Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

The decline in Common Knowledge (6)

Since several years, articles are claiming that the human intelligence quotient (IQ) is decreasing, after decades of increases in the previous century (eg, CNNFD, NZZ, TIME). These increases were known as the Flynn effect and the reverse is called the anti-Flynn effect. Some articles have tried to verify that anti-Flynn effect (eg, NRC-2014, NRC-2018VK-2019).

In general, learning consists of three separate though linked concepts:

(i) knowledge – which is about remembering stuff (eg, who, what, when, where, how);

(ii) intelligence – which requires understanding knowledge (eg, why);

(iii) wisdom – which is about applying what you’ve learned at the right time and right place.

I think, feel and believe that it is wrong to assume that these 3 are logically ordered stages. Wisdom does not necessarily require having (i) knowledge and (ii) intelligence. Knowledge does not automatically bring intelligence, and being intelligent is not a prerequisite for achieving wisdom.

The perceived drop in IQ is complex because societies always change and tests should be consistent in order to compare results. The result might be like comparing apples and oranges.

My diagram at the right compares (common to expert) knowledge and population (growth) and their accelerators, being: specialisation, internet, interglacial and glacial periods.

The most important changes are:

  1. Technological Revolution of 1800-2100 (my blogs) and its 3 stages: mechanisation (1800-1900), automation (1900-2000), Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Robotics (2000-2100);
  2. Urbanisation: “By 2050, 6.5bn people, two-thirds of all humanity, will live and work in cities” (eg, UN-2014FT-2015my 2016 blog);
  3. Climate change: the several glacial periods nearly wiped out the Neanderthal (my 2017 blogQuanta-2017), while Homo sapiens flourished in the subsequent interglacial period. 

The consequences of the above are that common knowledge is declining whereas highly specialised expert knowledge is increasing. A comparable IQ in those circumstances is doubtful.

Interestingly, the human Technological Revolution is in a race against the clock to win from planet Earth’s induced Climate change (eg, space travel). Once our current interglacial period ends, nearly all 8 billion humans are doomed. Time after time, the fate of human (like) species remains the same. We might become the first species that escapes its fate by travelling to new frontiers.

Time After Time (2000) by Eva Cassidy (1963-1996)

artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2Wiki-3

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise


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