Watching what is going on in the world today, I am reminded of the movie Idiocracy (2006) and its foreboding glimpse into our future. In the comedy, the character played by Luke Wilson is frozen by the US military because he is particularly average in everything from height, to weight and also intelligence. When he awakens some 500 years later, he finds himself in a world where we have experienced so called “devolution”, or in other words, we have dumbed ourselves down to such an extent that our hero (he of average IQ) is literally a genius amongst all the idiots running around.
But setting aside the utter ridiculous, is there some truth to this assertion, and is the average intelligence on this planet going backwards? Of course, it all depends on how you define intelligence and all the aspects that go into rational decision making. Undoubtedly though, by some measure we can assert that the educated elite is getting smarter. We have decades of test scores that seem to clearly indicate the kids of today are eating something better for breakfast. The improvement in entry exam results that it takes to get into a top academic school these days, is simply mind boggling.
Then there is technology and our ever-increasing ability to command the power of a machine to execute our visions. The average 5 year old can now log into most applications on an iPad, connect to Wi-Fi and switch freely between the virtual and real world which are increasingly co-mingling. And life is moving fast, from online, to work and social lives, we are hooked into our smart phones and we react in real time to any chime, ring, or alert that we receive 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. We are super-productive members of a fast-moving society that seems to be reinventing itself on a daily basis.
On the other side, you have utter devastation. The poor, the oppressed, the neglected, the masses of people that can’t read (17% of the world is illiterate) or feed themselves (11% are starving), yet sadly account for the majority in population growth. Clearly, I am not making an argument that poverty equals low intelligence, but there isn’t much point to anything unless you have learned to use your brain for cognitive reasoning. And that just isn’t going to happen for the three billion people on this planet that live on less than $2.5 per day. Reminds me of another movie The Time Machine (1960), which so vividly describes a world of Eloi and Morlocks, and a vision of the future that gave me nightmares as a child, and continues to frighten me to this day.