A wide range of studies using various well established I.Q. tests and metrics indicates declining scores in many advanced nations. After rising through much of the 20th century, scores across Scandinavia, Great Britain, Germany, France, and Australia, among other places, have markedly declined. Apparently, scores in the United States haven't yet declined apace, though you'd never know it listening to the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speak about "Green New Deals" and garbage disposals. ("What is that thing?")
Naturally, details vary from study to study and from place to place, but there is no doubt that many of the most economically advanced nations have experienced falling I.Q. levels since around the turn of the 21st century.
Given that decades of research have clearly shown that individual I.Q. scores are closely tied to educational achievement and longevity, and a country's average I.Q. score is linked to economic growth and scientific innovation, this trend is worrisome indeed. This could well lead to a generally diminished outlook for our collective future and, assuming that the trend will show up in the U.S. soon, as seems likely, many more years of ABC's The View.
The unexpected declines in cognitive functioning have experts speculating as to the reason or reasons behind this "global dumbing," to coin a term. Could it be that lower-I.Q. families are having more children, whereas higher-I.Q. ones are having fewer? Could the torrent of immigrants from outside these areas be less intelligent, on average, than the people in the countries to which they are immigrating? Possibly, but apart from the "unwokeness" of these ideas, a 2018 study in Norway showed that I.Q.s are falling within families as well, proving that (hereditary) children of high-I.Q. parents are losing ground, too. Therefore, experts say, some environmental factor or factors are responsible for the drop in I.Q. scores.
One popular theory is that the prevalence of lower-skill service jobs has made work less intellectually demanding, leading to underutilized brains and atrophying I.Q.s. Some believe that global warming has made food less nutritious, leading to the decline. I argue that if you believe that, you are already too dumb to be taken seriously. (In my view, "man-caused global warming" is a symptom — not a cause — of declining intellect and cognitive ability.)
Another theory is that information-age devices such as smartphones are sapping our ability to focus. I share that belief. Among videogames, smartphones, computers, social media, Snapchat, Tinder, and a million other apps, our brains are being permanently degraded and rewired. Many Millennials have the attention span of a gnat.
I posit that it is precisely because we are so advanced that we have become soft, weak, addled...and unable to perform certain functions on our own. Perhaps high-tech ultimately equals low-I.Q. Machines do everything for us now. How often have we bought something at a store and noticed that the clerk can't count change back from a purchase. They have to look at what the till or computer digitally tells them is the correct change. Some schools in England have removed the standard-issue round analog wall clocks from classrooms and hallways because the kids can no longer read them. Many of our youths are unfamiliar with cursive writing due to their reliance on keyboards.
What will we do as robots replace us in the workplace and artificial intelligence potentially threatens our own?
Let's hope that when that time comes, we aren't too stupid to figure it out.