Your ancestors pet snakes and drank foul-smelling water. You (likely) do not, as you have learned from their mistakes via the ultimate streaming network of life lessons, always on in your head, called instinct+.
In sum, our instincts help us predict the future. If you get close to a lion it will eat you, etc.
However, there are decisions our society presents whose nuance/complexity has outpaced instinct. Our response to these challenges are what advances (and hinders) human progress.
Just as 80% of people believe they are above average drivers, few people believe they make a lot of bad decisions … which makes them especially dangerous. Similar to death, stupidity is more painful for others.
Professor Carlo Cipolla’s Basic Laws of Human Stupidity break it down:
- Everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals among us.
- The probability that a certain person is stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
- A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person while deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.
- Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals.
- A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.
Professor Cippola brings texture to a common word with a cocktail: stupid decisions are actions that are bad for you and damaging to others.
Stupid decisions are actions that are bad for you and damaging to others
Just as we underestimate the number of stupid people, we underestimate the business world’s, and seemingly successful people’s, ability to make stupid decisions that damage themselves and others.
Success is literally an intoxicant that makes you more risk aggressive and impairs your peripheral vision to reality and risks.
Some firms and decisions that, in my view, are stupid:
Bad ideas from big firms have more mass, hence more inertia.
A couple weeks ago, the world’s most valuable firm presented a virtual reality headset to its board. Apple has been working on this bad idea since 2015, and not even Jony Ive could kill it.
According to The Information, Mr. Ive argued: “VR alienated users from other people by cutting them off from the outside world, made users look unfashionable and lacked practical uses.” Ive’s design team was “unconvinced that consumers would be willing to wear headsets for long periods of time.”
VR is a decade-long experiment that has cost tens of billions of dollars to prove nobody wants it.
Consumers putting something on their face designed by Stanford and Harvard engineering graduates who live in Redmond or San Jose is less likely than the next great SaaS company emerging from Florence.
To be fair, few firms better understand the importance of how we look using a product than Apple, and the Cupertino firm has become the largest jewelry maker in the world via the Apple Watch and Airpods.
Wearables represent 10.5% of Apple’s revenue, or $38 billion, in 2021 (seven times the revenue of Tiffany & Co.). Jewelry and wearables make you more attractive and utile, respectively. The Apple Watch and Airpods do both.
In contrast, headsets make you less attractive and less utile and add fuel to the flames of isolation, loneliness, and depression that plague American youth. When my sons are on their phone(s), they’re only pretending they can’t hear or see me.
VR headsets are cigarettes minus the charm.
A few weeks after the Apple board was pitched $2,000 cigarettes, Coinbase announced a plan to inject divisiveness and anxiety into its workplace.
The crypto-trading platform is testing a software tool that asks employees to rate each other after every interaction. If a colleague says something you don’t like, you’re expected to give them a thumbs-down and notes on how they could improve.
Every employee gets a scorecard with a rating from 1-10. Those with lower ratings are deemed to have lower “believability,” which co-workers are expected to factor in when considering whether to listen to them.
You can’t make this shit up.