We all loved Idiocracy. We also love mocking fans of country music and MMA fighting. But what if we love these things for the wrong reasons? What if our fondness for them is really just an opportunity to flaunt our superiority over those Philistines who don’t watch Downton Abbey or routinely use words like “philistines?” What if the basic idea of Idiocracy — that the imbeciles of the world are taking over and putting the rest of us in peril — is wrong? Well, people who’ve been tracking trends in human behavior while the rest of us are making fun of Toby Keith fans are constantly telling just that. Here are ten reasons we should start to listen.
10. IQ Scores are Significantly Rising
All around the globe (yes, even here in the idiocratic US of A) scores on IQ tests have consistently risen. Say what you will about how significant an indicator Intelligence Quotient is but, according to people who actually know what the word quotient means, IQ does seem to correlate with such qualities as job performance, scholastic success, and the avoidance of negative social outcomes.
What’s important here is that IQ scores aren’t just rising among the uber-nerds who designed whatever amazing device you’re reading this on; they’re soaring among the rest of us as well. “The Flynn Effect” is smart person talk for the rise of average IQ scores around the world. All countries studied by scholar James Flynn saw a consistent 5-20 point increase in IQ generation after generation, proving the Flynn Effect right as rain. This doesn’t just mean that the inventor of the cell phone is smarter than the inventor of the waffle iron. It means that we are smarter than all our grandparents. What’s more, there is ample reason to believe that our grandkids will grow to make us look like blathering idiots.
And even if IQ scores aren’t the most effective way to determine intelligence, it takes a pretty dim wit to conclude that the world is getting dumber as IQ scores are soaring worldwide.
9. Smart People are Creating Smarter and Smarter Technology
Chances are, each of us right now has something in our pockets that has more computing power than NASA had to land two people on the moon in 1969. While it is slightly dismaying that we probably use most of this computing power to post pictures of kittens, but the very existence of such miraculous technology raises the obvious question: if the world is getting dumber, who are the dummies creating this bold new world of ever-complex technology?
8. Poverty is Shrinking
Yeah, yeah, it’s all very fine and well to celebrate the awe-inspiring technology that permeates our world. But what good does all this brilliance do if it can create nothing more than a fresh slate of shiny new toys every year?
How about 3.4 billion people rising out of poverty in the past 50 years? Between the years 2005 to 2010 alone, nearly half a billion people have escaped a life of getting by on $1.25. We suppose that counts as something more than yet another pile of gadgets. And again, it’s hard to imagine such a thing taking place in a world that is getting stupider.
7. We Have Access to More Knowledge than Ever Before
There’s a lot of information on the internet, which you’ve probably noticed if you’ve spent more than twelve seconds online. At last count, the amount of data was measured at 1.2 zettabytes. In the days before we had to start making up words to measure how much information was available to us, knowledge was hard to come by. Today, learning a language you’ve previously never heard of is as simple as typing in a URL.
So who’s demanding this tidal wave of information? Apparently the same idiots demanding and creating smarter pop culture and technology of eye-popping brilliance. And speaking of smarter pop culture …
6. There is More Smart Pop Culture
As the “idiot box” is the medium most commonly maligned for its supposed lack of intelligent content, we’ll use it as an example of pop culture’s trend towards smarter stuff. Simply put, it is true that there is more dumb programming on TV than ever before — because there’s more programming on TV than ever before. Those of us who remember the ’70s and ’80s recall that dumb TV was something you watched regularly because there was nothing else on except a Different Strokes rerun and a PBS documentary on sea turtles.
Today, dumb TV is something you don’t watch because you’re too busy watching Mad Men or Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones. In fact, you wouldn’t even know that boneheaded reality TV shows or insipid sitcoms existed if you hadn’t heard somebody cite them as examples of how the world is getting dumber.
5. We are Getting Less Violent
The trend of less violence is worldwide, taking place in many different spheres of society, from the inner cities, where gang-related violent crime has steadily fallen since the ’90s to the battlefield, where the average person’s likelihood of being a victim of political violence (war, genocide, terrorism) has fallen to an unprecedented low rate of a few hundredths of a percentage point.
Say what you will about the ongoing horror show taking place in Iraq, but anyone old enough to recall Pol Pot’s Cambodia or Hitler’s Germany can attest that things are getting better. Is it a coincidence that violence is shrinking as IQ scores are rising? C’mon, even an idiot can answer that question.
4. We’re Living Longer, Healthier Lives
Life expectancy rates have skyrocketed in the past few centuries. This suggests that, for all the occasional stupidity regarding our health choices, people are mostly getting better at making decisions that help us live longer lives. We also have greater access to to better medical care, due to the collective brain power of those in the medical world.
3. Literacy Rates are Soaring
Here’s a puzzling fact about the stubbornly anti-intellectual society we’re living in: we read more. More people can read, and more people engage in recreational reading. But this is only puzzling for those bracing for the idiocracy’s takeover.
2. Classical Literature and Arts are More Available Than Ever Before
In this supposedly dumbed-down world, It’s easy to convince ourselves that the world of new media consists almost entirely with pictures of kittens and porn. But a closer look reveals something different. Classical works of literature, art, and philosophy are being archived in ways and at rates that past generations would have found impossible. But who knows, maybe past generations would be more impressed by the kittens and porn. After all, they weren’t as smart as us, were they?
1. We Worry More Than Ever About the Dumbing Down of Our World
There’s a dark side to having a high a IQ. Many dark sides actually. Sky-high intelligence is often linked with a number of maladies such as depression, bipolar disorder and (wait for it) anxiety. So it makes perfect sense that we’d be panicked over the prospect of a coming ideocratic Jihad. Evolutionary psychologists assure us that anxiety in our distant ancestors was a perfectly healthy adaptation trait, necessary for our survival. And the concerns we have over the collective cerebral power of our modern world are understandable and sometimes admirable. But when it makes us believe things that the evidence simply doesn’t support, it can be downright stupid.