A couple of decades ago, public health officials noted an increasing and alarming phenomenon. Smart people who had spent a lot of time with stupid people were turning stupid. Permanently. This was seen as a significant problem.
Investigation revealed that stupid people emit a small, lightweight particle that travels in irregular motions like a fly buzzing around a room. These particles were called bozons (hence the origin of the word bozo to describe stupid people). These particles penetrated the skulls of smart people, turning them stupid.
Sometimes a smart person knows that they are in the presence of a stupid person and hence is at risk. Other times a smart person may not know that a person is stupid (e.g., standing next to a person on a subway) and does not know that their IQ is plummeting with each second.
To protect intelligent people, a bozon detector was developed. This detector provides an audible alarm if someone is standing next to a stupid person. The alarm sound indicates the density of the bozons being emitted. Early versions of the detector were cumbersome, requiring the placement of the detector paddle on the forehead of the suspected stupid person.
Early Bozon Detector, circa 1982
More recent versions of detectors have been developed that can be installed as a software a plug-in for cell phones. This enables one to discreetly sweep the room to detect bozons. Currently plug-ins can detect a bozo at 100 feet.
There are situations in which a smart person has no choice but to spend hours of time in the presence of stupid people. This situation can regularly occur in management meetings.
To protect smart people, the bozon deflector was developed. These deflectors shield a smart person’s skull and absorb bozons. Early deflectors were not stylish and led to difficult conversations, i.e. “Why are you wearing that helmet?” Answer: "To ensure that you don’t make me as stupid as you are."
Early Bozon Deflector, circa 1983
More recent versions are less obtrusive and provide a protective electromagnetic shield around the head. You can see a modern deflector below.
For many people, the damage has been done. I am one of them. Years of having been exposed to stupid people have left me with a diminished capacity to remember names, location of car keys, and the reason I called a meeting.
However, young or old, it is not too late to protect yourself. You owe it yourself, your family, your organization, and this industry.
John Glaser is vice president and CIO at Partners HealthCare System. He describes himself as an "irregular regular contributor" to HIStalk.