Are humans becoming more intelligent with every generation?


Fact Box

  • Neither brain size, nor gender, necessarily indicate innate intelligence potential; as cognitive neuroscientists reveal, “Men naturally have larger brains than women, yet average intelligence test scores are nearly identical regardless of gender.”
  • As recently as the 1940s, only about 5% of the American population had completed four years of college or more, whereas, by 2019, roughly 35% had. 
  • The decline in worldwide genotypic IQ has been attributed to the notion of “dysgenic fertility,” defined as “a negative correlation between intelligence and number of children.”
  • Developmental psychologist, Howard Gardner, believes there are eight different types of intelligence: Logical/Mathematical, Linguistic, Musical, Spatial, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Naturalist, Interpersonal, and Intrapersonal.

Thomas (Yes) 

Whether you test our knowledge, look at how we use it, or how easy it is to teach it, the answer is the same--humans are getting smarter.

While IQ testing is problematic when comparing individuals, its ability to identify trends is useful. For example, if the average person today took an IQ test from 1910, they would score over 130, which indicates a 'high IQ.' Metastudies have clearly shown that global IQ is rising, on average, between 2 and 3 points every decade. While this 'Flynn Effect' is falling in some countries, researchers agree that this is only an indication of the changing world we live in.

So let's look at other metrics.

Human knowledge, and the ability to put that knowledge to practical use, has grown at an exponential rate. We only discovered electricity in the 1600s, and now devices in our pockets make billions of calculations a second. To send a message to the other side of the world takes a fraction of a second. Medicine has advanced so much that over a hundred thousand organ transplants occur every year (something we only successfully performed for the first time in 1954).

But perhaps the best indication of our growing intelligence is our increasing ability to pass that intelligence on. Global literacy (the ability to read and write) has doubled in the last 50 years, and today's high school students learn Einstein's Nobel-Prize winning discoveries into the photoelectric effect. When a genius's work becomes the work of children, it is impossible to say that intelligence hasn't increased.

Paul (No)

Humans are becoming less intelligent over time because each successive generation works less demandingly for the same benefits. Consequently, from one generation to the next, humans use less of their brainpower to achieve the same results. This is a by-product of having things 'handed to us' and not having to work for them.

The 'Greatest Generation'--the soldiers who returned home from World War II and rebuilt the world economy--worked hard both mentally and physically to get what they needed to succeed. Compare that to 'Generation-Z,' which has known nothing but the smartphone and the ease of searching Google for a Wikipedia article to back up their ideas.

Looking further back to the Medieval period, people had to work hard to get what they wanted, and they knew what it would take to achieve those results--getting food on the table required months of planning and labor. Nearly two millennia later, all anyone needs to do to get their lunch is to use an app to have their food delivered. With each successive generation, people use their brains less and less and, consequently, become less intelligent.

How does using the human brain less equate to being less intelligent? Simply put, the less one has to think about solving a problem--because they search the internet or rely on the vast array of accumulated human knowledge--the less they rely on their own intelligence to solve that problem.

As humans, we have become so reliant on technology and the 'hive mind' that we are less able to think for ourselves, less able to solve problems, and thus, less intelligent overall.

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