with my gut feeling — that people are idiots.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon