Idiocracy: Is it plausible?

I rented the relatively unheard-of Mike Judge/Luke Wilson film Idiocracy the other night, and rather enjoyed it.

The edited highlights of the plot are that, 500 years into the future, everyone has become stupid because of generations of, well, stupid people having kids while “Smart” people didn’t do so for various reasons (market, work, etc).

Long story short, the idea is that we as a species are getting dumber, and- if something isn’t done about it- may eventually end up at the point where we’re watering our crops with Gatorade because “It’s got what plants crave- It’s got Electrolytes!”

The movie is, of course, satire, but I think it does make an interesting topic for discussion. I know we all like to sit in metaphorical leather-backed chairs in the metaphorical Study smoking metaphorical bubble pipes whilst drinking metaphorical brandy and discussing the dumbing down of society, but ultimately I don’t think we as a civilisation are getting stupider. Sure, we like to point to all the signs of “dumbing down” in our society- warning labels on cups of coffee etc, but the fact is we’re posting on a messageboard that only exists in cyberspace, made possible by the connection of millions of computers through advanced telecommunication networks… something not possible if we were a society of morons and imbeciles, in short (no jokes about your average internet user, please!).

I can’t help but wonder if the Romans sat around lamenting that the plebs spent too much time handing around at the Forum, pimping out their Chariots with lapis lazuli trim and silver-plated rims, and obsessing over the Gladiator Matches and so on, or whether the commoners during the Renaissance used to give people like Da Vinci wedgies for “Drawing complicated shit and talking about technical crap” instead of getting involved in wars against the Venetians or the Turks or whoever it was fashionable to wage war on at the time.

In short, I think there have always been dumb people throughout history, but I don’t think they’re increasing in numbers in such a way that, given 500 years from now, we’ll see a situation where everyone is a moron… Or will we?

What do you think?

That’s more an example of American class bigotry than it is the source of humanity’s future stupidification. It’s the poor who tend to have more children; the assumption behind the movie’s premise ( and similar works like the old story The Marching Morons ), is that poor = stupid.

And the other problem with that idea is that long before 500 years we’ll be able to correct any genetic slide towards stupidity with genetic engineering. Even if we never try to improve ourselves, simply correcting genetic defects should create an increase, not a decrease in average human intelligence.

Nah. The global intelligence trend seems definitely upward from my perspective.

I am a little concerned about the US, however, which seems to be going through a spate of glorifying anti-intellectualism, lauding those who accept what they’re told without much investigation, who cast aspersions on progressive and independent thinkers by attacking their academic credentials, accomplishments, or affiliations, and who are guided and, in general, successfully affected by emotional rather than intellectual stimuli. I do wonder how much damage this will do in the long term, especially if the US continues what I see as a bent toward social isolationism, but eh, that’s just me.

Is Idiocracy leadership by idiots? If so, we have one now.

The idea in Idiocracy isn’t even a new theory. As has been pointed out, the same idea is in C. M. Kornbluth’s story “The Marching Morons.” Furthermore, it isn’t true that average intelligence is decreasing. The Flynn Effect shows just the opposite:

I don’t believe poor=stupid. Primarily because I was brought up on welfare. :slight_smile: However, I do believe stupid people are more likely to be poor because they make shitty decisions. If the stupid are over represented in the poor population they are more likely to breed faster since the poor population breeds faster… In any case we do need to get on the eugenics pretty damn skippy. I want genius kids that can see into the infrared and super jump.

The latter two parts might not be physically possible – genetics can’t change the basic limitations of flesh – but I see no reason not to try! :slight_smile:

It is not necessary for the entire population to be intelligent in order to make progress. In fact, a well-stratified distribution of alphas through epsilons is more likely to be successful, as Aldous Huxley has already pointed out.

I never bought that part of BNW . . . Nay, let it be all alphas! All relentlessly struggling to be in charge, to have the Top Slot! Let them scheme and war and kill each other – kill off the weak or incompetent or unlucky or timorous or ethical, producing smarter and stronger and meaner and fiercer alphas in every generation until at last there emerges a true master race fit to conquer the stars! BWAA-HA-HA-HA-HAAAA!

Came in here to write this. Word for word, even!

ETA: I don’t think it matters necessarily if there are more or less idiots for one team of scientists to find a cure for cancer. What matters is who does the decision-making as far as funding research goes, and whether the general public can be dumb enough to be convinced that cancer shouldn’t be cured (e.g. it’s a god’s will, it’s already been cured but drug companies are hiding the cure for some weird profit-driven reason so why give them more funding?, etc.)

Civilization tends to protect the weakest of its herd thereby stopping evolution in its tracks.

Will we get dumber? No.

Will we evolve? No.

We continue to evolve in spite of ourselves.

But the premise of Idiocracy is that stupidity results in greater fitness (i.e. more kids), which leads to evolution.

Lets try this again.

In order to evolve into a race of stupid the stupid must have disproportinately more children, not the undereducated, just the stupid. That I believe is a false premise.

And Onomatopoeia, you’re right that we’ll change no matter what. I used the word ‘evolve’ but meant improve*.

    • Not the Nietzsche definition, but the way Homo Sapiens are an improvement on H. heidelbergensis

Actually Idiocracy is a satire of the state of contemprary USA as seen through its popular culture.

It makes fun of today’s:

Over abundence of advertising, everywhere

Reliance on blind belief of techenology without use of ones own judgement (If you have had to deal with someone to correct a banking error or information glitch you’ll know what I mean, the default response is usually you are lying the machine is correct)

Ability to accept “common wisdom” without Critically thinking about it.

Insults of those who are noticibly different from teh herd especially if they appear intellectual. (Nothing new here)

Media playing down to the lowest common denominator rather than challenge or stimulate.

Need to immediatly gratify without thought to consequences.


As to whether society would dumb down because of genetics… I doubt it. Poor isn’t the same as stupid… Though culturally we are taught that poor folks are lazier and more stupid than anyone who has wealth. I’m sure there are many people who, given the right motivation and means, aren’t as unintellegent as they act.

…so basically the Foxnewsification of society.

So you’re claiming that social species are all evolutionary dead ends? That’s a new one.

He said “civilization”, not “social species”. And it’s not a new argument, and probably has a lot of truth to it. For example, being nearsighted, I’d be screwed as a Stone Age hunter. We are, in general, physically pathetic compared to animals; it generally doesn’t matter because civilization and our intelligence makes us more than a match for animals. On the other hand, until recently neither our intelligence nor our civilization could do much about disease, and our immune system is just as strong as an animals; it fits the pattern.

Not much.

If you were a stone age HG you wouldn’t be nearsighted unless you are in late middle age. Nearsightedness in the young seems to be largely if not entirely attributable to lack of use of distance vision. HGs did and do develop nearsightedness in middle age but that certainly never resulted in them being “screwed”.

That comment simply has no basis in reality. Humans are physically amazing mammals. At over 50% skeletal muscle mass a human male is one of the most heavily muscled mammals on the planet. Humans have impressive lifting abilities coupled with impressive hauling abilities and incredible speed, a trait seen only in a few cat species. We are astounding distance runners, have the ability to climb, swim or burrow as we need. We have the best vision of any mammal species . Humans are physically astounding and will put any other species to shame in almost any field. Any species will surpass humanity physcially in one or two fields, but no other species will surpass humanity in a majority of fields. Physically humans are the supreme generalist species and no other species comes close.

To suggest that humans are physically pathetic compasred to other aniamls simply demonstrates alack of knowledge of the physical capcities of humans and other animals.

Civilisation has nothing to do with it. Humans were match for any other animal 40, 000 years ago by which time we were already preying on whales and elephants.