25 Januari 2009

The Best Kept Secret Everyone Seems to Know - Part 1

By Milo Bono

PLEASE NOTE: The following article deals with a difficult taboo subject that many may feel is strictly forbidden. The secret is known but rarely discussed as evidenced by the lack of reference material available. It is something discovered completely by accident in the course of company business and could have been easily ignored and swept under the rug, but to do so would be in stark contradiction with the principals engendered by company philosophy. This unusual subject is used as a springboard to touch on matters sincere to the heart and mind. That said here goes:

The Unanticipated Discovery
Spending nearly six months of 12-hour days sorting and evaluating over 200,000 words for inclusion in Promptoria software was a long and arduous process. It was also very educational and enlightening. By the end of our endeavor we must have contemplated every thought that can be expressed by a single word, the sum total of shared human experience.
Dictionaries are normally used to look up specific words to clarify definition, check proper spelling and pronunciation, or find thesaurus relationships between words. Instead we sought to analyze each and every word individually to determine their value in relation to the technique of Random Word Stimulation. Words that passed our selection criteria were then sorted into categories optimized for use in Promptoria's various products. Following this unconventional course afforded us the opportunity to experience the English language from a unique perspective and we inadvertently discovered some interesting patterns that emerged along the way.
As we all know - many words have the same or similar meanings, and many words pertain to different facets of the same subject. It seems reasonable to conclude that subjects with the most words attributed to them must hold a respectively higher position of popularity in the hierarchy of human experience. Some subjects have a great many facets to consider, many nuances that reflect the inherent depth and breadth of human perception attributed to a subject.

The Secret is Out
With respect to the above I felt obliged to report we couldn't help but notice one particular subject that came up with alarming frequency. In fact it came up so often we were forced to consider whether it warranted its own category (although ultimately we thought better of it). The majority of our categories were deliberately designed to be of a more generalized nature so we did not keep a detailed account of how many words were attributed to specific subjects. Nevertheless, looking back over this critical phase of our development cycle, the single most conspicuous subject that stood out head and shoulders above the rest, the subject with more words attributed to it than any other, the subject that we must assume is the best known and most widely recognized reality throughout the entire history of mankind, and as it happens the very subject that inspired this article, was - to put it bluntly - the stupidity of people.
There it is - the secret is out, and I realize just broaching this sensitive subject is committing figurative seppuku in light of the current prevailing culture of political correctness, but it had to be done. There is no escape from this uncomfortable truth, it's right there in print, carved in stone yet well hidden within the pages of what should be the most unbiased source of information we have - the dictionary.

The Quest for Knowledge
Promptoria is founded on the concept of self-propelled learning by exploring the unknown in the quest for knowledge, and without exception, never to discard or shy away from whatever is discovered. In this particular case we were not searching in the usual sense, the discovery appeared by its own volition. How this came about is irrelevant. All that matters is that the discovery was made and a question is raised. Curiosity must be satisfied. Discovery of any kind behooves us to explore the subject further to ascertain the balance of truth and falsehood, and determine what value can be gleaned from the experience.
So the question is - How could stupidity become the most universally acknowledged attribute of mankind?
A curious question to say the least. After all, one need only point to the remarkable achievements of modern technology, the sensitivity in orchestrating the delicate intricacies of a great symphony or masterpiece of art, the awe inspiring constructs of architecture standing in testament to our ingenuity, intellect, and imagination. Viewed in context of the many works of genius produced by mankind, the question itself immediately raises its opposing question - How stupid could we be?

Popular Opinion
Normally our exploration would begin by utilizing Random Word Stimulation to incite the discovery of new perspectives from which to contemplate the issue. However, in this unusual situation we are dealing with a subject that is already well known - rather incredibly well known at that. In fact in this particular case it is the very popularity of the contention itself that is in question. Under the circumstances perhaps the best way to start would be to query mankind directly and thereby challenge the veracity of the contention from its source.
To this end I began to make a point of revealing our unanticipated discovery to friends and acquaintances at social gatherings or casual meetings. For the sake of obtaining thorough and unbiased feedback from the largest possible cross section of people I made sure to broach the subject of our discovery with complete strangers at every opportunity.

What the People Say
As it turned out, their reaction was even more alarming than the contention itself. The response was consistent from everyone queried regardless of age, level of education, gender, profession, financial position, social stature or station in life, save only the odd rare exception.
Overall the response could be distilled into two distinct components:
1. By far the most startling revelation was that everyone was in complete agreement. Body language in this case was even more telling than verbal response. Each participant exhibited a characteristic medley of gestures. Predominate among these; it was the combination of a distant inward gaze focused in view of some inner vision, coupled with a gentle knowing smile, which signaled the unmistakable sign. I would never lay claim to psychic powers, and yet upon witnessing this classic reaction to my query I couldn't help but feel some kind of vague spiritual empathy, as if for those brief few moments a faded window in my own mind appeared through which their inner thoughts were revealed. My vision, though blurred to detail, revealed crystal clear that each person was experiencing their own intimate associations to past events of their lives, lucid memories that bore the undeniable truth of the matter at hand.
2. It was also clear by what people said, and perhaps even more by what they didn't say, that the thought never entered their minds to consider themselves in personal possession of this most eminent attribute of humanity.
We must conclude the result of our admittedly unscientific pole did indeed confirm that the contention in question was immediately recognized throughout the brotherhood of mankind. Stupidity would seem to have earned its renowned status, though we are still left to ponder the most elemental question that must be repeated until it can be resolved no further - WHY?

Strategy of Exploration
Would examining stupidity as a concept provide some insight? What better resource could we ask for than the very one that prompted this exploration in the first place - the dictionary.
Here's the definition according to Webster's - Stupidity: 1 : the quality or state of being stupid 2 : a stupid idea or act
Not very informative is it. Here we have a subject with more words related to it than any other, yet the only definitions of the word itself merely refer to its root form as if it has no tangible meaning at all. I won't bother referencing the root form "Stupid" since its definition is no more enlightening.
Search through the endless wealth of knowledge recorded throughout the history of mankind and you will find that definitive reference material pertaining to our subject is virtually non-existent. We are thus left completely on our own to continue the quest for answers. From here on we must rely exclusively on our skills of creative and critical thinking to blaze new paths of exploration and then employ decisive deductive reasoning to further our search of a final resolution.

The Journey Begins
Could stupidity be an organic phenomenon intrinsic to nature and born of the universe? Is it stupid how the sun radiates live endowing energy on our planet, how bees pollinate flowers to sustain new growth, or how rain falls to nourish the earth? Can any of the miraculous wonders of nature, even the very existence of mankind itself, be considered a manifestation of stupidity?
I think not (let's hope not). No - stupidity would seem to be a concept created by, exclusive to, and firmly rooted in, the human mind. We can conclude therefore that stupidity is not absolute, rather it is a relative construct born of our own perception. Stupidity has no life of its own; it can only exist as a manifestation of mind entirely under the purview of the perceiver.
Everyone thought the Wright Brothers were imbued with boundless stupidity for pursuing the ridiculous notion that man could fly like a bird. History is full of similar examples were popular perceptions held by the many, evolve beyond measure from challenges imposed by a daring few.
One person's perception of stupidity can often be another's perception of potentially brilliant innovation. How can we account for these discrepancies of perception? Or more to the point - How can we learn to leverage our seemingly natural aptitude and propensity to recognize the former, so that we may cultivate and amplify our latent ability to recognize the latter?

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