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Is the population becoming more stupid?

I just had to sign an employee receipt for a corp. 'Distracted Driving Policy'. Basically it says, ‘Don’t do it.’

Of course I’m aware of the distracted driving & piloting incidents and accidents that have made the media recently. I’m also aware of: the financial crises triggered by bad mortgages; people who have being ‘caught’ by large overdraft, credit, & debit card fees; people who have been surprised that the information they posted on the internet, is actually seen and read by others. And so on and so forth. Risks to me, that seem obvious.

I don’t remember this much stupidity exhibited by the general population 20-30 years ago. I’m not to saying governments and organizations didn’t do dumb things, I’m saying it seemed to me that, generally speaking, my next door neighbor knew enough to pay attention to the road when they were driving.

Maybe I just have to get this off my chest but I have to ask; Is the population becoming stupider?

Closing Statement from Vincine Fallica

Many responded stating objective data, I.Q. tests and the like, don’t support the proposition. Opinions seem to be it only appears people are becoming less intelligent because opportunities for distraction by modern technology have increased. I don’t know that I buy that. I don’t know that in the past, people who were driving had to be told not work on crossword puzzles, or to turn around and talk to their back seat passengers, etc.

The answer I’m most satisfied with suggested it was not that people were becoming less intelligent, but less disciplined, or perhaps less self-controlled. That sounds about right.

Still I’m astonished, but perhaps no longer surprised, that such a thing as a corp. policy on distracted driving even has to exist.

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    Mar 24 2011: Even with the seemingly endless example of human blunder there is no quantifiable evidence of humans physiologically dumbing down. Conversely there is no evidence of humans actually becoming any brighter either. Not over the past 10K years, that is.

    The perception of increased 'dumbness', whether undeserved or accurate lies with environmental factors.

    There have been some developments over the past number of decades that may have negatively impacted on our general intellectual prowess.

    One is the championing of multi-tasking. Individuals have been encouraged and rewarded for paying less attention to the task they are to perform. The performance outcome expectations are lowered simply by batching it with other tasks plus the attention the task receives is diminished as well.

    Another is the promotion of the idea that nearly any task performed is of acceptable or high quality. Students have been praised and rewarded en masse for their performance. This self-esteem promotion has contributed a negative aspect few had ever anticipated, in that the lowering of performance standards and measurements has occurred. Yet the perception the student has of their performance remains high.

    We are witnessing at the post-secondary level an increase in the incidence of superficial and inferior research processes and analysis that has spawn and is advancing some surprising theories. Whether or not this can be tied to multi-tasking or the inflation of giftedness remains to be determined. A related instance shows academics reporting as being unfairly impacted by student evaluations and are subsequently passed over for promotion or funding when they perform their assessments of student performance with true rigor.

    However the fact that public policies and debates are being advanced and in many cases supported by underdeveloped and questionable research is troubling. This has, without doubt, contributed to the perception of our general 'dumbness'.
  • Mar 23 2011: This is a common misconception fueled by the speed of modern media and movies like Idiocracy. I don't know how many of my friends believe that we're headed to the future portrayed in Idiocracy, but it's more than I would happily admit. The fact is, and the statistics back it, mankind is actually getting smarter.

    At first glance looking at IQ statistics show that we've stayed very close to a constant mean IQ as time has progressed, but IQ tests are re-standardized due to new IQ norms. Here's a great writeup explaining the Flynn Effect, and how IQ and IQ tests change over time:

    I think the main reason for this belief that mankind is becoming less intelligent is the relatively new ability for any average Joe to publish their words and share their life with the world. We're seeing a side of people we wouldn't have seen in the past. As a population we may be more accepting of lewd behavior than we were in the past, and as such the lewd behavior may be more prominent than ever before. But that lewdness should not be mistaken for stupidity.
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    Mar 19 2011: That you even ask this question....

    What are the two most common elements in the Universe?

    1. Hydrogen*
    2. Human stupidity
    *Not so sure about the Hydrogen...

    It's not "stupider," it's "more stupid." It's not that people are becoming dumber, it's that intelligence has always been an illusion. What you might have noticed is that vulgarity and mediocrity have become increasingly valued in society, even deemed commendable. The baby boomer's cultural revolution has a lot to do with it, after which high culture took a nose dive.

    However I must concede that the blame does not fall squarely on the boomer's shoulders, I'd also lay our cultural decline at the feet of modernist art and architecture, and perhaps go as far back to some forms of impressionism. But as much I'd like to say that classical art is the only true form of art, I have to acknowledge that even the contemporaries of such artists felt it was a devolution into vulgarity. Perhaps high culture itself is also an illusion.

    The most enjoyable illusions of all are that we are highly cultured, intelligent, and sophisticated when we're just as brutal as feral dogs. Damn post-modernist relativistic honesty!
    • Mar 19 2011: Changed to more stupid, thanks.

      On the other point, I’m not talking about the perceived value of common culture vs. ‘high’ culture. The kind of thing I’m talking about is a family that needs more money, so both adults get jobs, which requires child care, two car payments, auto insurance, etc. the result of which is they have LESS money than if only one worked AND NOT REALIZING IT.
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        Mar 20 2011: Usually families have less money because they spend squander their profit margins on useless stuff and are not financially disciplined. Another reason why a single income provider is no longer feasible is because incomes have declined since the 1970's. If your income is not keeping pace with inflation, then you are getting a wage cut every year. Now both parents HAVE to work. Eventually even that won't be enough and we'll probably return to time when extended families will need to stay together where the grandparents take care of the grandkids while parents work.
        • Mar 21 2011: Financial incompetency is only one area I’m speaking about, that was just an example.

          I agree with you that we will likely to return to multi-generation families, maybe even villages and neighborhoods with their own shopping areas. Maybe when people are less anonymous, they will be less susceptible to distractions and mass marketing.
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    Mar 19 2011: Is the population becoming stupider?
    No. But the sum of intelligence is constant :-)

    I agree with Monty on the role of distractions.
    It's hard to drive carefully when you can so easily listen to music player, watch video player, answer a phone call and even browse the Internet, while you are driving.
    I guess this is about self discipline.
    • Mar 19 2011: Laszlo,I think you’re right about self-discipline, but not about the distractions.

      I don’t think distractions can be blamed for people committing to debt they can’t manage, extreme economic circumstances excepted. Or posting things on the internet they don't want people to know.

      Still I'm wondering how long it will be before an accident occurs because a driver was watching a movie on the dashboard LCD display. I think intelligence must play a roll in here somewhere.
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    Mar 18 2011: Not "stupider", just less inclined to observe history. This within itself is anti-intellectual. Immediacy or "generation now" as the Black Eyed Peas call it. Our "new" ideas are almost always spins on very old ones.
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    Mar 18 2011: Your next door neighbor also didn't have the same distractions 20-30 years ago.