18 August 2019

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Science
12 Aug  2019 81

Are we getting dumber?

Scientists predict a decline in intellectual level around the world.

The Flynn effect, which concerns the increasing intelligence of the population and, to put it simply, states that on average IQ indicators in society rise by three points in ten years, indicating that from the beginning of the 20th century to 2013, the intelligence of people increased by 30 points. The reasons for this increase are improving health, living standards, education, and the social sphere.
But studies in this area show that since the mid-80s of the last century, there has been a “crisis of intelligence” in the world, stagnation or even a decrease in indicators. As the intelligence specialist at the University of Vienna, Jacob Pitschnigg, clarifies: “We are smarter with regard to the abilities we need. But at the same time, our intelligence is weaker in the sphere of those abilities that are secondary to us. ” General knowledge, as well as grammatical and rhetorical abilities, mathematical literacy and spatial thinking are special forms of intelligence. If in 1909-2013 the growth in the field of logic reached 37 points, then in the field of specific knowledge - already only 22 points, and in Europe - a little less than 18.
It follows that people better and faster recognize abstract samples in tests, show good spatial orientation and successfully make choices, but things are not so good in other areas.
Pitschnig explains this trend by the fact that at the beginning of the 20th century the demand for knowledge in different fields was approximately the same in contrast to modernity, which emphasizes specialization in individual segments.


The results of a Vienna comparative study suggest that a person adapts his mental abilities to the environment. For example, in recent decades, a course toward digital technology and computerization has been characteristic. If you used to fly into space with a stopwatch in your hands, today we have cars that cut across roads without drivers. In tests, people showed poor results in areas such as vocabulary, mathematical abilities, and general horizons, but all these are things that an ordinary smartphone can do better than a person. And the technique in this regard will only improve.
The decline in total IQ is also due to genetic causes. According to statistics, intelligent people concentrate their forces on a career, and less intelligent people start a family.
Global warming can also cause a lower IQ level, as heat in a place with a lack of fluid and sleep reduces brain activity. However, according to Pitschnig, all of these factors are more likely to affect short-term test results and are not related to the long-term trends associated with the Flynn effect.
Returning to digital technologies, it is worth noting that some people say that IT makes our lives easier and helps logical thinking. Others tend to argue that smartphones and new-fangled gadgets make us dumber, because thanks to them, a person no longer has to think or memorize large amounts of information for a long time. According to Professor Reynold Popp of the Vienna Private University. Sigmund Freud, from this point of view, “we are not observing a decrease in intelligence, but rather a change in the intellectual profile. In connection with the declining IQ, we must ask the question, how traditional are the methods of measuring IQ still informative? ”
The truth is that throughout their history, people, creating and applying technology, significantly improved their own abilities. Therefore, in a sense, it is natural that the storage of information and knowledge, as well as computational operations, we can safely leave to machines that can do it better than we do. We can focus on the fact that even the best computer (so far, or maybe never) will fail: on rational analysis, creative thinking, social empathy and values, which will certainly change our intelligence. We don't know is it bad or good. Time will tell.

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