Saint John — Oscar Wilde said that, “Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but the highest form of intelligence.”
So, it follows that while some in Saint John are talking about building a “smart city” through big data and connected contraptions, a local curmudgeon is advocating building the city’s intellect by mining the city’s greatest natural resource — its sarcastic citizens.
“I love sarcasm, it’s like punching people in the face… but with words,” smiled local smart-ass Brett Raillerie. “I’d like to agree this ‘smart city’ thing is a good idea but then we’d both be wrong. Seriously though, if I wanted to hear from this bunch of assholes, I’d bring a crockpot of beans to their potluck. And, before you disagree with me, you should know that I don’t care about anything you think.”
Last week, Enterprise Saint John launched its “Smart City Initiative” — a new three-year “big data” project to involving beacons and sensors throughout the city to collect and share data. The project is funded with the help of over $1.1-million from the federal government through ACOA, and $100,000 from the provincial government.
“‘Big data!’ Oh, so fancy,” sneered Raillerie. “What’s next — jumbo data? Humongous data? Gimme a break! This is fine, but we should also be developing our infamously sharp tongues as well. Like Wilde said, that’s how we get our lazy brains off of the couch.”
Raillerie pointed to a Harvard Business School study that showed that there was a direct relationship between sarcasm and intelligence. The study showed there was a measurable cognitive benefit to using sarcasm, especially when it is not interpreted negatively. “When you’re in a city full of smart-asses, people don’t get their feelings bruised as easily,” surmised Raillerie. “So, those are ideal conditions to get the benefits of increased creativity, as well as more abstract and critical thinking.”
When asked where Saint John’s infamous smart-ass sense of humour comes from, Raillerie didn’t hesitate. “When you live in a place with a lot to be proud of but also lots of problems, you tend to get a little jaded about these fluffy ‘pie-in-the-sky’ announcements. You tend to focus on just making the best of things any way possible. I think you could say the same for New Brunswickers in general, actually.
“In Saint John, we literally just stopped dumping untreated raw sewage into the habour beside where we live. So, welcome to the 20th century!” said Raillerie. “Next up, I’d like to have a drink of tap water without it tasting like licking a nine-volt battery. Can we make that happen?”