A. S. S.

Geeks engaged in the creation of artificial intelligence may be tempted to abandon that slow-moving effort in favor of the latest cyberfad, artificial stupidity. It’s a much more complicated field, in that accuracy and precision, the focus of artificial intelligence, typically produce a single “right” solution to a particular problem, whereas artificial stupidity must take in a wide range of “wrong” answers, all of which must be evaluated and digitized. The object, of course, is to find the answers that are least likely to solve the problem.

You might think that wrong answers have no practical use, but you would be wrong. Consider, by way of example, the problem of what’s popularly known as wealth inequality. The disparity in wealth and income between people at the top of the economic scale and people at the bottom is widely believed to be the source of numerous social problems. It would seem that a straightforward redistribution of resources could relieve some of the distress, but that might present a risk to the fragile economic structure we all depend on for sustenance. With never-ending trials of solutions that are certain to fail, we can preserve inequality even as we condemn it. Today, the patently ridiculous prescription for wealth inequality is tax relief for rich people. When that proves a demonstrable failure, artificial stupidity will provide us with new suggestions for futile initiatives to mitigate wealth inequality and allow us to continue the fight against social evils like war, racism, domestic violence, suicide and drug addiction far into the foreseeable future.

Artificial stupidity may also someday yield a social gullibility inventory, possibly as a by-product of its search for ineffective solutions to solvable problems. The high hurdle for nonsense explanations of conditions, events and phenomena is social acceptance. If the artificial stupidity community can find a way to mimic the process by which large numbers of people come to reject, for example, Darwin’s theory of natural selection in favor of divine planning, it will be a huge break-through. Even now, computers are buzzing, as scholars try to compile and collate instances of foolishness with brain scans of idiots, imbeciles and schmegeggies. The object: an Artificial Stupidity Scale (ASS), to serve as a compendium of 21st Century inanity.

ASS may be able to tell us why people get all worked up over their favorite sports team but couldn’t give a crap about the honesty or decency of their leaders.  With ASS we’ll have no further need to fret over why a motorist risks life and limb to gain a car length.  We’ll be able to stop wondering how two skyscrapers could be demolished in New York with people in them and the guys who did it still be walking the street. ASS will give us answers. Wrong ones, but answers nonetheless.

Television is certain to emerge as a principal element in the stupidity of humans, but its role in ASS is still in doubt. TV programming and advertising reduce humans to a state of reeking stupor, but they seem to have no such effect on digital processers of any kind. The machines just don’t respond to the “I’m worth it” and “Win/Win” principles that infect human viewers. Research might take a big leap if the machines could compile an exhaustive inventory of human stupidity simply by watching TV, but that seems unlikely. ASS developers may have to enter the various instances of idiocy one by one.

It may well be impossible to document every moronic move made by every person, and so ASS is programmed to focus only on the most grievous failures of cognition. Even at that, the ASS inventory is running to about 250 volumes, and the inanities keep on coming.

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