Sunday, 28 September 2008

The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity

It was through a small ad in Quest magazine in the late 1970s that I learned with considerable interest of the existence of an organisation in Washington, D.C. called the Workshop Library on World Humor. This sounded like exactly the kind of resource I was looking for, as I was researching the subject of “Laughter” in connection with my studies in Communication Science and Linguistics in the Department of Educational Enquiry at the University of Aston in Birmingham. I wrote off to the WLWH and was delighted to receive a copy of their newsletter, Humor Events and Possibilities. And that was where, alongside details of intriguing-sounding journals like The Journal of Irreproducible Results, I read that a group called The Mad Millers of Bologna had recently published a study entitled “The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity”. I never did manage to get my hands on that document, unfortunately. But even without knowing the scientific background, I still managed to teach myself quite a bit about human stupidity by a process of simple trial and error.

[Update – Sunday, 5 October 2008: My thanks to the kind commenter – discreetly identified as “Nunya Bidness” – who made my day by pointing out that The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity can now be found here!]

Today, Quest magazine is no more, and the results of my pioneering analysis of laughter using a speech spectrograph managed to get lost somewhere along the way. Unless I’m mistaken, the work of the Workshop Library on World Humor is now being continued by the International Society for Humor Studies. I’m glad these efforts are still going strong, not least because humo[u]r can often be a wonderful antidote to human stupidity.

“The higher the sense of humor, the more sensitivity you have, the more you enjoy life and the less you want to destroy it.” – Herb Cummings, founder of the Workshop Library on World Humor.


Nunya Bidness said...

Here are the laws:

The Third Witness said...

Thank you so much! I'm delighted to discover this document (and also some additional details of its origins) after all these years.