It’s been a sci-fi-strange week in a sci-fi-strange time. We’ve actually seen a president of the United States muse during a televised press conference about the effectiveness of using disinfectants internally to kill the COVID 19 virus, and many thousands of grown-ups rushing to dissuade his more intellectually-challenged followers from trying it. Who would have guessed even ten years ago that the world would be living out a Simpson’s episode in real-time? But this one has had all the jokes removed.
If you’re not familiar with the Dunning-Kruger effect, look it up. In short, it is a reasonably rare, extreme cognitive bias in which a person of very low ability thinks they are an expert at everything. The “very low ability” part is of paramount importance here because a normal person of almost any ability will quickly realize how much they have yet to learn. A true genius at anything will almost always report that the more they learn, the more they realize they don’t know. Only a fool thinks they know everything.
Enter Donald J. Trump, who has for his entire not-very-successful life thought he was an expert at everything. And it’s not just a political ploy because he knows there are plenty of rubes who will believe him—he actually believes it. This is why he eschews the company of experts; they only serve to remind him of how inept he actually is. This is why he muses aloud about various magical cures for the current pandemic; he actually thinks he’s so special he can accidentally come up with a cure for a complex epidemiological conundrum without passing a single class in biology. “I have a knack for science,” he has said, as though that makes him an equal colleague to people who’ve actually read and studied things.
Imagine a person with “a knack for music” being handed a violin for the first time. Would they be ready to play alongside Yo-Yo Ma? Now imagine this person has been handed a baton and placed in front of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He waves his hands around like a maniac (but his hair doesn’t move!) and thinks he is conducting highly-trained professionals to play beautiful music.
In fact, he’s making a fool of himself and the musicians are confused and scrambling, using every ounce of their skill and talent to not make a mess of the symphony they thought they were supposed to be playing. In an attempt to save face and their job, they cover for the delusional conductor. To the sort of person who would drink bleach if the president said to, the orchestra sounds pretty good. But to anyone who knows anything about music or the dangers of ingesting household cleaners, it’s a cacophony.
This is our Dunning-Kruger presidency.
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Until next time, be smart, be happy, be nice, and resist the Dunning-Kruger Party.
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