Turns out, my hunch was correct. People are, in fact, getting dumber. A wide range of studies using various well-established IQ tests and metrics have resulted in declining scores in many advanced nations. After rising through much of the 20th-century, scores across Scandinavia, Great Britain, Germany, France and Australia, among other places, have markedly declined. Apparently, scores in the United States haven’t yet declined apace, though you’d never know it listening to the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speak about “Green New Deals” and garbage disposals. (“What is that thing?”).
Naturally, details vary from study to study and from place to place, but there is no doubt that many of the most economically advanced nations have experienced falling IQ levels since around the turn of the 21st-century.
Given that decades of research have clearly shown individual IQ scores are closely tied to educational achievement and longevity, and a country’s average IQ score is linked to economic growth and scientific innovation, this trend is worrisome indeed. This could well lead to a generally diminished outlook for our collective future, and, assuming the trend will show up in the U.S. soon, as seems likely, many more years of ABC’s “The View.”
The unexpected declines in cognitive functioning have experts speculating as to the reason or reasons behind this “global dumbing,” to coin a term. Could it be that lower-IQ families are having more children, whereas higher IQ ones are having fewer? Could the torrent of immigrants from outside these areas be less intelligent, on average, than the people in the countries to which they are emigrating? Possibly, but apart from the “unwokeness” of these ideas, a 2018 study in Norway showed that IQs are falling within families as well, proving that (hereditary) children of high-IQ parents are losing ground, too. Therefore, experts say, some environmental factor or factors are responsible for the drop in IQ scores.
One popular theory is that the prevalence of lower-skill service jobs has made work less intellectually demanding, leading to underutilized brains and atrophying IQs. Some believe global warming has made food less nutritious, leading to the decline. I argue that if you believe that, you are already too dumb to be taken seriously. (In my view, “man-caused global warming” is a symptom—not a cause—of declining intellect and cognitive ability).
Another theory is that information-age devices such as smart phones are sapping our ability to focus. I share that belief. Between video games, smart phones, computers, social media, Snap-Chat, Tinder, and a million other apps, our brains are being permanently degraded and rewired. Many Millennials have the attention span of a gnat.
I posit that it is precisely because we are so advanced that we have become soft, weak, addled…and unable to perform certain functions on our own. Perhaps high-tech ultimately equals low-IQ. Machines do everything for us now. How often have we bought something at a store and noticed that the clerk can’t count change back from a purchase. They have to look at what the till or computer digitally tells them is the correct change. Some schools in England have removed the standard-issue round analog wall clocks from classrooms and hallways because the kids can no longer read them. Many of our youth are unfamiliar with cursive writing due to their reliance on keyboards.
What will we do as robots replace us in the workplace and artificial intelligence potentially threatens our own?
Let’s hope that when that time comes we aren’t too stupid to figure it out.