First it was peak oil. Then it was peak climate change. But what of the human beings driving all of this wonder and destruction? Have we finally topped out our capacity to evolve in terms of our gray matter? Have we, perhaps, gotten as smart as we possibly can?
The immediate response from many who follow politics on a regular basis is likely going to be, “C’mon, man. It’s 2019. Have you looked around?” And there’s a fair argument to be made from that perspective. But I would point you to a think piece from the BBC that questions whether or not we’ve actually plateaued in terms of intelligence and we might even be getting more stupid.
You may not have noticed, but we are living in an intellectual golden age.
Since the intelligence test was invented more than 100 years ago, our IQ scores have been steadily increasing. Even the average person today would have been considered a genius compared to someone born in 1919 – a phenomenon known as the Flynn effect.
We may have to enjoy it while we can. The most recent evidence suggests that this trend may now be slowing. It may even be reversing, meaning that we have already passed the summit of human intellectual potential.
Can we have really reached peak intelligence? And if that is the case, what can the subsequent decline mean for the future of humanity?
Suffice to say, I have a lot of problems with this analysis, even though I am not a doctor and have no advanced education in any of these matters. If you read the full article they make many good points about the evolution of man. Certainly, some of our early ancestors had much smaller skulls and brains, likely allowing for less advanced thinking. But we’ve had our big brains for a long time.
The article focuses quite a bit on IQ tests. I’m not saying those are entirely useless, but they do rely on the education available to the child while growing up. Who is to say that someone born in the dark ages might not have gone on to invent a method of flying if they were standing on the shoulders of giants?
Then there’s the anecdotal evidence. Look around you. Is the next generation really smarter than the last? I’m not saying we’re definitely devolving, but our reliance on technology to do a lot of our thinking for us has absolutely resulted in less use of our mental muscle. If you don’t use it, do you lose it?
Perhaps we actually have reached peak intelligence. If so, the aliens will find us easy pickings when they land on the White House lawn.