IF we all started getting stupider, would anyone notice?

Hypothetically speaking, if everyone in the human race slowly got stupider (Say, losing 1 IQ point per every few years), would we notice before we got too stupid to notice? It seems to me that most scoring and grading systems are based on comparing to the average; it also seems to me that it’s really difficult to accurately measure intelligence versus the ability to do well on standardized tests. Do we have a way of objectively comparing the intelligence of people today to that of people who lived a century or more ago?

A small hijack… I seem to recall a novel about just such a scenario, I wish I knew the author and title. It went something like this: (my facts may be somewhat off the mark)

The human race’s jump in progress several hundred years ago (since labeled the Renaissance) was due to the solar system entering a fabric of space which allowed the brain to function at a more efficient level.

But then… the solar system exited the particular fabric of space and man reverted to his previous low grade moron level. The upshot is we are now left with all our advances but no way to maintain or operate them. Hilarities follow.

Anyone know the novel?

You mean you haven’t noticed? :slight_smile:

We humans tend to be very blind to our OWN stupidity, yet this doesn’t stop us from noticing the stupidity of others.

If we all became less and less intelligent, then wouldn’t it seem as if each of us stayed the same, while global stupidity got worse and worse?

You’re thinking of the short story “The Marching Morons” by C. M. Kornbluth. While it’s true that I.Q. tests are (in general) re-calibrated every few years so that they always have a mean of 100, so that it would be difficult to tell whether there is any general trend, there have been enough cases where I.Q. tests have continued in use for long enough without changes so that it’s possible to tell what the general trend is. In fact, the general trend is that the I.Q. in nearly every population group with a long history of I.Q. testing has been increasing, and the increase is about 3 I.Q. points every 10 years.

This was first noticed in research published in 1984 by a New Zealand political scientist named James R. Flynn. This result has been checked many times, and it applies to every country with a long history of widespread I.Q. testing. This result is called the Flynn Effect (for obvious reasons). Do a Google search on “Flynn Effect” if you want to learn more about this subject. I.Q. testing on a large scale started in the 1910’s (all American soldiers in World War I were tested, for instance), and the Flynn effect is true even back then. This means that it has been going on for at least 80 years, which means (as you can quickly calculate) that, if I.Q. actually means anything consistent, the average I.Q. of the population in 1920 was the equivalent of a borderline mentally retarded person now.

Don’t start a Great Debate on why this is true. Take a look at all the research that’s been done on this subject. Every obvious environmental and genetic cause for this effect has already been proposed and tested (including the question of whether I.Q. makes any sense at all), and none of the obvious explanations fit the data. Nobody has been able to explain this effect. If you want to debate this, start a thread in Great Debates.

Is there a confusion here between critical thinking and intelligence?

Ummmmmnnnnnn… What?

I like the color blue. Blue is a more better color.

more stupid, not stupider.


There’s actually a pulp novel I remember reading as a teenager based on that idea - only in this case I think it was a virus that rapidly caused stupidity across the population, so that people and society eventually stopped functioning. IIRC, the smarter you were the worse of a hit your IQ took. The name of the book was was IQ 69 (which was what the average IQ supposedly was dropping to). A horror novel for the Mensa set.

One science fiction story that still gets has the premise that the smart people were more selective in their choosing of mates and were ‘out bred’ by the stupid people. The trend continued until there was a small army of smart people running around trying to devise ways to keep the stupid people happy. One way was to make a rocket car that was a normal car, but played a jet engine sound as it drove around…

But now, thanks to the Flynn Effect, I’m not going to worry about that happening!

there is between knowledge and wisdom
wisdom can increase as knowledge decreases
so it may be wiser to be more stupider:)

I would think that as the population got more stupiderest it would become harder and harder for people to comprehend the writings left behind by their forebears.

So we need to check in a hundred years or so to see whether people can understand the writing of, say, Thomas Jefferson or Sartre or Dave Barry.

i wanna reed my 1st post but i dont get it does this mean somthin?

excellent retrograde observation
they may not even be able to understand what they wrote themselves?
very :eek:

Well, after my last post I ran across this transcript of Alan Greenspan’s testimony before the U.S. Senate in July, which includes this gem on the difficulty of forecasting exchange rates:


Doh! This decline is faster than I thought.

sx633 wrote:

> A small hijack… I seem to recall a novel about just such a
> scenario, I wish I knew the author and title.

And in reply I wrote:

> You’re thinking of the short story “The Marching Morons” by C.
> M. Kornbluth.

Speaking of people becoming stupid, I blew this one real good. sx633 was probably speaking about the novel Brainwave by Poul Anderson, not the Kornbluth story.

Actually the name of the book was IQ 83 by Aurthur Herzog published in 1978. There is a movie currently in the works being directed by Barry Levinson and put out by Dreamworks based on the Herzog novel.

And while I enjoyed Anderson’s novel, it did not make the same “waves” that Herzog’s did so I would bet on IQ 83 being the book in question.

I am reminded of the song “Jocko Homo” by DEVO:

Are we not men?
We are DEVO!

To respond to the OP: A small handful of the population would notice the lessening of intelligence, by things mentioned already, in addition to; lowered test scores, entertainment clearly more and more low brow and their own inability to comprehend concepts that they took for granted in earlier times.

They would probably make noices about the loss, but the bulk of population would not be distracted from their own interests and would happily decend to the level of drooling morons.

It looks to me from sx633’s description of the novel in his post that it’s closer to Brain Wave (which is about Earth moving into and out of a region of space that inhibits intelligence) rather than IQ 83 (which is about changing intelligence by messing with DNA).