CR4® - The Engineer's Place for News and Discussion®


The Engineer's Notebook Blog

The Engineer's Notebook

The Engineer's Notebook is a shared blog for entries that don't fit into a specific CR4 blog. Topics may range from grammar to physics and could be research or or an individual's thoughts - like you'd jot down in a well-used notebook.

Previous in Blog: AI Passes 'Go'   Next in Blog: Scents and Scentsibility
Close
Close
Close
21 comments

Are Your Smarter (or Dumber) Than Your Ancestors?

Posted April 06, 2016 3:00 PM by HUSH
Pathfinder Tags: education history intelligence IQ

The Case for Being Dumber

It's easy to find anecdotal evidence about how 'stupid' the world has become. Take a look at the millions of tacky social media posts. Consider that new age celebrities are pretty much normal people live-playing video games or doing a stunt on YouTube. The average person's job might soon be replaced with AI and a robot, because so many jobs and tasks are menial and repetitive.

It's more difficult to find scientific evidence about a global decrease in general intelligence, but research does exist. According to a 2013 joint study conducted by researchers from Umeå University, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, University of Amsterdam and University College Cork, Western populations are 14 IQ points dumber than Victorian ancestors.

The researchers studied data from mental chronometry tests conducted between 1884 and 2004. In a mental chronometry test, participants must press a button when visually cued. Since the eyes perceive the cue and the brain commands the button press, reaction time correlates to mental acuity.

After analyzing the data researchers found that visual reaction times in the 19th Century were an average of 194 milliseconds, but in 2004 were an average of 275 milliseconds.

As possible explanation, one of the researchers indicated that there is a well-documented negative correlation between IQ and fertility-basically dumb people are likely to produce more offspring. This is sometimes called the Smart Man's Burden; though I would prefer to call it the Idiocracy principle after this clip from the 2006 movie (strong language).

The Case for Being Smarter

Look at all this technology! Cell phones, tablet computers, graphene, autonomous cars, AI-playing Go, and more. Or is this just an instance of a few very intelligent individuals enriching the lives of everyone else?

According to data from American-born and New Zealand-based professor Dr. James Flynn, each one of us is considerably smart than any of our ancestors. Flynn first hypothesized that there are substantial intelligence gains in successive generations over the past 100 years. This is called the Flynn effect.

Flynn analyzed test data from Raven's Progressive Matrices (RPMs), which are reasoning tests meant to interpret reasoning and fluid intelligence. RPMs are regularly updated and standardized so the majority of test-takers receive results with an average of IQ 100 points, with a standard deviation of 15 IQ points. When these sample test-takers also take previous iterations of the RPMs, they regularly score higher than 100 IQ points.

These improved test scores are consistent and linear. Flynn received similar results for sample test-takers born in the previous 100 years in both Iowa and Scotland. In the U.S. this is an improvement of 3 IQ points per decade, when scaled by Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children tests. Other countries note similar IQ gains, albeit at different rates of increase.

Some studies of the Flynn effect have found that many of the IQ gains happen at the lower ends of the sample distribution, which buoys IQ averages. Basically the simpletons of today are better educated than older individuals in the same part of the IQ distribution.

Flynn himself struggles to pinpoint any single reason why population IQs are going up. He believes that our modern societies are more cognitively challenging and better enable smart individuals to seek new challenges. Other researchers believe that improvements in schooling and test taking lead to better results, but not necessarily smarter people. Biological parameters, such as improving nutrition and preventative medicine, are also sometimes credited.

Nonetheless, Flynn expects there to be IQ improvement apex, where eventually IQs begin slipping as the Smart Man's Burden takes a larger presence. Some argue that it's already here.

The Verdict

So how do you feel? Are we smarter or dumber than our ancestors of 50 or 100 years ago?

There likely will never be a method to objectively evaluate this; the above are just two contradicting examples of many, many more studies about this topic.

Before you weigh in, remember the Dunning-Kruger effect: dumb people think they're smarter than they really are.

Reply

Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Comments rated to be Good Answers:

These comments received enough positive ratings to make them "good answers".

Comments rated to be "almost" Good Answers:

Check out these comments that don't yet have enough votes to be "official" good answers and, if you agree with them, rate them!
Guru

Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 5617
Good Answers: 558
#1

Re: Are Your Smarter (or Dumber) Than Your Ancestors?

04/06/2016 4:07 PM

I think there are two aspects to what we measure as "intelligence", amount of knowledge and "canniness". Today people have more knowledge, especially since almost everyone has access to the internet and can find information for the asking.

But this same ease of obtaining information, I believe, has reduced the "canniness" that our ancestors had to use to solve problems.

Reply Score 1 for Good Answer
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: at the beach in Florida
Posts: 18930
Good Answers: 1102
#2

Re: Are Your Smarter (or Dumber) Than Your Ancestors?

04/06/2016 4:56 PM

Well I think a lot has to do with proper nutrition and environmental conditions....mental and physical acuity has to do with conditioning as much as fundamental ability....It's easy to confuse knowledge and intelligence, though the two often go hand in hand, other factors come into play...One thing that is certain is there is a lot more specialized knowledge categories that exist today and larger number of individuals that fit into this category...Generally speaking I don't think a definitive answer is possible, although one could certainly say there is a lot more of every kind of intellect than there ever was before....Over stimulation is a symptom of today's society, the end effects of that will certainly drive intellect higher if environmental contamination doesn't drive it in the other direction first...

__________________
Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. A.E.
Reply
Guru
Hobbies - DIY Welding - Wannabeabettawelda

Join Date: May 2007
Location: Annapolis, Maryland
Posts: 4121
Good Answers: 230
#3

Re: Are Your Smarter (or Dumber) Than Your Ancestors?

04/06/2016 7:47 PM

Wisdom and intelligence are not the same thing. I've come across some very well schooled individuals who were dumb as rocks.

Reply Score 1 for Good Answer
Guru

Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 5617
Good Answers: 558
#4
In reply to #3

Re: Are Your Smarter (or Dumber) Than Your Ancestors?

04/06/2016 9:27 PM

I've seen some that were as dumb as two rocks.

Reply
Guru
Canada - Member - New Member

Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: Canada but south of 49
Posts: 726
Good Answers: 17
#9
In reply to #3

Re: Are Your Smarter (or Dumber) Than Your Ancestors?

04/07/2016 8:58 AM

Indeed! A different comparison? - as sharp as a sack of wet mash, as bright as a burned out light bulb and so on.

Wisdom comes from learning/experience. Intelligence, in my opinion, is innate. Just based on my own observations generations succeeding mine may seem to be more intelligent, but less wise. They cannot seem to grasp the basics especially grammatically and mathematically. There are those exceptions which is why we have all the modern day tools available. The advancements in technology by those few truly intelligent ones of earlier, sometimes much earlier generations, has made it possible for the rest to get by very easily. All the work has already been done and made available to the masses. That is until the next "intelligent" people give us more.

__________________
Never stop learning
Reply
Guru
Engineering Fields - Electrical Engineering - New Member Fans of Old Computers - Commodore 64 - New Member Popular Science - Evolution - New Member United States - Member - New Member

Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: Illinois, 7 county region (The 'blue dot' that drags the rest of the 'red state' around during presidential elections.)
Posts: 3441
Good Answers: 87
#14
In reply to #3

Re: Are Your Smarter (or Dumber) Than Your Ancestors?

04/07/2016 12:16 PM

Yup, just ask anyone who plays D&D, they'll probably also be able to tell you the classic example of "Intelligence versus Wisdom:" Being Smart enough to know that cigarettes are harmful (High INT) but not being Wise enough to quit (Low WIS).

Or they may use the Jurassic park line about High INT, Low WIS: "You people were so busy with whether you COULD do this, you never stopped to thing about whether you SHOULD do it."

__________________
( The opinions espressed in this post may not reflect the true opinions of the poster, and may not reflect commonly accepted versions of reality. ) (If you are wondering: yes, I DO hope to live to be as old as my jokes.)
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Out of your mind! Not in sight!
Posts: 3972
Good Answers: 92
#5

Re: Are Your Smarter (or Dumber) Than Your Ancestors?

04/06/2016 11:02 PM
__________________
Common Sense Dictates
Reply
Guru
Engineering Fields - Marine Engineering - New Member

Join Date: May 2007
Location: Australia.
Posts: 1430
Good Answers: 69
#6

Re: Are Your Smarter (or Dumber) Than Your Ancestors?

04/07/2016 1:35 AM

I remember many years ago reading an article on IQ tests, that took place in America schools. There was a large difference between them, the schools with white students had high marks, and schools with coloured students had low marks. An analysis of the questions showed they where biased towards the white students, the reasoning being that white students had a more privileged life style, having more access to books, and also a difference in ethnic background dictating the kind of books they read. The analysis found that the kind of questions being asked where mostly taken from children story books, as would be read by white students.

So are IQ results a product of intelligence or life styles past and present?

Reply
Guru
United States - Member - Born, raised halfway 'round .....

Join Date: May 2010
Location: Speedway.....
Posts: 1039
Good Answers: 23
#8
In reply to #6

Re: Are Your Smarter (or Dumber) Than Your Ancestors?

04/07/2016 8:22 AM

It may also be due more on to the kind of parenting we have now prevailing as compared to the olden days, say in the 50s /60s or earlier? Parenting Values so to speak...that gets reflected down to most of the offsprings!

__________________
vsar
Reply
2
Power-User

Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 124
Good Answers: 9
#18
In reply to #8

Re: Are Your Smarter (or Dumber) Than Your Ancestors?

04/08/2016 5:20 PM

Regarding wisdom & canniness,

I believe parenting style indeed has to do with these attributes. Maybe not the only thing but an important one.

As far as I can tell one of a parent's jobs is to protect their young until they learn enough to keep themselves from doing stupid stuff that will kill them. And also provide for them until they can do it themselves - responsibility.

A parent's guidance as the young mind develops can instill the ability to look problems over and predict outcomes and develop solutions to overcome problems. Don't simply hand them the answers or spoil them. Let them learn how to figure things out and learn the value of work. In this busy world it seems easier to just do it yourself and get it done. How many times I remember allowing my kids to "help" which made it all take way longer. But remember it's not always about how much stuff you get done, it's often about how much wisdom and ability to think that you can pass on to your offspring that counts.

Seems that's even the way wild animals like big cats or wolves and coyotes etc. do it.

If the parents are too busy, not there, or don't care to help train their offspring what do we expect?

We get the "texting while walking dangerous" people. We get the "give me stuff or I'll take it" people.

We get the "government will provide for me" people. We get the "I don't want to have to think about being safe" people. We get the "there ought to be a law so I can't hurt myself "people.

Colleges always seem to want well rounded individuals these days. Well how about the advantage and roundedness gained from growing up with both a female and a male and all the nuances that each gender brings to the thinking process. Face it, we all know males & females think differently. Why do you think we have Big Brothers & Big Sisters programs?

I know my parents couldn't afford to spoil me. They did spend time with me and made me work and made me think. They showed me how to do things but allowed me to explore. Example: as a teenager my father employed me in his small machining job shop and he paid me on commission only for each part I produced. You think that didn't make me think about the process and how I could improve upon it and speed it up. Valuable thinking skills were developed there. I learned a lot about cause and effect for production.

Are you smart? Are you wise? What do you feel has contributed to that for you?

Reply Good Answer (Score 2)
Guru
United States - Member - Born, raised halfway 'round .....

Join Date: May 2010
Location: Speedway.....
Posts: 1039
Good Answers: 23
#19
In reply to #18

Re: Are Your Smarter (or Dumber) Than Your Ancestors?

04/08/2016 6:28 PM

I agree and you are right, it is the quality of good parenting that plays a bigger role in a child's development... the guidance, discipline and good examples shown, drilled intheir young minds that shaped and molded them to maturity!

I for one had experienced that kind of upbringing from my parents which in turn I followed and emulated all their examples...then sharing all those values and discipline in raising my own children!

Being a successful retired engr, and having an MD and an RN offsprings, both successful in their chosen fields, I can claim success while giving all the credits to my parents, as they too raised and molded me well!

__________________
vsar
Reply
Guru
Hobbies - DIY Welding - Wannabeabettawelda

Join Date: May 2007
Location: Annapolis, Maryland
Posts: 4121
Good Answers: 230
#20
In reply to #18

Re: Are Your Smarter (or Dumber) Than Your Ancestors?

04/08/2016 7:53 PM

If only we could make your words and thoughts that went with them required in school . . . . . . that is a prime example of wisdom.

Reply
Guru
Engineering Fields - Instrumentation Engineering - EE from the the Wilds of Pa.

Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania
Posts: 2490
Good Answers: 58
#7

Re: Are Your Smarter (or Dumber) Than Your Ancestors?

04/07/2016 8:18 AM

Well, the lowering of IQ is to be expected. In the Victorian days it was as my Mother used to say about the child proof caps on medicine bottles, "when I was a child, if you were stupid, you died." Now the "stupid" are living much longer thanks to what appears to be an over concern about people harming themselves.

Really? I see where New Jersey is considering a fine on people texting and walking. They may walk in front of a moving car. I say if you're that stupid, you should die.

__________________
Remember when reading my post: (-1)^½ m (2)^½
Reply Score 1 for Good Answer
Power-User

Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 170
Good Answers: 10
#10
In reply to #7

Re: Are Your Smarter (or Dumber) Than Your Ancestors?

04/07/2016 9:52 AM

Too many life guards in the gene pool so to speak.

Reply Score 1 for Good Answer
Guru
Engineering Fields - Instrumentation Engineering - EE from the the Wilds of Pa.

Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania
Posts: 2490
Good Answers: 58
#11
In reply to #10

Re: Are Your Smarter (or Dumber) Than Your Ancestors?

04/07/2016 10:03 AM

Too many liberal politicians, who feel to compensate for their lack of true work, they must enact some legislation, and what appears to be better than legislation to protect people from themselves? It certainly is applauded by the insurance industry. (they help to fill every politicians wallet)

__________________
Remember when reading my post: (-1)^½ m (2)^½
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Tulare, CA
Posts: 1739
Good Answers: 33
#12
In reply to #11

Re: Are Your Smarter (or Dumber) Than Your Ancestors?

04/07/2016 10:15 AM

That applies to all politicians. You have both Liberal and Conservative Used Car salesmen. They're both going to make you a deal you can't refuse.

__________________
Why is there never enough time to do it right the first time but always enough time to do it over?
Reply
Guru
Hobbies - Musician - Engineering Fields - Chemical Engineering - New Member Engineering Fields - Control Engineering - New Member Engineering Fields - Instrumentation Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Moses Lake, WA, USA, Thulcandra - The Silent Planet (C.S. Lewis)
Posts: 3900
Good Answers: 174
#13

Re: Are Your Smarter (or Dumber) Than Your Ancestors?

04/07/2016 11:50 AM

a 2013 joint study

Speaking of joints, I think the proliferation of marijuana use has a contribution to this.

__________________
"Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone." - Ayn Rand
Reply
Guru
Engineering Fields - Electrical Engineering - New Member Fans of Old Computers - Commodore 64 - New Member Popular Science - Evolution - New Member United States - Member - New Member

Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: Illinois, 7 county region (The 'blue dot' that drags the rest of the 'red state' around during presidential elections.)
Posts: 3441
Good Answers: 87
#15
In reply to #13

Re: Are Your Smarter (or Dumber) Than Your Ancestors?

04/07/2016 12:27 PM

I'm all for legalized pot:

  • If you lack the wisdom to avoid it, you end up sitting on the sofa all day, watching Spongebob and eating Funyuns. At the end of the day, you've hurt nobody (unless you consider the artery damage from a Funyun-heavy diet).
  • If you have the wisdom to avoid smoking pot, you are also likely to have the wisdom to be a productive member of society, and will go through life helping others instead of hurting them.
    • You can also have a lot of fun with the Potheads:
      • "Whoah, dude, I can't let you past here unless you give me some money for weed."
      • "Say, if people can get past, can they also get ... FUTURE?"
      • "Whoah, man." (Pothead sits down to ponder the 'existential brain-bomb' you just handed him.)
      • (You continue walking past the Pothead.)
    • (I like to mess with peoples' minds, it's a personal failing of mine.)
__________________
( The opinions espressed in this post may not reflect the true opinions of the poster, and may not reflect commonly accepted versions of reality. ) (If you are wondering: yes, I DO hope to live to be as old as my jokes.)
Reply
Guru
Hobbies - DIY Welding - Wannabeabettawelda

Join Date: May 2007
Location: Annapolis, Maryland
Posts: 4121
Good Answers: 230
#16
In reply to #15

Re: Are Your Smarter (or Dumber) Than Your Ancestors?

04/07/2016 1:31 PM

I'm all for legalized pot when the government stops giving money to people who don't do anything. (Obviously, there are people who cannot support themselves through no fault of their own and I harbor no umbrage towards them . . . . so this can never work but you get my gist.)

Reply
Guru
Engineering Fields - Electrical Engineering - New Member Fans of Old Computers - Commodore 64 - New Member Popular Science - Evolution - New Member United States - Member - New Member

Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: Illinois, 7 county region (The 'blue dot' that drags the rest of the 'red state' around during presidential elections.)
Posts: 3441
Good Answers: 87
#17
In reply to #16

Re: Are Your Smarter (or Dumber) Than Your Ancestors?

04/07/2016 2:53 PM

But if you give them money AND pot, they'll be too stoned to get aroused, and too busy watching Spongebob and eating Funyuns to be seduced. The problem will clear itself up in time.

__________________
( The opinions espressed in this post may not reflect the true opinions of the poster, and may not reflect commonly accepted versions of reality. ) (If you are wondering: yes, I DO hope to live to be as old as my jokes.)
Reply
Power-User

Join Date: Nov 2015
Posts: 134
#21

Re: Are Your Smarter (or Dumber) Than Your Ancestors?

04/10/2016 1:37 PM

If only Einstien haven't been born. Then I am smarter.

__________________
formerly Legolaz
Reply
Reply to Blog Entry 21 comments
Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Comments rated to be Good Answers:

These comments received enough positive ratings to make them "good answers".

Comments rated to be "almost" Good Answers:

Check out these comments that don't yet have enough votes to be "official" good answers and, if you agree with them, rate them!
Copy to Clipboard

Users who posted comments:

adreasler (3); Brave Sir Robin (3); harley (1); IdeaSmith (1); Janissaries (1); jdretired (1); JustCurious (1); Kevin LaPaire (1); Mikerho (1); Peterpipper (1); Phys (2); Rixter (2); SolarEagle (1); vsar (2)

Previous in Blog: AI Passes 'Go'   Next in Blog: Scents and Scentsibility

Advertisement