An artist's depiction of an Extended Unit Death
Moved to LD.
Dumber how? We're the most technologically advanced, understand the most scientifically than ever before, etc. As a society, we've never been smarter, so I assume you're talking about the average person.
Where do you get your measurements on how smart somebody was in the past, and how it has changed in the present? If it's strictly by IQ, then yes, there is evidence that the mean IQ has dropped over time
. However, if you're comparing us to say, the 1800's, the Flynn effect
is evidence that we have greatly changed for the better over even the last 100 years. The decline of the mean IQ is something of a recent development, so it's hard to say if it's an actual trend or if it's just a bias with the means of studying IQ. In fact, there are explanations
for this decline that suggest it's not necessarily that the average person is becoming dumber.
The same propaganda techniques used a hundred years ago are still used today. There's an old saying: "It's easier to fool someone than to convince them they've been fooled." And I believe this is true for the average person. We pride ourselves on all this education, and even our so-called "intellectuals" are at war with each other. God dammit, in ten years, we won't even be able to tie our own shoelaces!
Propaganda techniques used a thousand years ago work today. The reason propaganda works is because it's a psychological trick that plays on emotion and fear rather than logic and reasoning, and it's the nature of humans to be influenced by these things (unless you're a sociopath).
What's your source that our ability to tie shoes is declining? I don't understand how that last sentence in that paragraph is related to the rest of what you said.
And no wonder. School is just parrot-fashion learning. Critical thinking is hardly a reality for the average person. Just look around. Look at what's going on. When in doubt of a theory, observe the reality.
Was critical thinking more important or valued in the past? Has schooling changed to something worse than what it was in the past? We could go into learning behaviors (by example, by memorization, by repetition, hands-on, etc.) and argue that a one-size-fits-all approach isn't perfect, but what changes would you make to our educational system to correct this? It's not an easy thing to do, and I think the fact that (at least in the US) we've provided everyone with a means to get an education is a wonderful thing that we take for granted. (Again, we could get into things like the price of college education preventing many people from pursuing education beyond high school, but I think that's off-topic from your original message).
It's very rare that I can find someone to have an open, descriptive, meaningful conversation with nowadays, let alone someone who is able to enunciate a bright vocabulary.
What is the importance of vocabulary when you're still able to effectively articulate your ideas to your audience? Knowing fancy (or highfalutin, if you prefer) words doesn't make a person "smarter," unless that's what you're using to define intelligence. An open mind is more of a cultural and environmental trait than an intellectual one.
My own level of intelligence is only mediocre, which scares the hell out of me because I'm smarter than the vast majority.
Define "vast majority." Are these the people you interact with, or are you going around studying unbiased sample groups and determining you're intellectually superior to them? You may, in fact, be suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect
with this thought process.
As for the actual question at hand, certainly some people believe we're getting dumber: http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2012-11/are-people-getting-dumber-one-geneticist-thinks-so
But even in those articles you can see cited opposition to the claims.
Let's assert that people are
getting physically stupider. Why would this be? The only thing I can think, at least for the United States, is that we can rely on technology to solve problems we used to have to solve manually. Most people cannot do math very quickly in their head, for example, as we can pull out a phone and calculate it with ease. This is both resourceful and lazy, and you could easily measure "people can't do double-digit multiplication in their head" to equate to "people are worse at math."
I think it's more that our knowledge is becoming specialized; we're not all experts of every field, obviously, as nobody has time to learn everything. We have several career paths today that didn't exist decades ago, and several more things we can learn. It's only natural that with more options you get less exposure to everything else. It's like going to a restaurant with dozens of items on the menu: unless you go there very frequently, you're only going to have tasted a small portion of what they serve. This "pigeon-holing" could be an explanation of why we think people are becoming dumber: we learn more specific things and fewer general/broad-spectrum things.
The words just float around people's heads, never pointing to anything or representing anything accurately in the real world. It's all illusion. Word sorcery. And the best sorcerers are politicians, advertisers, marketers, selling ideas instead of useful things.
This sounds like the heart of your post, though. It's the job of advertisers and marketers to sell their product, and they use psychological/subliminal/propaganda techniques to sell the product to the masses. Is your concern that these techniques work? Because they've always worked, and it's not as a result of us becoming dumber. Politicians are also trying to sell a product: themselves. What do you consider to be a "useful thing" in the context you're describing here?
So, I wonder, are humans destined for constant struggle, due to an innate lack of intellect? Or is the problem simply the way we are taught to use (or not use) our mental equipment?
People will only inform themselves on their interests. A lack of knowledge is not a lack of intellect.