Stupid Should Hurt

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.
            — Albert Einstein

Oh, the throes of being brilliant! I know you know what I mean. Because if you’re reading this blog, you must necessarily possess some form of elevated intelligence. Or you just thought my last name was funny and decided to check it out.

But seriously, there are a lot of pretty stupid people out there, which got me thinking about an idea an ex-girlfriend’s mother once mentioned: what if stupidity hurt?

For instance, I went to email myself a homework assignment the other day, and, thinking it attached, shut down my computer in the library and headed home. Needless to say, the email wasn’t attached, and, no, the computer in the library didn’t save it.

But what if instead of me clicking the send button, grinning stupidly after completing the paper, and whistling as I skateboarded home, a little pain jabbed me in the kidney. Maybe something small at first, like a little poke in my side saying: “Hey bud, something’s not right.” Then if I continued to stand up and stretch my back, that little poke became a pinch: “Hey! Friend! I think you need to fix something.” And if I continue to zip up my backpack, put my shoes back on—I always like to work shoeless because most of my ideas come from my feet—that pain in my side suddenly becomes a punch: “Hey ,doofus, you’re seriously about to screw yourself.” And finally, as I guide the mouse’s pointer over to the shut down icon in the lower left corner of the screen, I get the jack-hammer of all pains, my side belching in agony: “Yo, Einstein! Your stupidity arrow’s about to snap off the dial!” And at that point, doubled over in pain, I realize, “Hmmm, I wonder if that file attached?”

The world would be a better place if stupidity hurt. No doubt about that.

Of course, this brings up some real problems about what counts as stupidity. Does making a logical misstep in one of my papers count? How about drunkenly going up to a pretty girl in the bar and asking her on a date? We’ll probably have to include any time I eat at Taco Bell.

But I think if it came down to it, I’d be a pretty good arbiter of what counts as stupid or not. I’d even let scientists map my brain to create the algorithms for answering every question of whether or not an action was stupid.

“I’ve got this big midterm tomorrow but this cute girl wants to party. Is it stupid to go out?” Yeah, pretty stupid.

“This Adam Sandler movie looks really funny. Should I go see it?” The pain in your side began at ‘Sandler’.

“I saw this guy do a front flip off his roof and I thought—” Stupid.

“My nose feels really uncomfortable right now, and I know it would feel wonderful to pick it. I’m in my car so no one can see. Stupid?” Ten and twelve, buddy. Ten and twelve.

So as you can tell, I think my mind would be the perfect decision maker for whether or not something would be considered stupid. I think my intelligence, reasoning, and common sense combined could essentially outline the complete pattern of decisions for humanity to excel. Now, it’s just a matter of putting it into effect.

Though oddly, after typing that last paragraph, I have an unpleasant sensation deep in my side.



Author: jdt

Jake writes weekly posts every Wednesday on the intersection of psychology and philosophy. To learn more about him, or to propose a topic you'd like him to cover, go to

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