310. PSA: Pseudointellectuality

Fact: adding -ism to the back of any word automatically makes it sound bad. Follow it up with any flavor of “is negatively affecting our community, and is something we must look into” will immediately turn readers/listeners to become antagonistic towards it.

“This culture of digitalism is ruining our youths, and is something that we must pay serious attention to.”

Pseudointellectuality. It’s the longest word I can type that I can still immediately understand. It is also, in all likelihood, a word I just made up on the spot.

(a quick Google search tells me that there is such a word as “pseudointellectual”, and a word as “intellectuality”. Take that, spellcheck!)

When a friend of my dad, many years ago, introduced a “quantum shield” over breakfast, I thought that it was dodgy at best. Full of passion, he talked about how our everyday electronics – from our mobile phones to our TV sets – all emit cancer-causing radiation that will kill us in our sleep. But thanks to the miracle of technology that is the quantum shield, we can be safe from these dangers, because the quantum shield will soak up/block (depending on who is explaining) the radiation, making it totally safe for us to use.

Let’s first get this out of the way: quantum science does not work that way.

(also, radiation shielding does not work that way. Pro tip: whenever someone begins to talk about the applications of quantum science in everyday life, it is safe 99.9% of the time to completely ignore them)

We live in the information age. Which is to say, the more information-savvy you are, the better off you’re going to be. It also means that, more than ever, we’re going to have some very convincing conmen running about.

The trouble with most of us is this: the moment something gets too complex, our brain automatically shuts off. Whether it’s a researcher who had put in serious work and hours into his study, or a con artist spouting technobabble, our brains are conditioned to shut off and shelve away the noise as “science stuff”. And this is a bad thing, because now we can’t tell the difference between intellectuality and pseudointellectuality.

(I realize that writing such long words to explain big concepts to the common man is a counterintuitive exercise. For future reference: “pseudo” means “fake but convincing”)

Listen. This is important: Get Educated.

Don’t look up stuff on Wikipedia unless you’re already adept at mental acrobatics and navigating compound sentences. Get the smartest person to explain science stuff to you in the simplest way they know how. Find out what is a “credible source”. Buy them lunch for their troubles. Learn how to ask incisive questions. Know when to call bullshit. Don’t buy anything from anyone who doesn’t understand the science behind the product, or cannot explain it to you simply. In this way, you won’t eliminate, but you will at least minimize the chances of you getting duped.

There are many pseudointellectuals out there. Some of them don’t know half as much as they think they know. Some of them are fully aware of their own nonsense, but will not hesitate to bust out their technical vocabulary if it means squeezing some dollars out of you. Be on your guard, I say. The smarter you make yourself, the better equipped you will be to survive the information age.

And when someone tries to sell you a quantum shield that blocks/soaks up radiation, do me a favor and punch them in the face.


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