Why Laugh At Nerds

3.5 years ago I wrote:

Nerds essentially have “Autism light,” i.e., high intelligence and low social skills. … Nerds cooperate pretty effectively all the time on large software and other engineering projects. … [But are] worse at judging which coalition to join when, which associates may betray them or have done so, when and how to betray associates, what lies to tell, what threats will be credible and appropriate, and so on. … [Nerds are] preyed upon by those with better social skills. … Spouses could more easily get away with cheating on nerds, and business partners could more easily get away with reneging on implicit understandings.

2.2 years ago I elaborated:

Some folks are both unusually smart and unusually conscientious about their ideals. More than most people, these folks notice their hypocrisy, and try to avoid it. And since far ideals tend toward incoherence and impracticality, this has led smart sincere folks to invent a wide range of “ideologies” to substitute for their jumbled intuitions.

Most people like to make fun of and laugh at nerds. Why? You might assume we like to laugh at people with low abilities, to emphasize our superiority. But there are plenty of folks with mostly low abilities across the board, and they mostly aren’t considered funny. So why are nerds, who at least have some strong skills, especially funny?

As I’ve hinted at before, and will elaborate more on later, I think the essence of humor is our sheer joy at playing homo hypocritus well. We just love to see the juxtaposition of two communication levels, an overt and a covert one, especially when this helps “us” take advantage of “them.”

Homo hypocritus pretends to mainly value overtly useful skills, while really greatly valuing covert conniving skills. Nerds tend to be much better at the former than the later, and are often unaware that the later skills exist. So the fact that nerds think well of themselves for their overt skills, but are largely unaware of how poor they are at covert conniving, is just hilarious.

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