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Education Science

Why Smart People Defend Bad Ideas 828

Posted by Zonk
from the smart-does-not-mean-sensible dept.
CHESTER COPPERPOT writes "Scott Berkun writes an interesting essay on 'Why smart people defend bad ideas'. He states a number of interesting highlights on smart people and dumb ideas. From the article: 'In the software industry, the common example of thinking at the wrong level is a team of rock star programmers who can make anything, but don't really know what to make: so they tend to build whatever things come to mind, never stopping to find someone who might not be adept at writing code, but can see where the value of their programming skills would be best applied.'."
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Why Smart People Defend Bad Ideas

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 28, 2005 @10:49PM (#12667597)
    Ego.
  • by Leroy_Brown242 (683141) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @10:53PM (#12667615) Homepage Journal
    Many-a-geek has made the mistake of getting behind an idea that was bad, but didn't have the humility to change sides or admit mistake.

    Not just geeks do this, of course.
  • well... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hsmith (818216) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @10:58PM (#12667646)
    a lot of it has to do with ego, and a lot of it has to do with committing to something and saying "this is what we are going with"

    some people invest a lot of time into ideas and when they see their ideas threatened, they throw up the defense like no other. it transends programming all the way up to world politics.

    i am guilty of it, but i have gotten better at admiting my mistakes and using it as something to build upon. it takes a lot to realize when you are at fault and you fucked up.
  • Re:Jukebox guy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ciroknight (601098) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:01PM (#12667661)
    Yeah, I had a friend that did the same thing.. and I didn't have the heart to say a word.

    He's currently working for Apple pulling in a quarter million a year, while I sit here in Engineering school.
  • by ClosedSource (238333) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:03PM (#12667669)
    considered smart?

    Probably because they did well in school. But school (at least in the US) wasn't designed to teach people to think, but to teach them to memorize facts and follow directions.
  • by mothlos (832302) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:04PM (#12667679)
    There are lots of very capable coders out there who make excelent code for other techies, but for this very reason the UI often sucks. The individualism and "if you don't like it, fix the code yourself" attitude of many open source projects means that people who aren't code junkies, but are excelent at understanding what a user might want get excluded from the process far too often.
  • Uhmm (Score:1, Insightful)

    by andreyw (798182) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:06PM (#12667687) Homepage
    Or in other words... this whole article is meant as a defense for the existence and proliferation of "managers", whose MBA degrees supposedly give them the magical ability to manage and control, without actually knowing anything worth damn about what they are managing.

    There is no excuse to put in charge MBA-only types (or individuals whose knowledge base does not correspond with that of the company's). How can a "manager" manage and make clear, informed decisions about the direction of his/her company, if he/she has only a vague idea of wtf is being done? Look at HP.

    Yes, mod me down if you are a PHB type, or some weak moron who needs a complete dipshit in a suit to tell him day-to-day what to do.
  • Backwards! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fm6 (162816) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:06PM (#12667689) Homepage Journal
    You're describing somebody who is so afraid of making a bad decision, they can't make any. TFA describes pretty much the opposite problem: being unfraid to risk a bad decision, but never being able to admit that it was bad.
  • Pride. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by blackest sun (700836) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:07PM (#12667693) Homepage Journal
    When someone, or a team, puts so much hard work into something pride prevents one from stepping back to say "Wow. That's really messed up. We need to abandon/start over/find a new job"...leadership is lacking. It doesn't necessarily mean that every project needs a dictator. Sometimes a person will step up and provide direction before disappearing into the masses. Sometimes natural chaos works, sometimes a king is sorely lacking. Direction should never be taked for granted, however.
  • Re:Jukebox guy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dgatwood (11270) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:08PM (#12667694) Journal
    I programmed a music jukebox once... except that what started as a mechanism for triggering mpg123 with a reasonable random scheme changed over the course of about two years into a radio station automation app....

    Just because something starts out seeming uninteresting, that doesn't necessarily mean that it will end up being useless. And even if the project doesn't go anywhere, the experience you gain in writing it can end up serving you down the line, whether through code reuse or just through gaining a better general understanding of various technologies that you use along the way.

  • by ciroknight (601098) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:10PM (#12667709)
    Isn't that what they feed everyone in school; "You can do anything if you just put your mind to it"?

    In my younger years, I took this to mean "Do everything, because you can". Now that I'm in college, that entire lesson was bunk, and now I'm stuck with a bunch of what I'd consider useless knowledge.

    The "Pretender" gene, as I often call it (after the TV series) is something a lot of us are blessed/cursed with. We have the ability to sit down at a computer and code anything, then get up, walk into a garage or workshop, pick up a hammer and build something, then go to a rally and speak about how you can change the world if your party will support you.

    The problem with it is futility. Others like me, myself included, find it futile at times to do anything, since we've done everything we're interested in doing. Us general-purpose, disposable task people have to cast ourselves into single purpose, repetitive task people, and that's really hard for us, in college, and in life.

    Sadly, I don't see an easy solution. Except I won't be telling my children that "They can do anything". I'll tell them "you can do something. but it's up to you to choose what that something is."
  • by ShatteredDream (636520) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:15PM (#12667734) Homepage
    is when people who are very intelligent compared to the rest of the public think they know it all. I think there is probably nothing worse than arguing with someone who thinks that because they are brilliant in one area that they are now all of a sudden uniquely qualified to render an opinion in all areas.
  • by markx16 (214251) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:16PM (#12667739)
    I think the issue at hand is that many people confuse leadership ability with skill. Being a good programmer doesn't necessarily make you a good project manager, nor is the best manager also the best coder. It's sometimes the case, and certainly some very skilled people successfully rise into management because their skill translates into seeing the big picture and hence being a good manager.

    But not all really skilled people see the big picture, and that's when ego kicks in. They can't stand taking orders from somebody less skilled than them. People complain about pointy-headed PHB's with no skills getting paid more that them, but the reality is that having 20 coders is a waste if they lack direction, and ideally, that's what the PHB is there for.

    Whether the PHB is actually effective is another story. Leadership is a nebulous thing and much harder to quantify and identify than skill - hence the embarrasing examples that slip through the cracks.
  • by Scrameustache (459504) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:21PM (#12667758) Homepage Journal
    The problem with smart people is that they like to be right and sometimes will defend ideas to the death rather than admit they're wrong.

    I've known smart people like that.
    And fantastically dumb people like that.

    I've had someone argue that the queen of England isn't rich, and get this, when I explained that she's the biggest land owner in the U.K. and she made about 27 million a year last time I checked, he argued that she isn't rich because when she dies someone else will inherit her money (unlike Bill Gates, who'll bring it with him to the afterlife?).

    Smart people just defend their insanity with more flair.
  • Re:Uhmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by markx16 (214251) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:24PM (#12667773)
    Hmm, so that explains why the (extremely successful) head of the NBA is an overweight Jewish lawyer?

    Skill doesn't automatically translate into leadership. It helps, but it isn't necessary.
  • Re:well... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kfg (145172) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:27PM (#12667790)
    it takes a lot to realize when you are at fault and you fucked up.

    And this is how you get to be "right." The entire first section wasn't talking about smart people at all. It was talking about smartasses,which he seems to be admiting he is recovering from, as being a smartass is generally derived from the selfdelusion that one is smart.

    See the paper on being unskilled and unaware of it.

    I shall now continue on that line. . .having read the article I'm left with the conclusion that this guy, and the guys he is talking about, are what I tend to think of as "borderline bright." They're just smart enough to have grand revelations, and thus write articles, books and found schools based on such, that the really smart people have taken as obvious all along. The self help book racks are chockablock full of works by these people.

    Cue this idea up with the "Thank you Capt. Obvious" scientific research story.

    Since the university systems are now geared to pumping these people through the system at maximum volume and pressure (and revenue stream) we now have gobs of "borderline bright" people with far more bad education than they are bright enough to know what to do with. . .who think they're smart, because they're surrounded by gobs of similar people labled as "smart," until they meet up with a really smart person.

    Then they tend to get nasty. Then the marginally smarter ones start to wise up.

    Me, I'm just going to ignore the whole thing and go eat some hay. This bale on the left has certain positive qualities, but then so does this bale on the right. . .

    KFG
  • numbers game (Score:3, Insightful)

    by moviepig.com (745183) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:31PM (#12667816) Homepage
    Why do smart people defend bad ideas?

    Lots of ideas become 'good' or 'bad' only with hindsight. (E.g., pet rocks, E-books...) And, 'smart' doesn't always mean 'prescient' ...or 'lucky'...

  • by AliasMoze (623272) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:33PM (#12667821)
    Michael Bolton: You think the pet rock was a great idea?

    Tom: Of course it was! The guy made a million dollars!
  • by DoorFrame (22108) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:34PM (#12667832) Homepage
    That's a lousy example. Didn't he fight to promote DC because he held the patent on DC current and NOT on AC current? It had nothing to do with being a bad idea, it had to do with Edison wanting to cash in on his invention.
  • by bergeron76 (176351) * on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:36PM (#12667841)
    Any really intelligent person will weigh all sides of an issue before making a decision.

    The great ones are the ones that select the facet that is the least known, but has no good reason to be unknown; and they make it very well known - either just because, or because they can.

  • by el-spectre (668104) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:51PM (#12667920) Journal
    Smart people make bad decisions too, unless "smart" means "perfect" these days.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:53PM (#12667935)
    The issue rests on what you define to be smart. Take the Chinese for example [phrusa.org]. The majority of them insist that Tibet should be occupied by Chinese military forces. Even the Chinese nationals living in the USA and enjoying the freedoms in the USA support China's brutal policies against the Tibetan people.

    Are the Chinese dumb? No. The average score of a Chinese on a calculus/trigonometry test is significantly above average, outscoring the nearest American.

    The problem here is that we are mistaking test-score smarts or book smarts for compassion and kindness. Smarts do not imply kindness. Hitler was smart. Most Chinese are smart. Yet, most observers would agree that both are brutal.

  • by Shadowlore (10860) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:56PM (#12667955) Journal
    There are lots of very capable coders out there who make excelent code for other techies, but for this very reason the UI often sucks.

    I write apps for techies and I write apps for non-techies. The UIs and requirements are very different. Apps written for techies and accepted by techies is not proprly judged by non-techies, and vica versa. The arrogance is found in the people in both camps who insist that UI should fit their camp when it was written for the other camp.

    If I write an app for techies and they like it, there is nothing "wrong" with it. Often, "techie" interfaces are aimed at functionality, not "point click drool". Thus any remarks about it being ugly are simply irrelevant.

    The individualism and "if you don't like it, fix the code yourself" attitude of many open source projects means that people who aren't code junkies, but are excelent at understanding what a user might want get excluded from the process far too often.

    And if they aren't the "target market" of the code author(s) that is just fine. Quite frankly much of the apps I write are not intended for end-user non-technical people and I don't care if they don't like it. Nor should I. Making it pretty will NOT enhance my market in the slightest, it will only pollute it. The same goes for end-user non-technical apps I write.

    And finally, there is the "you get what you pay for" comment. Most open soruce apps are done for free. As such, Joe EndUser has no right to be "included" in the process.

    Now to tie it all up with the favorite computer analogy: cars. GM (for example) sells cars. They sell cars for the enduser, and cars for the techie. Most people are familiar with the first category. But they also sell race-only versions of some of their cars, such as the C5R or upcoming C6R. The general public has zero input into these models, as it should be. Other companies also make race cars. These are oriented around a specific purpose.

    The Mosler for example is a race-oriented car. Sure you can drive it on the street (and end user could buy and drive one), but it is aimed at being a performance auto for the track. It is the "code written by geeks for geeks" side.

    Then you have the minivans and sedans, for example. They are built for the general consumer (the end user w/o technical skills). Sure a racer can drive one, even adapt it for racing (tens of thousands of Americans do this every year), but as a racer their input is not part of the design process or feature list. Witness the near-universal elimination of options like radio-delete and ac-delete.

    IMO, nearly all these rants about ugly yet functional interfaces versus pretty but reduced functionality but pretty shiney interface fall under the categories above. Everybody wants a hand-built Ferrari for the price of a 10 year old wrecked and stripped Geo Metro. And they blame the "industry" for them not getting it.
  • by corsec67 (627446) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:57PM (#12667957) Homepage Journal
    Practice makes perfect. But, does a lack of practice make horrible? Quite possibly, through atrophy, or even never having done something.

    During high school, I had such a great memory for what the teacher said that I could just listen, without taking notes, and then without studying anything, get good grades on the test. Throughout college, the classes where I struggled extremely were the ones in which I was expected to learn certain things outside of class. In those classes, since I had no practice of studying, or even the belief that I even should study, I did relatively poorly.

    The people who are smart enough to go through High School without even having to pay attention are in a worse situation than I was, because in college, what the teacher says is very important.
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday May 28, 2005 @11:59PM (#12667965) Homepage Journal
    Geeks can get infatuated with an idea that seems good, ignoring other good ideas that conflict with it. We used to call this "the tyranny of the single idea" - especially ideas that seem so good that they're treated as a "magic bullet", or (from a perhaps gentler folk era) a "panacea". This seems to be an variant of the Usenet wisdom immortalized in /usr/bin/fortune as "when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail".
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @12:00AM (#12667970) Homepage Journal
    Are the Chinese dumb? No. The average score of a Chinese on a calculus/trigonometry test is significantly above average, outscoring the nearest American.

    That is because they actually use that stuff over there. We don't make physical stuff anymore, and thus don't deal with geometry etc. as much. We make junk bonds and bad movies, and you don't need trig for that.
  • Maybe... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by groman (535485) <slashdot@carrietech.com> on Sunday May 29, 2005 @12:00AM (#12667972) Homepage
    Maybe... they aren't all that smart. Now, to answer the question why does society recognize absolute cretins as people of respectable intelligence?
  • by Jeremi (14640) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @12:07AM (#12668007) Homepage
    For example: "If the US government really wants to save as many lives as possible, they should give everybody two weeks' notice and then drop a nuclear bomb in the center of Jerusalem" [...] Sadly, the vast majority of people either disagree without justification, or (even more worryingly) agree without justification -- which just demonstrates how unwilling most sheep^Wpeople are to engage in thought and/or debate

    .... with an apparent genocidal psychopath. I too would nod, smile, and back away slowly to the nearest exit.... ;^)

  • by Otter (3800) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @12:08AM (#12668011) Journal
    I quite deliberately confront people with, and defend, astonishingly bad ideas...Sadly, the vast majority of people either disagree without justification, or (even more worryingly) agree without justification -- which just demonstrates how unwilling most sheep^Wpeople are to engage in thought and/or debate.

    I think you may be confusing agreement with people who decide that you're a complete idiot (rather than a condescending nuisance), nod politely and look for an escape route. Certainly, whenever someone starts yammering to me about "sheep" (or worse, "sheeple"!), I "agree without justification" and flee as soon as an opportunity permits...

  • by Stargoat (658863) <stargoat@gmail.com> on Sunday May 29, 2005 @12:25AM (#12668079) Journal
    Fear. Many smart people defend stupid ideas out of fear to the damage it will do to their reputation, or salary, or self worth.

    How many people have said, "We must believe in God, for if we do, and he does not exist, nothing happens. But if we do not believe in him, and he does exist, then we are doomed." But, it's fairly clear he does not exist.

    Or the people who back bad government, simply because they are afraid of the consequences? Or their own past statements before they learned more facts?

    These people do not do these things out of pride, or ego. Rather, they are motivated to tell lies solely out of fear.

  • by Artifakt (700173) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @12:29AM (#12668101)
    That's the essence of what the military calls command presence. When there are two passes through a mountain range, and they are both very much equal obstacles, a good commander swiftly declares, "That one, it's obviously better!", and gets everyone moving.
    If you don't have enough clear criteria to evaluate a situation to your satisfaction, don't waste time evaluating it by ambiguous criteria. If the situation looks very much 50-50, then either choice is as right as right can be.
    'Either bale might be wrong' paralizes - 'either bale must be right' frees.
  • Re:Question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday May 29, 2005 @12:32AM (#12668116) Homepage Journal
    Most of the time the point is just "fun". We don't do this to serve you, we do it for our own enjoyment. However, sometimes the point is "to get stuff done". In which case we do just enough to the job done and then we put up what we've got so others don't have to start from scratch. If you need more than my bare minimum then I expect you to code what you need, not come whining back to me that I didn't do what you need. The alternative is to start from scratch, so I think you should consider yourself lucky that I went to the bother of putting my stuff out there (and it is a bother).

    Ultimately, if you can't take open source and tailor it to your own needs then you need to either put up or shut up. Either put up code or cash to get it to do what you want or shut up and use what you've been given.

    On the other hand, if you've already paid someone for some open source software feel free to bitch and moan to that person as much as you like. Feel free to tell everyone that person didn't supply you what you paid them to supply you.
  • by Scrameustache (459504) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @12:34AM (#12668124) Homepage Journal
    In my younger years, I took this to mean "Do everything, because you can". Now that I'm in college, that entire lesson was bunk, and now I'm stuck with a bunch of what I'd consider useless knowledge.
    [...] something a lot of us are blessed/cursed with [...]
    The problem with it is futility [...]
    Sadly, I don't see an easy solution.


    In art, it's known as the "white page syndrome".
    You have a clean, white canvas, on it your talents enable you to paint anything. So you sit there, awash in the mental miasma of the endless possibilities assailing you.

    The way I deal with it is to stop thinking and draw a random line, then based on what this restricts the possibilities to, I can build around it.

    And the use I found for my "useless" knowledge is to wait for the conditions under which it will become usefull.
    Maybe you'll be at a job interview and you'll have knowledge of something the interviewer is passionate about: Bang, you have the edge, you get chosen over the other equally qualified applicants.

    My knowledge of all-around trivia actually became usefull when I was employed in a company that did some localisation work, it wasn't what I did there, but whenever the translators were faced with a subject they were unfamiliar with, they came to me. The kids in highschool were hostile to me for being a know-it-all, but at that job it made me quite popular.

    Off course, I still feel this... lassitude, sometimes. I haven't found an easy solution, but since in a hundred years' time we'll all be dead, we might as well be ourselves while we can : )
  • The Short Answer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by colonist (781404) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @12:44AM (#12668165) Journal

    Smart people defend bad ideas...

    because there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom.
  • by norton_I (64015) <hobbes@utrek.dhs.org> on Sunday May 29, 2005 @12:49AM (#12668188)
    I found the article somewhat less than compelling, but the question is almost the right one. Smart people do dumb things because they are human -- a species possed of both remarkable logical abilities and considerable instict, but with less ability to tell the two apart than we imagine.

    Everyone has a large set of preconceived notions that form the basis for our understanding of the world. In general, some of these notions will be correct, others incorrect, and some of them will be contradictory. Smart people have these, too, but when confronted with a contradiction are more likely/able to go back and examine all of the assumptions to find out which ones are false, or less widely applicable than previously believed. Even smarter people will do this proactivly -- looking for assumptions they hold that may be untenable.

    The real question (to be fair, also the question the author attempted to answer) is not why smart people defend stupid ideas, but how do we (smart or no) recognize when we are defending stupid ideas and fix it.

    Unfortunately, what the author really addressed is people who don't recognize that they have weaknesses. Those people usually aren't smart. Those are probably people who, as you said, did well in all of their subjects in school.
  • by Chazmati (214538) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @12:49AM (#12668189)
    A friend of mine was taught a nifty lesson from her parents. It's in the vein of your "You can do anything..." quote, but maybe more apt, with a minor change.

    The quote was "You can have anything you want--but you can't have everything you want."

    Substitute "do" for "have" and booya!
  • by Artifakt (700173) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @12:51AM (#12668202)
    Edison had the chance (repeatedly) to hire Tesla and keep him. Westinghouse ended up hiring him instead. Edison had chances to work with Westinghouse and many others in ways that could have been very profitable, but insisted on being a solo star ticket at practically all costs. Edison chose repeatedly to spend lots of money on patent litigation, demonstrations for the public, and other fluff to try and prove his points (electrocuting elephants isn't cheap!).
  • by magarity (164372) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @01:07AM (#12668249)
    But school (at least in the US) wasn't designed to teach people to think, but to teach them to memorize facts

    Where in the US did you go to school? In my experience in college, the foriegn students all have facts memorized long enough to repeat them on the test but have no idea what to do with them. It's the American kids who don't know anything practical and get lousy grades on repeat-it-back-tests but have all kinds of ideas.
  • by MacGod (320762) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @01:07AM (#12668255)
    Slashdot should change it's slogan from "News for Nerds. Stuff that matters" to "Slashdot: smart people defending bad ideas". Never before have I seen a more apropos description of this very sight than the article linked herein.
  • by Invalid Character (788952) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @01:16AM (#12668287) Journal
    (Actually they were neighbourhood pets that Edison stole and electrocuted, but that doesn't make it any less disgusting)
    Or what about how he screwed Tesla over?

    Edison: I'll pay you $50,000 if you redesign and improve this generator design.
    Tesla: Sure, no problem.
    ....some time later....
    Tesla: Done. Now wheres my money?
    Edison Haha! Gocha good!
    Tesla: Nothing? Not even a bit of it?
    Edison: I'm sorry you don't understand American humor.

    Tesla was a far greater man, and has been robbed of his place in history and in the mind of the public.

  • by freeweed (309734) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @01:17AM (#12668291)
    Why Smart People Defend Bad Ideas

    Because their parents, and/or religious leaders, tell them to.

    *puts on asbestos suit*
  • by lartful_dodger (821976) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @01:18AM (#12668292)
    Maybe not, but it was *their* totalitarian theocratic regime.

    Imagine how people would feel if the Chinese tried to overthrow the totalitarian theocratic regime in Saudi Arabia, or the United States...
  • by toddbu (748790) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @01:21AM (#12668303)
    It goes further than that sometimes. I see a lot of stuff on /. that's moderated as troll or flamebait that really just boils down to a difference of opinion with the parent post. Meta-moderation helps fix some of this, but I think as a community we should rely more on logic than name-calling to solve our differences.
  • by SensitiveMale (155605) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @01:22AM (#12668311)
    Three words

    "Pride of authorship"
  • Re:Jukebox guy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stealth Potato (619366) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @01:27AM (#12668333)
    You might have a point, but I'd like to pose these questions: who is worth that much? Managers? Marketers? Executives? What makes a CEO worth as much as 500 programmers? These questions could be rhetorical, but I'm not really sure. :-)

    In any case, six-figure salaries aren't really uncommon for senior programmers / engineers with a couple decades of experience.

  • by dvdeug (5033) <dvdeug@emai l . ro> on Sunday May 29, 2005 @01:32AM (#12668346)
    I went through gifted classes with kids who exemplified this thinking. Everything was about showing off their smarts. Making a calculator out of flashlight bulbs and switches. Creating new number and word games every single day. Designing new things and creating new programs and writing new reports every day.

    To keep the brain working at peak performance, you have to exercise it just like you do your muscles. That's exactly what the behavior a highly intelligent person should be exhibiting.

    They can't see that Windows is easier to install, configure, use, and support than any Unix variant for the average person and try to make Linux as easy.

    Everyone who cares is trying to make Linux as easy. Most of the rest aren't interested in making the needs of the average person their goal. I see no real evidence for this generalization.
  • by rokzy (687636) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @01:37AM (#12668359)
    give the USA back to the native Americans or go home and shut the fuck up.
  • by jcr (53032) <jcr@NOsPAM.mac.com> on Sunday May 29, 2005 @01:48AM (#12668396) Journal
    You have such a small mind that you cannot possibly believe in something you have yet to experience.

    Perhaps he just refuses to believe in something for which there is no evidence beyond the smug assertions of people like you?

    -jcr

  • It's cool... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 29, 2005 @01:53AM (#12668409)
    you'll grow out of it soon hopefully.

    I used to be a bit like that when I was a kid but actually its a crashingly purile thing to go around doing, I'm guessing you haven't hit 20 yet. Possibly you are still the wrong side of adolescence.

    Apart from automatically labelling you as an asshole, the truth is that the people most able to contradict you and justify their positions intelligently are the very people who'll avoid saying anything to you on matters you are interested in if thats how you behave. You see not everyone is caught up in your mindset, you've pretty much labelled yourself as not worthy of addressing seriously. You appear to imagine people care what you think of them and its not necessarily true. And thats if they twig you are playing some sort of devil's advocacy games. Otherwise you have announced to the world at large you are a dolt and frankly theres far too many of them around (e.g., people who suggest simplistic solutions to complex problems) for it to be worth correcting them. By suggesting a ludicrous plan such as the above it would rarely if ever be worth correcting you because it would be clear there are literally hours and hours of issues and historical incidents to inform you of and get out of the way. Who has the time? Better to nod, mutter something non-commital and go and find someone to talk to.

    The further problem is that you are confusing willingness to get into an argument with you with a willingness to think and ultimately act independently anyway.

    Get my drift? Please drop the habit. Its doing you no favours.
  • by ciroknight (601098) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @02:15AM (#12668472)
    In fact, it's quite the opposite of what you're thinking. A post like that isn't ego driven; it's frustration. Nothing has pissed me off more in life than "trying to find a purpose", ie something to do with my life, since I know I can "do anything if I put my mind to it". The problem isn't capability of our youth. I feel like anyone else; we all can learn to do anything if we choose to, but the question is "how do we choose to?" So instead of teaching us how to choose a task, our schools pack us with so many choices that it's generally impossible to choose.

    I chose something because it's what I spent most of my time doing, even if I don't really enjoy it.

    Implicit understanding of my philosophies kind of drove your post off into a misunderstanding of what I'm getting at. Not all kids, myself included, know exactly what to do. My high school graduates less than a hundred students a year. Fourty of them leap off into state schools and different colleges. Twenty jump into vocations and tech schools. The other ten of us, the few that never really excelled at any one thing, the few that were completely and totally average in every subject (or in the case of my friends, completely and totally ABOVE average in every single subject) had no clue what to do. So we scatter off into collleges and universities, spending who knows how much on even more education towards even more indecision.

    I don't consider myself superior, nor do I find myself below everyone else. I'm just your standard, middle class American with student loans and misunderstandings. Ever seen American Beauty??
  • by whorfin (686885) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @02:16AM (#12668473)
    The point of this phrase is not "you can do everything without trying", but "you are capable of achieving any (one) thing, if you focus on succeeding"

    I've seen enough talentless but driven people succeed to realize that talent and skills are gifts, but you gotta use 'em properly to get maximum benefit from them.
  • Re:Jukebox guy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by StarsAreAlsoFire (738726) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @02:23AM (#12668487)
    There are people in this world who simply could not be replaced with any number of 'normal' employees -- because most employees want a 9 to 5 job and a paycheck, and that's it. From Starbucks to NASA. Some people make their jobs their lives -- hey, whatever makes you happy.

    And.. I want to say *ANY 'employee' making over a few mill a year, but really it is just MOST people being paid such is being paid as a form of recognition, not because the person being paid cares about the money itself.

    And a CEO with vision can be worth infinitely more than 500 programmers -- because a company without a PURPOSE goes bankrupt and there are no more programmers (div by zero ;~) ).

    That said, writing a contract that lets a CEO commit murder and still get paid is pretty damned stupid.
  • by hung_himself (774451) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @02:52AM (#12668547)
    The writer is talking about poseurs and pseudo-intellectuals. You know - the ones you can't *avoid* hearing at parties... These people know that they are not *that* smart and try to protect their image of intelligence by defending every statement. While they believe that they have successfully pulled this off (as in the article...) what they have really done is convinced practically everyone around that they have no clue.

    In contrast, the majority of *really* smart people don't really care if they're wrong occasionally since they *know* that they are smart and being wrong once in a while is no biggie and they'll learn something so that they will be right (again) the next time...
  • Re:Jukebox guy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by h4rm0ny (722443) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @04:37AM (#12668762) Journal

    Doesn't that open room for more people to earn 2 million?

    I.e. Someone says, I'm making my two-million now, so I can stop working so hard, but I can see there is scope for more, so partner, why don't you get in on some of this?

  • Re:Maybe... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zoloto (586738) * on Sunday May 29, 2005 @04:48AM (#12668782)
    That theory is based on what you would consider a respectable intelligence.

    Who's to say you are intelligent simply because you are of the average intelligence? It could be that only those on the ends of the spectrum are worthy of notation and you along with the billions of others that are within the range of "normal" get ignored and thus you feel you have to make others, most easily those of lesser intelligence, appear publicly, you yourself playing 'captian obvious', foolish.

    While most people will look at where you point and say, wow that was dumb or he/she is dumber than we are. Those with a higher realization of worth of our fellow man will look at you, the person pointing, and ask ourselves what happened or didn't happen in your life to make you feel insecure, of not much worth, or simply that you must point out others who aren't smart?

    Are you compensating for something or merely playing devils advocate?

    I would argue that society in general, specific examples aside, do realize the worth of our fellow man and have compassion and respect for their lives with an attempt to do the right things for them. Weather "smarter" or "dumber" than the average, we generally have compassion for people.

    But I would base my conclusions on what I would consider educated and the intuitive nature to think and not just a "drone" of society memorizing materials for tests and spewing out information in an attempt to make ourselves appear smart or intelligent.

    To each his own.
  • by CyberDave (79582) <davecorder&yahoo,com> on Sunday May 29, 2005 @04:56AM (#12668798)
    Sorry, but I'm going to have to go ahead and disagree with the bulk of your post. It's attitudes like this that make me hate using Windows and Linux for day-to-day work (I use my Mac and Mac OS X for my day-to-day work, but work with Windows and Linux systems as required/appropriate for work, school, and other projects).

    Joel Spolsky [joelonsoftware.com] has a book out called User Interface Design for Programmers. In it, he makes a point of telling a story about a company that set out to design kitchen utensils for arthritic people (I want to say Oxo, but that could be completely wrong, and I don't have the book in front of me to check). The target market was people who couldn't grip a handle as tightly as you or I might be able to, so the utensils were designed with rubbery handles that were easy to hold onto and wouldn't slip, and that were large enough to grip comfortably. As it turns out, these utensils were a huge hit not only with the target market, but also with everyday users: they found the utensils easy to use as well, and the company took off.

    The point of this story is twofold: first, you never know who your target market really is until the product is out in the world. You may find that your intended target just isn't interested in your product, or that some group you overlooked while doing market research finds your product by accident, gives it a chance, and loves it.

    Secondly, and MUCH more importantly, is the notion that by designing something that is easy for a certain group of people to use, you end up making it easier for everyone to use. Everyone wins.

    I consider myself a pretty advanced user (undergrad degree in Computer Science, graduate degree in Comp. Sci. in progress, etc., etc). I use Linux on my PCs and on servers because of the flexibility it provides me. That doesn't, however, that I don't like to have that flexibility hidden from me behind a complex or non-intuitive interface. Consider, for a moment, a program that has a couple dozen options that are binary (yes/no), so that they can be all be chosen by simple checkboxes in a GUI. At first glance, you might think that I would like to have all those options in a single "Options" dialog box. After all, there all the options would then be presented in a single window and I could, in theory, find what I wanted to change quickly and easily. But how do I have to find that option I'm looking for? I have to start going through the options one by one until I find it. And if what I want is at the end of the list, I just wasted a lot of time and got a little annoyed (multiply that annoyance by every time I need to go through this). But what if I arrange the options by, say, function. All the file-related options in one group, all the text-related options in another, all the shortcut-related options in another. Take that a step further, and move each group to its own preference window or tab. Give each section a simple, descriptive name. Boom. You've just reduced the clutter, streamlined the interface, and made your users much happier. Instead of trying to search for "enable syntax highlighting" amongst dozens of checkboxes, I just need to select the text-related tab, scan 6-8 options, and click the checkbox. See, that wasn't so hard, now was it?

    It's people who dismiss with the wave of a hand the benefits of good user interface design that really irk me. A good user interface is not something that just happens to materialize out of thin air. Nor is it something that is really best developed by the same people who actually write the code, either. And sadly, it's the general attitudes of "if you don't like it, fix the code yourself" or "it works well for me, it should work well for everyone" that dooms so many applications. And don't even get me started on user interface conventions (I'll just say that they exist for a reason.

    /end rant
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 29, 2005 @04:57AM (#12668803)
    Sorry

    This is the "argument from authority", which - as a student of Plato - you should know is the weakest of all arguments:

    "There are degrees and areas of expertise. The speaker is actually claiming to be more expert, in the relevant subject area, than anyone else in the room."

    I've met lot's of "smart guys" like you in the tech industry who throw up a whole set of ridiculous notions in the hope that some "idiot" (like me) won't notice how stupid the basic premise is.

    And the whole thing is based on "who's the biggest prat in the room?" You propose something outside the comfort zone of the victim and try to take the audience with you.

    Unfortunately, it such a cheap trick, it's dumb, and you don't do yourself any favors.

    Haven't you ever heard the advice "don't argue with a fool - people watching can't tell the difference"

    A PhD doesn't validate every idiotic opinion you have you know, only the one that was the subject of your thesis.
  • by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @04:58AM (#12668805) Journal
    Some of us smart people are capable of something called "disassociation". It's where we can and do argue either side of an argument because the whole argument is not about convincing other people, but to glean new ideas from the interplay.

    Personally, I hate it when people get so damned attached to their ideas that they consider the questioning of their ideas to be a personal attack on them. I love it when people argue with me and attack my ideas. And when I'm wrong, I'll learn from it... but I'll still defend my ideas fiercely and attack yours because I don't like integrating an idea into my thinking until I've proven to myself that I can't tear it down.

    Why do stupid people think the idea is more important than the debate?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 29, 2005 @06:07AM (#12668936)
    You imply that if a land is taken by force from original occupiers .. that is legitimate, moral, and right? No need to feel bad about handing out the smallpox blankets?

    Am I getting u straight?
  • by jwdb (526327) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @06:07AM (#12668937)
    I hope you were aiming for funny, not the insightful moderation you got...

    For those who modded it insightful, have you ever heard of playing Devil's Advocate and simply debating for the sake of debate? It's an excellent way to learn the tactics and refine your own ideas, whether you're arguing for or against them.

    I recently argued about the Israel-Palestine issue with two different people - thing is, I took the oppsite side in both. It really makes you think about the situation, and about what you really think the answer is.

    Jw
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 29, 2005 @06:09AM (#12668944)
    ...deriding religion on Slashdot. Why, I think that's never been done before.

    It's a special kind of funny to see folks who fancy themselves "out-there", real "edgy thinking" being about as cliched as can possibly be imagined. Who do they think they're foolin?
  • by jcr (53032) <jcr@NOsPAM.mac.com> on Sunday May 29, 2005 @06:15AM (#12668958) Journal
    Take the Chinese for example. The majority of them insist that Tibet should be occupied by Chinese military forces.

    That would probably be due to the fact that information is very strictly controlled in China. If the only source you have for information is the communist media, then the persecution of the Tibetans, the Uighurs, Falun Gong, and the Tienanmen Square Massacre will all seem like the enlightened policies of a benevolent state.

    When I chat with Chinese people via the internet, they all know that they lost a relative or two during the 1960's, but they have no idea that Mao's "great leap forward" debacle killed something more than twenty million people.

    Likewise, they have no idea that that little twerp of a Stalinist runt running North Korea let three million people starve to death so that his pride wouldn't be hurt by getting out of the way of the foreign aid that could have saved them.

    Chinese people aren't stupid, by any means. Just observing the ingenuity with which they work around their totalitarian masters, making a living while paying lip-service to the memory of the man who killed around thirty million of them ("great leader", indeed!), will show you that they're remarkably resourceful.

    What gives me great hope for China, is the way that the Chinese I speak with are so eager to find out what the thugs don't want them to know. Back when Deng ordered the slaughter in 1989, he had to bring in troops from far out in the country, who had no idea what was going on in Beijing, since the local garrison wouldn't have opened fire on unarmed protestors.

    The commies will fall, and they will fall because internal communication is improving by leaps and bounds. One thing a totalitarian regime needs above all else to stay in power, is the ability to lie and effectively supress the truth. That ability is rapidly slipping away from the Chinese government, and sooner or later, they'll fall just like the Soviets. Once that happens, hold on to your hat, because China will accomplish some truly amazing things.

    -jcr
  • by jcr (53032) <jcr@NOsPAM.mac.com> on Sunday May 29, 2005 @06:21AM (#12668970) Journal
    So... he doesn't believe that something exists until proof smacks him over the head.

    Why, do you have some proof to offer? Ok, forget proof, how about some evidence?

    Isn't that basically the definition of one with a small mind?

    My definition of a "small mind" would be one that is willing to accept a proposition for which there is no evidence.

    what do you think of people who thought the world was flat?

    I think that you have a lot in common with them.

    -jcr
  • by m50d (797211) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @06:54AM (#12669031) Homepage Journal
    It doesn't work because if you disagree on a meta-mod you lose modding ability. And if you mod a good post up but it has an overall negative rating, you will get M2ed down. The M2 system promotes groupthink, mostly the first moderation you receive determines your final score, +5 if it's positive, -1 if it's negative.
  • And finally, there is the "you get what you pay for" comment. Most open soruce apps are done for free. As such, Joe EndUser has no right to be "included" in the process.

    Fair enough, but coding with "Joe" (disclaimer: I am Joe) in mind is what could make the difference between your project languishing on sourceforge with only three users (two of whom could have written it themselves), or being the next big thing in OSS. So you're really only restricting yourself if you take this attitude. Of course, I recognize that as a FOSS coder your time is not being compensated, so "Joe" does NOT have the right to expect that you'll drop everything to code/update that nice UI.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 29, 2005 @09:13AM (#12669442)
    "Lastly, if every event requires a cause, and God caused the first event, what caused God?"

    Sorry, but this not an argument, it's just plain silly. I dont want to prove anything here, yet in the context of the discussion God is the (hypothetical if you want) entity that transcends causality. Dont recall who it was now but some physicist once said something like: The wonder is not how world was created but that it's there in the first place.
  • Re:Jukebox guy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 29, 2005 @09:22AM (#12669475)
    Well then that's not a fucking large corporation like Apple which is the theme of this discussion. Jesus Christ, do you people even pay attention to the topic, or do you throw in wild arguments just for the hell of it??!!
  • by MobyTurbo (537363) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @09:35AM (#12669535) Homepage
    I don't think any assumption can be proven by reason alone, but only with evidence. We can't disprove the existence of God, but we haven't been able to prove His existence either. It is most difficult to prove a negative. But that's where Occam's Razor comes in.
    William of Occam was a theist, a Franciscan friar for that matter. I'm sure he's not happy about the most common (ab)use of his Rule of Parsimony.
  • by the morgawr (670303) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @01:11PM (#12670586) Homepage Journal
    I'll go slow since I seem to have lost you:

    1. GP: If you believe in a god you are ignorant.
    2. Me: Newton, Maxwell, and Einstein all beleived in god
    3. Me: Therefore, by your preposition all three are ignorant
    It appears that #3 is a contradition of #1, therefore by a proof of contradiction #1 cannot be true.

    Additionally:

    GP: Scientists don't believe in a god

    This is appeal to authority which can in some cases be cited as evidence. However it can be refuted by demonstrating that other experts in the same field (in this case scientific ones) dispute the claim. So I cited other experts.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 29, 2005 @02:00PM (#12670864)
    Isn't that what they feed everyone in KINDERGARDEN; "You can do anything if you just put your mind to it"?

    In my younger years, I took this to mean "Do everything, because you can". Now that I'm in FIRST GRADE, that entire lesson was bunk, and now I'm stuck with a bunch of what I'd consider useless knowledge.

    The "Pretender" gene, as I often call it (after the TV series) is something a lot of us are blessed/cursed with. We have the ability to sit down at a BOOK and COLOR anything, then get up, walk into a BACKYARD, pick up JUNK and build A FORT, then go to a FRIEND'S HOUSE and IMPRESS THEM.

    The problem with it is futility. Others like me, myself included, find it futile at times to do anything, since we've done everything we're interested in doing. Us general-purpose, disposable task people have to cast ourselves into single purpose, repetitive task people, and that's really hard for us, in FIRST GRADE, and in life.

    Sadly, I don't see an easy solution. Except I won't be telling my children that "They can do anything". I'll tell them "you can do something. but it's up to you to choose what that something is."

    MAYBE I'LL CURE AIDS, STOP WAR, END DEATH AND SUFFERING BY NOON TOMORROW. AFTER ALL, I CAN DO ANYTHING. I'M DELUDED.
  • by Morosoph (693565) on Sunday May 29, 2005 @03:45PM (#12671458) Homepage Journal
    And the bad ideas aren't always obvious.

    To a great extent this issue reminds me of the observations made of those more and less likely to believe in the supernatural. Sceptics are likely to miss pattern that exists, and believers are likely to invent non-existent pattern (or so we believe). To spot counter-cultural pattern, then, is also to be more likely to invent pattern that isn't there.

    The trouble being that there are many conclusions that the informed or observant can make that differ from "common sense", and the brain being what it is, we don't necessarily know the steps of how to get there. This doesn't make us wrong... or right; our perception is different.

    I'll pick an example that generates more heat than light on slashdot: how do illegal downloads effect aggregate sales of music and movies? The common man is sure that IP infringement must lead to reduced sales, yet many slashdotters believe this not to be the case, and a few even believe the opposite.

    What is the truth? The form of the question can affect the outcome. For example: restrict your study to (relatively poor) students, and you get the "common sense" result [bbc.co.uk]. Aggregate sales using a detailed and sophisticated economic analysis, and you get no effect [unc.edu]. But maybe our intellect is misleading us: if we get goods for free, although it might shift our spending onto other music and movies, are we perhaps less motivated to work in the first place? with this larger frame of reference, it appears that the intelligent individual has quite possibly picked a convenient intermediate-sized frame of reference, when a frame of reference that was larger still would (perhaps) reveal 'theft' from the economy as a whole. This is a bit of a conconcted 'counter-example', though: our greed is such that we're likely to keep working to own more, regardless of how much we have.

    What about software patents? Most of us here (myself included) are anti. Assuming (for the moment) that the 'anti' stance is right, why then do so many lawyers believe the converse? I doubt that it's wholly because of their self-interest (although that might bias them); it's because of a particular view of the business of business, of the value and importance of contract and of property, and of incentives and defined rights that meld, to the lawerly mind, with morality, and the natural way of things. To break with this, brings them to presuppose harm, and their experience with the concrete (case by case), rather than the systemic effects reinforces this way of thinking. Is the abstract argument really wrong? That it's harm to think of examples of avenues that will be impeded (they haven't been thought of yet!) doesn't make them any less real. Here, then, the emphasis upon concreteness is itself misleading.

    Another example: minimum wages. I believe that one of my own JEs [slashdot.org] illustrates this well. I don't think that I (arguing for a minimum) argued at my best, and Red Warrior applied some experience, but neither of us "won", I feel. However, one thing's for sure; most of the pro-free-market intellectuals ignore the 'monopsony' effect of deliberately cartelising the labour force, so that the first level of abstraction is misleading as to the degree of the effect on unemployment. To some extent, then, here the 'simple' reaction that it redistributes wealth the the relatively poor has a lot of truth to it. The intellectual's love of pristine, perfect, simple systems can and does mislead. My stance might itself be flawed. The intellectual's stance often comes from a deeper analysis or intuition, and they could easily be at a loss to explain it. From this difficulty, it's difficult to decide which way is the truth. Not all difficulty is denial.

Somebody ought to cross ball point pens with coat hangers so that the pens will multiply instead of disappear.

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