staticassertion 6 days ago

Higher education has never been a worse investment. There's so little time or incentive to read, and it's hard to sit down and say "I'm going to read a book". It's hard to read a book and also watch tv and also talk to friends etc etc, but that's how we spend all day - constantly interacting with media or socially.

I've had increasing trouble reading books for years. It stresses me out, I can't just sit for hours reading, I have things to do. It takes real... something - focus, mindfullness - to actually sit down and think in an explorative way that isn't strictly driven by work.

This isn't that surprising. IQ tests a specific type of intelligence, and we probably don't leverage that sort of intelligence day to day. Instead, we create hyperfocused individuals and build structure and process around them so that they can collaborate. Being generally intelligent and having general problem solving skills is less and less important, or at least we treat it that way.

  • dahart 6 days ago

    There’s a bit of misconception here. IQ tests don’t require higher education, nor book reading.

    > Higher education has never been a worse investment.

    While I realize you’re talking about social investment here, the idea that TV and media are better investments of your time than earning a degree seems problematic at best. TV & media will, generally speaking, not help you get a better career, right?

    The Fed has published very recent stats in the US that people with a 4 year degree on average earn 2x the income of people without a degree. I previously suspected it was slightly higher, like maybe 10 or 20 percent, and I felt like that would be a big number, but the fact that it’s double across everyone in America is massive, and a bit mind blowing to me. The income gap is 3x if you get an advanced degree. That seems like a pretty good investment, doesn’t it?

    • staticassertion 6 days ago

      > There’s a bit of misconception here. IQ tests don’t require higher education, nor book reading.

      From the article:

      > [Article] These environmental factors could include changes in the education system and media environment, nutrition, reading less and being online more, Rogeberg said.

      > [Article] The earlier rise in IQ scores follows the “Flynn effect,” a term for the long-term increase in intelligence levels that occurred during the 20th century, arguably the result of better access to education, according to Stuart Ritchie, a postdoctoral fellow in cognitive ageing at the University of Edinburgh whose research explores IQ scores and intelligence and who was not involved in the new study.

      > [Article] Access to education is currently the most conclusive factor explaining disparities in intelligence, according to Ritchie. In a separate study that has not been released, he and his colleagues looked at existing research in an effort to demonstrate that staying in school longer directly equates to higher IQ scores.

      > While I realize you’re talking about social investment here, the idea that TV and media are better investments of your time than earning a degree seems problematic at best. TV & media will, generally speaking, not help you get a better career, right?

      I'm saying that higher education has never been a worse investment. Not that it's a bad investment. It's just higher risk and higher cost than ever.

      > The Fed has published very recent stats in the US that people with a 4 year degree on average earn 2x the income of people without a degree.

      That's really tiny considering that it costs 4 years of income + potentially a huge amount of debt with serious compounding interest.

      > That seems like a pretty good investment, doesn’t it?

      It seems like it can be a fine investment for some people. If you're rich and won't take on debt it's a great investment.

    • prometheus76 6 days ago

      The debt part of the equation also needs to be considered for the investment. ROI is a huge factor. If it takes you 15 years to break even, the person who never saddled themselves with debt is now 15 years ahead of you income-wise and it will take you another 10 years to catch up to them as far as cumulative income goes. So what is being offered as a "great investment" is not quite as obvious to me.

      • dahart 6 days ago

        That cuts pretty hard the other direction though. Going into debt on a house with half the income of other people around you is a huge reason why foreclosures happen.

        Worrying about 15 years is short-sighted too, that’s not very long. If you pay it off in 15 years, and then you have 2x the income of someone who didn’t go to school, you’re 35 making great money and in a job with better prospects and mobility than if you didn’t have debt but took a job that didn’t require a degree. This is, of course, statistically speaking. Some people do manage to do very well without a degree, but it’s pretty important to understand that it’s not even close to the average outcome.

        My personal experience with student debt was that it got me a job out of college that paid well enough that I paid off my student loans much faster than I’d anticipated. I thought it was going to be 10 years, but it was more like 3. (To be fair I didn’t borrow that much, and cost of college has been rising faster than inflation ever since I graduated.)

        • prometheus76 6 days ago

          I agree that it's a very nuanced situation that probably requires a lot of analysis on a situation by situation basis. But it's not as obvious or plain that higher education is a worthwhile investment as you painted before. I wanted to push on that a bit.

          • dahart 6 days ago

            There is no guarantee of success for any given individual, that’s always true. However, if someone you know is 18 and deciding whether to go to college, what would you recommend instead? What steps would you advise taking to be successful without more education, knowing that most high paying jobs require a degree just to get in the door for an interview? It just happens to also be compelling to me to know that, causal or not, degree holders on average have 2x higher salary and hold most of the patents and managerial spots are held by degree holders. The Fed data isn’t just a sampling of a few people, it’s accounting for everyone in the US. Don’t take my word for it, do a little searching and see how many research results conclude that there is enough causal relationship between degrees and income that the investment potential appears to be a pretty clear win.

            I don’t see a lot of reason not to invest in education. The fear that it might not pay off doesn’t (for me anyway) push back that much on the strength of the nationwide correlation between degrees and high income.

            I’m a little sad about reducing it just to money too, education is an investment in other ways too. When done well, it can be time spent gaining knowledge, investigating history, helping people understand more of the context of what’s happening here and now. Education provides freedom to explore, both now while you’re studying, and in the future with your career. I don’t have a lot of belief in the idea that the opportunity cost is too high.

            • UnpossibleJim 6 days ago

              I think a major part of the problem in America (I can't speak for other parts of the world) is that it's become solely a monetary equation. Tuition is, quite simply, a non-starter for a larger portion of American families, these days. While military spending goes unchecked, America shows its priorities by not spending that money in establishing 4 year community colleges at low cost or free tuition for the betterment of society at large and to be more competitive on a world theater as a whole. This wouldn't replace the need for private, more expensive universities, just as public schools haven't eradicated private schools. A rising tide raises all boats, as it were... and with a future of increased automation or offshoring, a more educated workforce would do well for us.

              • dahart 6 days ago

                I couldn’t agree more. In fact, one thing I don’t understand from the Fed’s data is why the IRS (for example) or the government itself doesn’t instantly see the benefits of educating everyone at their expense, because it would immediately pay for itself many times over with the increase in tax income.

      • ChrisLomont 5 days ago

        30% of 4 year college students graduate with zero debt. Of the remaining 70%, median debt is $30k. A 2x expected lifetime return is millions.

        What other investment at that age has a better expected ROI?

    • Sholmesy 6 days ago

      Isn't that relatively confounding information? A person who would succeed, might succeed with or without a degree.

      The way the information is presented implies causation. Get a degree, earn twice as much.

      • dahart 6 days ago

        Yes! To some level that’s absolutely true and a good point.

        There’s been a ton of study of the question of whether people succeed because of the skills they gained working on the degree versus the credentialism of just having a degree. The answer across many papers is that it’s a healthy mix of both, that there is a large component of causality (getting a degree leads to success) as well as a large component in the other direction (being smart & driven leads to getting a degree).

        Do note that a wide swath of our economy is based on jobs that require a degree, and are not based on being “successful” with or without. It’s not a fair playing field where there’s equal opportunity to people without degrees. A big part of the income gap happens because our system is setup to reward degree earners, and so it’s guaranteed to be at least partly causal.

        Also really important to pay more attention to what actually happens as opposed to what could happen theoretically. Yes people might succeed with or without degrees, but how often does that actually happen? There are some amazing and compelling anecdotes, but ignoring the stats is a bad idea if you’re trying to decide whether to go to college or not.

        Look at patents in the US as an example of how people might succeed with or without a degree. There is no degree requirement and nothing stopping people from inventing without a higher education, nonetheless the overwhelming majority of patent holders have degrees, the majority are advanced degrees beyond bachelor.

      • 6510 6 days ago

        Not intelligence but insecurity is the formula for success. Truly intelligent people are comfortable figuring stuff out along the road. Success is accidental and might even be worth avoiding.

    • yes_really 6 days ago

      Keep in mind most of that difference is probably not a consequence of the 4 year degree, but just a selection bias of people getting degrees generally also being the people that earn more.

    • mistersquid 6 days ago

      dahart, you are absolutely owning this thread!

      Thank you for providing measured, balanced, and considered explanations, expansions, and clarifications.

      First rate.

    • PolygonSheep 6 days ago

      > The Fed has published very recent stats in the US that people with a 4 year degree on average earn 2x the income of people without a degree.

      I'd really like to see a breakdown by major and institution. I don't think going and getting just any 4 year degree is going to make you a success.

    • akira2501 6 days ago

      > people with a 4 year degree on average earn 2x the income of people without a degree

      I feel like the better measure would be comparing their productivity, rather than the base rate at which society, on average, appears to value degrees.

      • dahart 6 days ago

        The question was whether education is a good investment, which poses the idea of some kind of return on an initial cost. The investment question was posed in the form of personal cost and personal return. In that sense, productivity is not a measure of the personal return of an education. I mean a few people might see it that way, and it could be associated indirectly with success, but by and large productivity on it’s own is not a benefit.

        Productivity could be seen as the social return for a social (tax based) investment in education, and indeed we do measure things like GDP and compare nations on a global scale. In that sense, education appears to be a good investment socially. Countries that have high rates of education also have high GDP.

        Aside from that, unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult to measure “productivity”. You might want to take a stab at trying to define what that even means for people in various careers. It’s easy to measure the productivity of factory workers, but insanely hard to measure productivity for doctors or writers or advertisers or nearly any white collar job. Is productivity measured by how much output there is, regardless of quality? Is productivity measured by how much money exchanges hands? These things could be even worse than valuing education, no?

      • tharne 6 days ago

        Also, this doesn't take into account the fact that people who get a 4 year degree are more likely to have parents who are well off. In a lot of ways a college degree is just a measure of your parent's socioeconomic status.

      • wutbrodo 6 days ago

        Not to mention the selection effect: if you took the cohort that would finish four year degrees and didn't send them to college, they would still be making more money.

        • dahart 6 days ago

          This has been studied. It’s true but only with caveats and qualifications. Yes they’d be making “more”, but the only important question is how much more, and the answer is that it’s not nearly as much as the degree holders. One really big reason for this is that income is partly based on having the degree, not some kind of objective idea of skill or intelligence or determination.

          • wutbrodo 6 days ago

            Of course, there's a dramatic premium on college degrees, no question about that. But the selection effect in that statistic is disproportionately important to understand, even if at this moment in time its magnitude is low. It helps understand the counterfactuals necessary to think about how the credentialist dynamic can or may change. Eg if you can cleanly extract the signal that employers are getting from it, you can decouple it from the corrupt, extractive institutions that are currently squatting over the credential.

            • dahart 6 days ago

              I’d be careful not to jump to the conclusion that credentials are bad or requiring them amounts to anything corrupt, extractive or squatting.

              There’s nothing inherently wrong with requiring that a job applicant meet minimum standards, in fact most people are wildly in favor of requirements when it comes to, say, doctors & lawyers, not to mention our infrastructure designers and safety inspectors, etc.. It’s certainly within the purview of the employer to define those requirements, and okay for them to require some well rounded ness and non-vocational skills, right?

              The selection effect has, like I mentioned earlier, been studied extensively, and many researchers have come to the conclusion that despite the credentialism, college degrees also do impart useful knowledge and skills on the degree holders, even when attempting to adjust for many possible confounding factors such as family income, family education, and the filtering weight of the credential system. It’s not that hard to accept that the majority of people who spend 4 or more years trying to learn actually do learn something and achieve some general skills, right?

              It’s complicated, but I don’t necessarily see it as a bad thing that society & business widely agree to allow the bachelor’s degree to represent a certain level of preparedness. Yes, it’s a wildly blunt measure, often inaccurate, and it may be commonly misinterpreted too, since we’re really talking about minimum standards, and not a measure of skill, but I see reasons why the state of things might have evolved this way and might not necessarily be broken to a first approximation.

              • wutbrodo 6 days ago

                > I’d be careful not to jump to the conclusion that credentials are bad or requiring them amounts to anything corrupt, extractive or squatting.

                I'm not assuming this. I have independent reason to consider universities to be corrupt, extractive institutions. This is downstream of their oligopolistic position wrt the labor market, but a hypothetical set of less-evil institutions than our current universities would still be an efficiency problem to be solved.

                The early steps places like Google have taken towards accepting certification programs are an example of (attempting to) cleanly separate the value that a degree confers, without cutting off access to large swathes of the population or condemning them to mountains of debt.

                Ie, there's a lot of signal in degrees, but there's a LOT of noise, and there's a massive amount of economic and moral value in finding better-quality signal.

                > I see reasons why the state of things might have evolved this way and might not necessarily be broken to a first approximation

                Yes, I hope this comment makes it clear that I'm not assuming that degrees are literally useless for hiring. But that is an extremely low bar, and I think it's similarly difficult to justify the claim that degrees are a remotely efficient bar for a big chunk of what they're currently used for.

                I grew up rich enough that I was able to deeply enjoy four years of intellectual exploration and partying, but that's cold comfort for the people locked out from being a firefighter or starting medical school or a thousand other productive pursuits, because they couldn't surmount the barrier of an additional tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars that the inefficient degree requirement confers.

                This isn't just theoretical: the choking-off of opportunity is IMO a massive tragedy relative to a world that was less enamored with the degree. That doesn't suggest we can simply burn the job market's credentialism down, but we can be clear-eyed about the current system's flaws and set our headings correctly for incremental change.

                • dahart 6 days ago

                  I see; and I pretty much completely agree. It is indeed a shame that we allow citizens to bear the cost of education personally, and that it even has to be a choice or justified as investment. You’re right that the cost acts as a pre-filter for income just to get in, and that the university system has flaws and is inefficient. I like the way you summarized it at the end and aspire to stay clear-eyed and oriented towards incremental improvement. Thanks for clarifying!

      • bawolff 6 days ago

        Why? I can't eat productivity.

  • jvanderbot 6 days ago

    No IQ test ever got me a good paying job, but my degree, the professors' contacts, and the experience of working in research absolutely did.

    The 10 years and many loans it took to get through bachelor's and PhD were the best and most important investment I made in myself to get out of the factories and warehouses and into an office with great pay, and oh incidentally an amazing job.

    • eurasiantiger 6 days ago

      College education is treated as a litmus test for whether someone can figure out abstract things and produce useful output. Which is all fine and dandy, except that ”having a degree” is not really a pure measurement: it’s always confounded with a certain amount of wading-through-the-bullwhip tenacity (useless but mandatory curriculum -> non-questioning serf mentality) and a hefty slice of affluenza (outright bribery).

      • dan-robertson 6 days ago

        It sounds like you are arguing that college degrees are poor signals for one’s intelligence but then you write:

        > a certain amount of wading-through-the-bullwhip tenacity (useless but mandatory curriculum -> non-questioning serf mentality)

        And I think a lot of people (though not me and maybe not you) would find that that is a good description of attributes employers would like. And for many people the point of a college degree is appealing to employers rather than proving oneself to be intelligent.

      • jvanderbot 6 days ago

        I agree, but stated another way, college is also a test of 'can this person adapt and meet demands to excel in a new system', a skill which I believe is underrated, under measured, and hugely valuable.

        • brnaftr361 6 days ago

          Nah, so far as I can tell: it's compliance. It asks the question "Will you do what it takes, even when it's irrational, to pattern yourself after our model?"

          Moreover it's painfully easy to exploit your way through especially if you're already rich. Just go doctor shopping with Mommy so you can get a 504 and accomodations and stimulant medications.

          If it selected for adaptation the curriculum would be different, things like figuring out the area of a circle using given materials, not abstract shit. If it selected for intelligence there would br a huge battery of exceptions, handicaps for the working class kids, because they have to put in way more effort than the kids living with their parents who are unemployed, likewise with non-traditionals.

          • jvanderbot 6 days ago

            You're repeating what I said: adapting to an existing process and finding success within a system is exactly what college teaches and filters on. That's usually a good thing for most job seekers.

            I cannot fathom a successful professional that does not balance 'I must innovate the sysyem even if it hurts me' against 'I will work within this system for my own personal benefit by providing exactly what is requested of me'

          • jvanderbot 6 days ago

            Both these can be true:

            - Rich people can painfully easily exploit something to make their ROI much higher

            - That something can be an immensely valuable investment for the non-rich

    • cinntaile 6 days ago

      But how do you know you wouldn't have escaped the factories and warehouses without a degree? In 10 years people can make huge pay jumps.

      • jvanderbot 6 days ago

        Maybe, but the road from high school dropout to NASA JPL seems a bit more tenuous when you don't include an education. tells a more complete story, in that machine operators make significantly less and job openings grow at a significantly lower rate than software, aerospace, robotics, and AI specialists, many of which require a degree, (and the siccessful outliers are not worth pushing as a good model for the 90%)

        I can't say there wasn't a different, even a better road to some measure of success and an enjoyable career, but I can say this path was a miracle of positive life changes for me and every penny of debt I pay back to the fed is absolutely a victory lap.

      • jrheckt 6 days ago

        This is a looking vs. leaping exercise. Do you continue "looking" around for 10 years or do you "leap" at an opportunity to make a change?

        While I see your point - a whole lot of people do have salary increases over a 10 year span - a whole lot of jobs people want require "X piece of paper for Y years of experience" and you cannot get that experience to begin with without either 1) the piece of paper or 2) knowing someone.

    • jmprspret 5 days ago

      I've had to do cognitive ability tests as part of job applications. The test questions are definitely reminiscent of those crappy online IQ tests.

    • annoyingnoob 6 days ago

      I spent two years in college and never finished. I'm largely self-taught in my field. I also have a great office job. Getting there didn't require an IQ test or a degree, it required consistently providing something of value.

  • lnxg33k1 6 days ago

    Is higher education the issue here? I know people with higher education that are willing to mute people with different opinions, I know people with higher education who fail to understand basic things, I think higher education gives you the expertise in a certain field, as you said, higher education creates machines that can help shareholders get rich, as italian I've read a lot about italian universities being ranked 1/1000th lower than US universities, but then I've lived with US people from Harvard in Berlin, it's of course just two example, but I was even questioning how the hell they survived that much, in sense that I had a flatmate asking how the trash bin worked, how the microwave worked or how the oven worked, with little to no awareness of the world, it's weird but yeah I think education from top universities is good for money but it has little to do with daily needed intelligence

    • the_lonely_road 6 days ago

      In a foreign country asking your flatmate how to operate the foreign appliances instead of wasting your time on trial and error or looking it up, likely also in a foreign language, is an example of not being intelligent?

      • est31 6 days ago

        Yeah i'm in a foreign country now, and despite the laundromat was made by a German company, where I'm originally from, I had to ask locals to explain to me what the buttons meant, because there was no manual on the internet, and it was different to German ones (there's a phpbb forum where one guy DMs u pdfs for your model, but I didn't want to bother signing up). Haven't went to Harvard tho.

    • TimPC 6 days ago

      Seeing as most the studies mentioned Norway which has a perfectly healthy and functional university system that doesn’t leave people in debt, I doubt it.

      Going to University doesn’t affect IQ much, IQ is not learned.

      • fishnchips 6 days ago

        IQ may or may not be learned but IQ tests are very much a skill. The difference between my first test and the second one was almost 30 points. These were not too far apart but the second time I simply knew what to expect.

        • kergonath 6 days ago

          This. I cannot understand why people seem to think that IQ test results are an objective measure of anything. Of course we all make mistakes sometimes or have bad days or brain fog for whatever reason. Even the time of day affects cognition. How would any kind of test compensate for this? A particularly good or bad score can very well be just a fluke.

          I have never seen anyone I would consider really smart who took these tests seriously.

          • Dylan16807 6 days ago

            Those are reasons to doubt a single test but wouldn't affect bigger statistics.

            • kergonath 6 days ago

              Sure, unless there is some sampling bias like more tests being done at a given time of day, or a given day of the week. Or tests probing particular aspects of cognition that get emphasised or de-emphasised in the education system.

              Even so, most of the discussions about IQ are about individual scores and a lot of pseudoscience.

          • lapinot 5 days ago

            +1 The actual scientific usage of IQ test is to screen for children that are on the low part of the spectrum and then do more qualitative analysis and care. The whole focus on high-IQ is just nonsense. I don't have any ref on hand about that tho.

        • jvanderbot 6 days ago

          this is so under appreciated.

          I consider myself a person of average intelligence who learned very early on that preparation can set me ahead of the group.

          I practiced interviewing, public speaking, coding, writing, test taking, etc, and it's helped immensely. I mean, most tests tip their hand later, which allows you to go back and revise earlier answers. most writing is formulaic, you just have to find a good example. any system that you are evaluated by can be learned.

          To prep for grad entrance exams, I wroke up early every Friday, got ready, drove around, sat down and took a timed practice exam at 930 sharp. all to emulate my Friday 900am exam appointment. I got the score I wanted.

          • colinmhayes 6 days ago

            None of those things are IQ tests. You just listed a bunch of things that explicitly are possible to study for. Well designed IQ tests can not be studied for, they're just measuring your pattern recognition ability, not any knowledge you have.

          • hirvi74 6 days ago

            > any system that you are evaluated by can be learned.

            "When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure" -- Goodhart's Law

    • torginus 6 days ago

      University rankings are mainly driven by their research impact which does not directly correlate with the quality of their undergrads.

      • WanderPanda 6 days ago

        Would be great if this was true but they are using many factors. When I actually sorted by research impact I got a quite different ranking the last time I checked

    • bakuninsbart 6 days ago

      I think top schools like Harvard, Stanford, Oxford etc. can serve as excellent environments for people to reach their full potential, but due to cultural reasons and funding, they are willing to make large compromises on who can get a degree there. Going to Harvard doesn't mean you are intelligent, but I've seldomly seen such high density of super clever people as at these top schools.

    • Mandelmus 6 days ago

      > italian universities being ranked 1/1000th lower than US universities

      I don't even know what that means. That sounds like they'd be ranked only a tenth of a percent lower than US universities, which doesn't jive with the rest of your point.

    • randomdata 6 days ago

      > Is higher education the issue here?

      His premise is that higher education offers little to no value. What theoretical value a higher education might provide is squandered because people are too busy living their lives, namely working to make ends meet, in order to leverage it. This certainly has proven true economically as we can see that incomes held stagnant through the rise of post-secondary attainment, contrary to assumptions of the past that speculated that college graduates would be able to earn more as a result of having a higher education. Similarly, and perhaps related to, he posits the features tested by IQ are not being practiced because people are too busy to carry out that practice.

    • staticassertion 6 days ago

      > Access to education is currently the most conclusive factor explaining disparities in intelligence, according to Ritchie. In a separate study that has not been released, he and his colleagues looked at existing research in an effort to demonstrate that staying in school longer directly equates to higher IQ scores.

      • lnxg33k1 6 days ago

        Yes, I see, there is a study with some conclusions, but that doesn't mean that one has to ignore his life experiences, also because I would like to see what were the parameters of the tests, I have also other examples of people with higher education failing to understand how democracy basically works and wishing people with different ideas wouldn't vote, so yeah probably the study is right, and the parameters were general, I just find people with higher education more specialised but less functional in day to day stuff

  • RappingBoomer 6 days ago

    I grew up back in the days when many more people read books...there were used book stores sometimes carried a paperback book stuck in their back pocket...but that's not to say that everyone read a lot...but there was more reading in general...and one reason why we read more was that television was just not as good as it is today...

    and reading does develop a certain sort of intelligence that is important and is very useful...I saw my own youthful reading and its good effects in the computer science classes that I passed and where 80% of the class just could not do the work...intelligence counts....when you spend your youth reading books for hours a time, year in and year out, your brain grows "smart muscles"...and that makes it easier to focus on difficult problems...

    I saw a lack of that sort of intelligence when I worked for a large government agency and when people lacking in that sort of intelligence made a huge mess of designing the business processes for that agency...intelligence counts...

    society at large and especially those at the top pretend that intelligence no longer matters...but they are wrong...

    • hackingthelema 6 days ago

      > sometimes carried a paperback book stuck in their back pocket

      > and one reason why we read more was that television was just not as good as it is today...

      I feel like there's a little disconnect between these two statements. It's not that television is taking priority, it's that the times when people used to break out a book -- that they carried in their back pocket or purse! -- now break out their phones and engage with social media, or they check their work email, or respond to slack messages, or they get involved in texting, or they play some video game just to make the time go faster. I suppose some of them put in headphones and watch Netflix, but I don't see that often, to be honest.

      The world has gotten so busy and defaulting to 'on' that no one feels they can default to reading a book, but you can. You just have to decide to carry a book and, instead of breaking out a phone at those times to stay connected, you just let yourself be disconnected, and you read a book. Or meditate.

      That's how I go about my life, and frankly I don't understand why more people don't. I never use my phone unless it's an emergency. I get a lot more out of life meditating and reading books than checking my email, playing candy crush, and engaging with twitter.

  • pojzon 6 days ago

    > Being generally intelligent and having general problem solving skills is less and less important.

    TBH looking at how the future is going to look like (no not utopia), those general skills seem to be more and more important on the contrary.

    Being “too specialized” will hurt society in the end.

    • antihero 6 days ago

      Division of labour has been a tool to make us dependent on the system and our overlords. People like Kropotkin have been saying this for quite some time.

      • tomrod 6 days ago

        Darn that eusocial evolutionary pressure!

  • icedchai 6 days ago

    I’ve found it more difficult to sit and focus in recent years. I blame pandemic-related anxiety for some of it, but not all. It’s mostly all the instant-on distractions available now, like the media you describe. The web in general discourages focus.

    • karmakurtisaani 6 days ago

      I put the blame on my kids.

      • loonster 6 days ago

        Since my kids were born, I feel dumber. I do not think it is just due to aging. Maybe caused from years of lack of sleep.

    • candlemas 6 days ago

      Tabs were a mistake.

      • elijahwright 6 days ago

        You are referring to browser tabs?

        • candlemas 6 days ago


          • icedchai 3 days ago

            I wish I could set an artificial limit on browser tabs (like, max 5 tabs.) If I open another tab, I have to pick one to close first.

  • BlargMcLarg 6 days ago

    >Instead, we create hyperfocused individuals and build structure and process around them so that they can collaborate.

    I agree and disagree. There are arguments in favor of both sides. Look at what happened in software development alone. Where you were only expected to push basic code before, many employers now expect you to be a flexible mini-IT department on top of having the social skills to communicate with customers and managers. At the same time, they specialized other things to a degree you're now a "dotnet developer", "java developer" etc., as if specializing in that direction was ever the goal of software development / computer science.

    • staticassertion 6 days ago

      I see this as just more hyper focusing in a way. Now I have even less time for exploratory pursuits, my "role" has expanded and thus takes more of my focus. So I have to think about more things, but it's all confined to the expectations placed on me by my job.

  • scotty79 6 days ago

    > I've had increasing trouble reading books for years.

    Me too. But I read way more than I read when I devoured scores of books. I just do it in the web browser.

    I always had very short temper with books. If the book didn't captivate me with first few pages it never got read by me. I just moved to another one.

    I always really liked anthologies of short stories, because amount of the ideas to amount of text was the best there. Way better than when the author stretched just a handful ideas into a novel.

    So now, with internet filled with so many interesting texts I have real trouble with books, because my short temper got even shorter. I also know a lot more of the ideas than I did when I was younger so it's hard to encounter something novel to me. So a book, that's captivating, dense and novel is really a hard find. And others get ditched by me at some, usually very early, stage. I just have even less patience for them than I had ever before.

  • nathias 6 days ago

    Thinking about higher education as an 'investment' is part of this problem. In Europe, we had the Humbold system of higher education, but sadly that was now eradicated in favor of the more utalitarian anglo style education. At least Italy still has the fairly classical approach.

    • d0mine 6 days ago

      “There are undeniably certain kinds of knowledge that must be of a general nature and, more importantly, a certain cultivation of the mind and character that nobody can afford to be without. People obviously cannot be good craftworkers, merchants, soldiers or businessmen unless, regardless of their occupation, they are good, upstanding and – according to their condition – well-informed human beings and citizens. If this basis is laid through schooling, vocational skills are easily acquired later on, and a person is always free to move from one occupation to another, as so often happens in life.”

    • dahart 6 days ago

      I’m also not sure what you mean. What is Anglo style education? I feel like my university experience in the US is heavily Humboldtian [1] in two specific ways: the general education requirements which explicitly stated goals of producing world citizens and teaching broad non-vocational reasoning skills and history lessons, and second, doing research as an undergraduate and later as a graduate, in research universities.


      Also curious what you mean by thinking of education as an investment being part of the problem. What is the problem, and why does framing education as investment contribute? Are you talking about purely financial forms of investment? Education is widely viewed as social, cultural investment by society, as well as economic investment, and this is widely agreed to be a good thing, isn’t it? At the personal level, education is also viewed as a career & future financial security investment, and this also seems reasonable, no? I feel like the most important investment my education bought me was the freedom to choose my career path over time. Had I not gone to university, I do believe my choices would be more constrained than they are today.

    • est31 6 days ago

      What do you mean? Italy has applied the Bologna reforms, that were even named after an Italian university, no?

      • nathias 6 days ago

        Yea, but for them at least the lower levels remain fairly classical, right?

        • pas 6 days ago

          that would be surprising.

          ther are a usually few general courses (civics, economics, etc) at every undergrad, but these are usually low quality, mostly useless, and absolutely dwarfed by the usual introductory classes (usual STEM for STEM, etc)

          for example

        • bigbacaloa 6 days ago

          Italian universities still fail students liberally and repeatedly.

  • lliamander 6 days ago

    > This isn't that surprising. IQ tests a specific type of intelligence...

    That's literally the opposite of what any empirical research on IQ shows.

    • hirvi74 6 days ago

      How truly "empirical" is said research or any research in psychometrics?

      I've seen many of the claim correlations of IQ with "success" like career trajectories, divorce rates, better health and longevity, etc.. However, I've yet to see any strong correlations. Does IQ have a correlation stronger than 0.5 with anything?

      IIRC, I am pretty sure parental income, or lack thereof, is a better predictor of "success" than IQ.

      • lliamander 6 days ago

        > How truly "empirical" is said research or any research in psychometrics?

        My understanding is that IQ researchers invented a lot of the statistical techniques used across the social sciences today, and I think faired the "reproducibility crisis" fairly well. It's about as empirical as the social sciences get.

        > I've seen many of the claim correlations of IQ with "success" like career trajectories, divorce rates, better health and longevity, etc.. However, I've yet to see any strong correlations. Does IQ have a correlation stronger than 0.5 with anything?

        0.5 correlation is pretty big in the social sciences. I mean, think about: there are probably hundreds or thousands of factors that influence your life outcome. Much of the differences we see tends to come down to what researchers call "non-shared environment", which is just a fancy term for all the random stuff that happens in your life.

        For a single factor to have such a large effect is pretty amazing.

        > IIRC, I am pretty sure parental income, or lack thereof, is a better predictor of "success" than IQ.

        A lot of which can be explained by the parents' IQ.

        IQ doesn't explain everything, not by a long shot. It just explains more than any other single factor, and should generally be something researchers should control for whenever they attempt to measure some other phenomenon.

  • vorpalhex 6 days ago

    > I can't just sit for hours reading

    So don't. Read little bits here and there as you get a chance. I frequently read a few pages while I'm waiting for people to get ready, stuck in waiting rooms or sometimes in a slow moving queue.

    Paperbacks travel just fine.

  • JumpCrisscross 6 days ago

    > It's hard to read a book and also watch tv and also talk to friends etc

    Some of my favourite time with two of my friends is going to a bar or restaurant in the afternoon and reading together. The tradeoff is I watch less TV and have basically disengaged from social media. But that’s more than worth it to me.

  • ddanv 6 days ago

    Maybe this is an education availability problem? What are you doing to teach the young generation? I think the article is wrong. Kids if thought today are more intelligent than past generations.

    • pas 6 days ago

      it might be important to separate the hardware and software parts of intelligence.

      IQ tests mostly measure the hardware part (pattern recognition, working memory, spatial reasoning, attention to detail, speed, focus, reasoning about abstract rules)

      the software part is mostly about applied epistemological rationality, how good one's life strategy is, and how well one can execute that. (of course there's a hardware component to this too. someone with good emotional resilience, low neuroticism, high self-motivation achieves things with relative ease given the opportunities)

      then there's a measurement problem. if someone is taught the importance of attention to detail since they were very little, taught to control their emotions better (eg. boredom), then they will likely score better on the hardware test too.

      that said our collective knowledge is much greater than decades ago, our teaching methods are better too, but alas not everyone received the same top quality teaching.

      plus there is a big issue with the curriculum. most people are tragicomically underskilled in dealing with themselves and other people, hence they are bad at recognizing and solving problems that brutally impact their lives (and the lives of those around them).

      aaand of course there's the plain old resource availability problem (everyone inherits, the question is what. advantaged people get advantages with very high probability, disadvantaged people get disadvantages...)

  • sureglymop 5 days ago

    In simplified terms, IQ tests test "logical thinking ability". It has nothing to do with reading or higher education. On another note, it also has nothing to do with empathy, ethical responsibility etc. so the glorification of someone with a high IQ sometimes baffles me a little. One could be a high IQ tyrant.

  • bazzert 6 days ago

    > I've had increasing trouble reading books for years.

    I've experienced this as well, and the only solution I have found is to take periodic breaks from my phone and all social media. Within a day or two of minimizing phone use that natural curiosity and desire to learn and motivation to read reemerges.

  • nso95 6 days ago

    Quit social media..... learn to do just one thing at a time, it doesn't have to be like this.

  • nottorp 6 days ago

    > It's hard to read a book and also watch tv and also talk to friends etc

    My hypothesis is the availability of low quality passive entertainment 24/7 - namely tv - is what leads to iq scores declining.

    When did tvs become affordable for everyone, 1970s perhaps?

    • sva_ 6 days ago

      I'd go even further: I think people have a hard time dealing with abundance in many areas of our society. Take for example the abundance of food: Some people have a hard time dealing with the constant availability of anything you could wish for, and get fat.

      We've now come into an era where there is also an abundance of information: Pretty much anything you can imagine is just a button-click away.

      Young people in particular have to carefully select what information to consume, and there's a whole attention-economy built around wasting people's time, trying to manipulate them into buying shit they don't need.

      Humans didn't evolve in such conditions - everything was always scarce. So I think that's why a lot of people have a hard time dealing with it. I believe there's a huge potential market for software that acts in the interest of the user, helping to deal with this abundance of information (pretty much all software that currently exists mainly works to the benefit of the company, in particular ads/data collection). But it doesn't need to be that way. So let's build solutions.

    • oriolid 6 days ago

      From Finnish perspective, it's just not availability of TVs but the content too. Until 90s we had just two channels that were mostly showing content from public broadcasting corporation (Yleisradio) with some segments of commercial programming. Cable and satellite TV did exist but they were really quite uncommon (and kids had to learn English in order to watch them). I've understood that Norway where the paper is from was similar.

  • daniel-cussen 6 days ago

    Yes, IQ tests spacial intelligence, a very European and male specific thing. But that is an actual form of intelligence, it's not a waste of time.

    Reading books. So at Stanford nobody watched TV. I think later Netflix, a bit. The only time I knew a peer was watching television was some girls in my dorm getting together to watch Gossip Girl, and only that. Just that show. And it was a very abnormal thing, nobody else anything at all. Keep in mind you can play eg Super Smash Bros at the library, there's a video game section in the library and you can play video games if you want. You can try out new titles. I did that.

    If you watch TV, you won't get into Stanford, basically.

    • wutbrodo 6 days ago

      I gather why it's male, but is spatial intelligence particularly European? IIRC, East Asians overall score noticeably higher than Europeans overall, all else held equal. And their relative underrepresentation in the US elides the fact that this is a huge proportion of the global population.

      • daniel-cussen 6 days ago

        Well right. That's a great point, Asians do a lot better. And Jews. Although don't be categorical about it, I'm European-descendant and don't feel the slightest disadvantage compared to those groups. Though I did once, when I was changing schools, I was going to a school with Asian students, and I felt scared of competing with them academically, what if I couldn't compete? Whereas I had already competed against Jewish students, and them I could outscore. It turned out I could compete with Asians too, it was work but it was neck-and-neck. And neck-and-neck with the Jews in that school, different specific Jews, different story.

        The ideas and ideals of Asian academics produced very strong results, but were not unassailable. And in this case there was adherence to tradition, sticking to what works, so the ideas and ideals were similar to other East Asian cultures. So generalization was possible, at a first approximation.

        Well there's differences but they are hidden from first view, so for instance there's differences in study habits between North and South Choson Korea, the North students were systematically were scored adversarially but passed the Confucian Exam all the more. Those Koreans from the North (especially in the most mountainous regions) were doing exactly what Asian students are doing now in American Universities: "the more you push us down, the stronger we'll be, and the more success we will attain, the tighter the quota the more we'll fuck the quota."

        Same goes for Jews before the Holocaust. Hard, hardcore, especially with medical schools, I heard a story of Columbia (or NYU?) medical school refusing their own college valedictorian just because he was a Jew. Simple as that.

        But got watered down, unconstitutional, I don't know, things just ain't the same. Still work like fuck, but...just not the same desperation. The muse that helped me most.

        The best muse.

        • wutbrodo 6 days ago

          > Although don't be categorical about it, I'm European-descendant and don't feel the slightest disadvantage compared to those groups.

          Yes, I thought it was explicit in the conversation that we're talking about averages. The claim that spatial intelligence is European also doesn't mean an eg individual black person should feel disadvantaged in the realm of spatial intelligence.

    • akomtu 6 days ago

      What are the other types of intelligence?

      • daniel-cussen 6 days ago

        Hertz. Clock speed, and in that respect Africans have the advantage in most cases. They call it "being frosty" or sometimes "being cool" but it means having more time to react to everything, "having the perfect words at lightning tap," which has a psychiatric definition. Helps at sports and at crime (on both sides, criminals and police, police references ask for that in terms of "being very assertive"). At music and performance, particularly improvising. At fighting and warfare.

        So it sounds like these are things that make no money but Africans can be good at but that's just a glitch in the economy. For instance an American President really has to be very very frosty. 10 Hertz at least. In that capacity Barack Obama Jr. was among the best presidents, perhaps the best in clock speed. Yeah his policy persecuted me from the first month to the absolute end of his term, but I can still look at the bigger picture. Trump also, look at him in the Ali G show DVD, that's how frosty he is. Steve Jobs, and Ross Perot. Ross Perot outclocking Steve Jobs, Perot would have made a great president. I would say faster than Obama or Trump.

        There's other forms of intelligence too. Like tied to the senses. Intuition. Having beautiful dreams, doesn't matter if they're forgotten when awaking. Autism obviously, but that's too easy. Mental retardation, in particular in how dead on it makes them on the straight and narrow, that's a priceless blessing.

        Because the only real worth of a person is if they're good, and not bad. There is nothing else.

        • akomtu 6 days ago

          Why would those skills make money? Would you pay someone "with 10 hertz" to demonstrate his cleverness, or at least what he sees as cleverness?

          Intelligence is ability to build mental models that predict reality. If you see a lightning strike, build a correct mental model of it and use it to create electricity to power a light bulb - that's intelligence. But cracking a clever joke about the lightning strike that rhymes with something doesn't need intelligence - that's a purely mechanical skill.

          Intuition is a very different quality. If intelligence lets you build a somewhat accurate map of reality, intuition is a bird's eye view of that reality.

          • daniel-cussen 6 days ago

            Would you pay someone "with 10 hertz" to demonstrate his cleverness, or at least what he sees as cleverness?

            All my money. I can only see it in the reflections off eyeballs. Not even in the mirror. It's a spectator of spectator sport.

  • lifeplusplus 5 days ago

    Also most books are 300 page long for no reason and have simple idea stretched with 90 stories

kurofune 6 days ago

Who would struggle to be smart in a society that rewards idiocy and blind alignment to asinine political discourses, a society where the loudest opinion is the only one that matters. Enjoy the permanent state of frustration that being "smart" or "rational" will bring you.

Most politicians are exasperatingly dumb, most celebrities are witless mannequins and the richest man in the world is a simple minded moron that acts like a 16yo in the middle of a sugar rush. Don't blame the youth for not wanting to be "smart" when they can see that plenty of mediocre adult content creators can earn more in a week than your average office worker in a month and when their role models are dudes vlogging about getting rich gambling on JPG monkeys and shilling for crypto rug pulls.

  • planarhobbit 6 days ago

    Intelligence gives you a choice. You can choose to walk away from this as best as you can and go about your life on your own terms. You aren't guaranteed or given anything else.

    You may also participate, if you choose.

    This seems to be a sticking point among high achievers, but you really need to dial back any societal expectations you may have. You’re here for a short time, and you’re given the option of watching the spectacle at your leisure. Enjoy it while it lasts.

    • kurofune 6 days ago

      I would like to stress that "high achiever != intelligent".

      And the choice to "walk away from this as best as you can and go about your life on your own terms" is mainly a money issue and not one defined or solved by intelligence.

      • fao_ 6 days ago

        Yep. A significant fraction of MENSA are in fact "underachievers" -- due to mental illness or poverty or something else.

        source: several relatives are members

        • OkayPhysicist 6 days ago

          I'd imagine there's also a strong selection bias there. It's not like being intelligent automatically makes you a member of MENSA. You also have to want to be a member of a society that uses IQ tests as a selection criteria. I'd imagine that self-selects for people who are intelligent but insecure about other facets of their life.

    • Raptor22 6 days ago

      > This seems to be a sticking point among high achievers, but you really need to dial back any societal expectations you may have. You’re here for a short time, and you’re given the option of watching the spectacle at your leisure. Enjoy it while it lasts.

      You're right, but understand, it takes many intelligent people years to figure this out. It's such a brutal state of reality that many parents are loathe to explain it so clearly to their children.

      In my opinion it is a shame that society is mostly driven by the dumber elements of our species. I know this is pie in the sky, but perhaps in the future when humans are multiplanetary, a group of above average intelligence could choose to colonize a planet and only admit those who are similarly above average intelligence. Would be an interesting experiment to see which planet has faster technological and societal progress over time.

    • BeFlatXIII 6 days ago

      > You’re here for a short time, and you’re given the option of watching the spectacle at your leisure. Enjoy it while it lasts.

      To quote one of Jim Morrison's stage rants from one of the Doors live albums, "I'm just here to get my kicks in before the whole shithouse goes up flames"

  • teddyh 6 days ago

    > Most politicians are exasperatingly dumb, most celebrities are witless mannequins and the richest man in the world is a simple minded moron

    The fact that you believe this only shows you to be gullible.

    • kurofune 6 days ago

      >The fact that you believe this only shows you to be gullible.

      The fact that you choose to believe this only shows you how little you have been around them IRL. Keep finding solace inside your own narratives and consider yourself lucky, most of them are the dumbest bunch of crooks you could ever find.

      • FrenchDevRemote 6 days ago

        it takes more than sheer evilness to stay in power

      • teddyh 6 days ago

        This only makes me question your definition of “dumb”.

    • amusedcyclist 6 days ago

      That fact that you don't shows you to be bootlicker to power

      • swasheck 6 days ago

        both of you are speaking in absolutes and are failing to see the middle. in the us the “exasperatingly dumb” are in power because they cater to the base emotions of their electorate. it’s a hard truth of representative democratic democracy/republics. once in power, those who are able to manipulate the human psyche are able to take those exasperatingly dumb and give them a voice. I’d assert that the ability to manipulate complex systems including people) into the favor of person or party requires a level of intelligence that is not easily dismissed. that doesn’t mean i agree with the goals or means, usually i do not. but the ability to know your audience, and to know how to mollify them to maintain your own power is a sort of intelligence.

        • amusedcyclist 6 days ago

          Sure Elon Musk, Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump share similar personality traits that make them very successful in the internet dominated world. Its not something that I dismiss, but I don't think of them as being master manipulators or geniuses, mostly narcissists with right type of mass market appeal who were in the right place at the right time.

          • hirvi74 6 days ago

            Well, it seems like narcissism is a better predictor of success than IQ based on said anecdotal observations.

            Perhaps that is what psychometrics should truly be trying to quantify and people should truly strive for if they want to "succeed," but let's be honest. What is the point in knowing one's IQ score if you can't proclaim to others about how much smarter you are than them?

            • sureglymop 5 days ago

              IQ is not a predictor of success. Very often, a high IQ even correlates with some handicap, e.g. adhd, asperger's, bipolar disorder etc. These are people who generally due to their handicap have it much harder in society, not easier. Beyond that, IQ is about logical thinking ability. But the actions which make you successful might not be at all logical/rational. Furthermore, gifted children often suffer from loneliness. This can affect their development and directly affect their social status and "success" in life.

          • teddyh 6 days ago

            > I don't think of them as being master manipulators or geniuses, mostly narcissists

            Why? If someone rises to the top of a very competitive scene, what is more likely? Dumb luck? Or something else?

            • amusedcyclist 6 days ago

              Well my argument is that all of these guys were the "right person for the job". They didn't rise to the top of a traditional competitive scene like a college exam or a race to a technology, they found that their brand of narcissism was very appealing to certain groups on the internet and they used it to their advantage from there. I don't think everyone who is popular on twitter or Instagram is a master manipulator

              • teddyh 5 days ago

                I first rejected your claim that “Most politicians are exasperatingly dumb” (etc.), and you called me a “bootlicker to power” for it. Now you’re retreating to “not everyone who is popular on twitter or Instagram is a master manipulator”. Sure, probably not. But that was not the claim which I rejected.

                > They didn't rise to the top of a traditional competitive scene like a college exam or a race to a technology

                Not every competitive scene is your preferred kind. The political scene is just as competitive, and I would imagine that it takes just as much work and skill to rise to the top there as in what I would assume to be your field. It might not be the skills you personally desire, but that does not make these people “dumb”, and anyone who believes this (as claimed by various propaganda) is being gullible and falling for simple lies created to make them feel good about themselves. It is often proclaimed, by feel-good rage-inducing propaganda from your own side, that your opposing side is stupid, or evil for its own sake. One should never fall for this; one should never assume or believe that your opposition is stupid or even evil. People have their own (albeit sometimes alien) motivations and skills, which will be hidden, either by the ones reporting it, or by the people themselves. But people aren’t, on the whole, stupid and malevolent, nor do those few who are rise to power.

                • amusedcyclist 5 days ago

                  But then you have to believe that every major twitter or instagram influencer is equally intelligent or manipulative, which frankly seems unlikely. I didn't say they were dumb, I just said I didn't think they are uniquely brilliant or capable.

                  • teddyh 5 days ago

                    I wrote that I did not believe that. I was explicitly talking about the political scene.

  • dahart 6 days ago

    It sucks things seem this bad, but there is hope! You do have the ability to make your own life better, and to help others. The truly smart people don’t confuse TV politics with life, and they know how to take stock of what’s good and right with the world in addition to what’s wrong. Seriously. Starting making a list of things that are good, do it today and don’t stop til you’ve listed all good things. Smart people know that there are ways to fix things, and spend their time fixing things.

    It has always been true in politics that loud and obnoxious narratives sometimes beat out more reasoned and better ideas. Studying history might interest you to see how bad this was a hundred or a thousand years ago. It is very important to stand back and notice that over time, the better ideas are actually winning. We no longer burn witches or drill holes in the skull to release evil spirits. We no longer believe the earth is flat or allow people to keep slaves. You can rest assured that eventually racism and sexism and wasting all the oil on earth to make a quick buck and other dumb things we’re doing today will go away, even if things seem to be getting worse at this very moment.

    The sciences and the arts will continue to move forward like they have for millennia, and many people, both smart and not smart by IQ metrics, will contribute to progress. If you care about being an opinion that matters, consider getting involved.

    As far as politicians go, please stop watching TV and start reading more of what the government actually publishes. Governments globally are granting trillions of dollars to fund good science and good art and good public works projects. The government is made of people and can be made better or worse by people. If you believe it’s hopeless and you allow it to be overrun by perceived grift, then that will continue to happen. If you take control and realize that the bad actually hasn’t infected everything and there are good people trying to help and that spending time working on it does make a difference, then your opinion and your effort can make a dent in the very problems you’re talking about.

  • dionidium 6 days ago

    This rant seems to be premised on the idea that IQ measures how badly one desires to be smart, but there's no evidence that "[struggling] to be smart" can affect your score.

    • mdp2021 6 days ago

      > evidence

      There is a logical evidence: those attracted to that area will invest more in it. Exercise of natural Intelligence also involves avoiding "early stopping": there a determined personality, facilitated by an interested personality, will push forward.

  • yes_really 6 days ago

    > The richest man in the world is a simple minded moron that acts like a 16yo in the middle of a sugar rush.

    Weird how that "simple minded moron that acts like a 16yo in the middle of a sugar rush" became the richest men in the world and revolutionized the rocket-launching and car industries. I wish I acted like that when I was a 16yo and had a sugar rush!

  • trompetenaccoun 6 days ago

    Do you have any reliable data backing this "politicians dumb" claim up? It would be ironic if some of them had you fooled, that wouldn't make them the "simple minded morons" but rather those giving the same parties votes again and again, no matter the results.

  • goodpoint 6 days ago

    > Most politicians are exasperatingly dumb

    Maybe the ones in your country.

    In other countries there's been plenty of politicians that had teaching positions in universities in their past, published in academic journals and so on... and yet know how to act stupid when useful.

  • WinstonSmith84 6 days ago

    Yeah, some good picks but let's not put everyone in the same basket ... the richest man in the world has revolutionized the automotive industry along the airspace industry. That's more than any human has accomplished within the modern time, and that guy is still working harder than 99% of us, while he could just enjoy the rest of his life, like many other "retired" billionaires. As for NFTs, it's new and time will tell, many seemingly pointless inventions turned out to be great products when used differently

    thinking outside the box is not easy in a society where thinking differently is not socially acceptable

    • 0des 6 days ago

      Try not to be the guy shoe-horning NFTs into discussion

      • WinstonSmith84 6 days ago

        Maybe, you shall read the comment to which I'm replying? Maybe :-)

  • Tao332 6 days ago

    Yeah, I feel like we were just starting to make some progress towards a generation of kids that might not bully its nerds, but everything kinda went to shit.

    Children make the selection. They have an impulse to inflict lasting psychological trauma on kids who are smarter than they are. Like bright feathers in the wrong forest, IQ is a detriment in an environment that's hostile to it.

  • missedthecue 6 days ago

    I don't think kids are faced with a fork in the road, with a path toward intellect and a path toward stupidity, and I don't think they choose stupidity because Elon Musk shitposts on Twitter.

    In fact I don't agree with basically any of this analysis at all. Sort of the fundamental idea behind IQ is that it's innate, not acquired.

    • SalmoShalazar 6 days ago

      IQ is not entirely a measure of genetic intelligence. The environmental component of IQ is huge, so calling it “innate” is wrong.

      • seneca 6 days ago

        This is an open debate, and claiming that there's a conclusive answer isn't really accurate. As usual, there's more nuance.

        Further, the heritability of potential for high IQ isn't really in question. Put another way, it looks like environment can severely diminish the IQ of a potential high IQ child, but it can't probably can't severely raise the IQ of a child born to low IQ parents.

        What is heritable is the potential. Environment determines, to an extent, how fulfilled that potential ends up being. This is why smart kids can study and increase their IQ test scores.

        • astrange 5 days ago

          “Heritable” doesn’t mean innate or genetic. Shared environment is a reason something is heritable. You are created inside your mother.

          Also, if you’re hanging out with people who talk about genetic IQ all the time you should really get a better hobby.

        • sudosysgen 6 days ago

          It's not arguable at all that IQ has a significant environmental component.

          • seneca 6 days ago

            Sorry, I should have phrased this better. I don't mean to say environment has no impact. What I intended to say is that the degree to which IQ is genetic vs environmentally influenced is unclear and the subject of debate. Calling environment "huge" and innate intelligence wrong is more an article of faith than a reflection of some scientific truth.

          • hirvi74 6 days ago

            If a child was raised in complete isolation, they would have an abysmally low IQ. Studies with such disregard for human life have shown us the consequences of having one of the worst environments when growing up -- from the one I remember the children when introduced back into a normal environment never were able to learn how to communicate with another human. I would be willing to wager those children in a proper environment would be at least capable of speaking.

            Perhaps my thinking is wrong or on the extreme end of the scale, but I would argue that we can extrapolate that environmental factors are a much more important factor than genetics considering various environment factors can affect genetics to certain degrees and your genes mean little to nothing in the worst environments -- only beneficial in the right environments.

  • rmbyrro 6 days ago

    Was 1975 much different?

    • bmitc 6 days ago

      I often wonder about this, but there is certainly an argument to be made that yes, I think it was different. It was at least calmer.

      There was so much more long form content. And instead of going online to bitch and moan about things, the only option was to speak, phone, or write each other.

      I am often struck by watching media from prior decades. One much source are the presidential debates. There early ones and even as recent as Dole vs Clinton were educated, cordial, and calm, a far cry from the circus and superficial debates we have in the past few.

      Where are the long form interviews or speeches? Were can I find speeches like those done by prior presidents, intellectuals, and activists? Is there anyone who comes close to someone like Martin Luther King, Jr.? One could argue that some of these historical figures are diamonds in the rough. Indeed, it is probably true. But one can question if our modern society allows a breeding ground for these people to thrive.

      I think basically anything prior to the pervasiveness of the Internet was different. The promises of the Internet came true. It has connected us, in ways never thought possible, but it's connected the deepest of our primal emotions. We simply cannot ingest the amount of information we're bombarded with. It doesn't promote an environment for deep, considerate, and rational thought and discourse.

      • sudosysgen 6 days ago

        There is a fair amount of long form calm intellectual content, whether speeches, interviews, or spoken essays, on YouTube. But it's still pretty fringe.

        • Bhurn00985 6 days ago

          There is, though I believe improvements in the discovery of such content would definitely be welcome.

  • ralusek 6 days ago

    I'm not sure that you understand what an IQ test is.

  • daniel-cussen 6 days ago

    Well smart generally means "good without cheating" whereas you're talking about betrayal which is "only good at cheating."

  • option 6 days ago

    You think you are smart but you aren’t

  • FrenchDevRemote 6 days ago

    wanting to be smart won't change your IQ

    • Tao332 6 days ago

      Not wanting to be will, so the numbers might be distorted from what ones true potential is.

  • qzx_pierri 6 days ago

    Don't forget that everything you see online is a facade. 15+ years ago, I fell in love with the internet because it's somewhere I could go to be something that I'm not. I could be LOUD, or I could say things I would normally never say away from the keyboard, and I think everyone bonded together online with this fact in mind. The internet was an escape.

    Soon, people began to view the internet as a reality due to the rapid homogenization into 3-4 major websites which are controlled mostly by advertisers. But what I've noticed is that most of the opinions you read online aren't very honest.

    Commenters on reddit will grift in the comment section for upvotes. Some commenters on HN will purposely avoid certain topics because their account is tied to their reputation in certain very partisan circles in California. Both of these examples are often the loudest and MOST SEEN (or unseen...) replies due to the low effort alignment with the popular opinion at the time.

    Although the internet seems more real everyday, I truly believe it's never been further from reality. No one is truly able to say what they want due to the (seemingly) dire consequences of saying "F*ck it" and stating your true opinion (which isn't all the time, but the option no longer exists). And this even applies in the short term. If you aren't banned, you're downvoted (HN, reddit,, every website with a comment section...) or filtered by an algorithm tuned to keep corporate sponsors and advertisers happy (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube).

    Inb4 "If you have opinions that are reprehensible enough to need silenced, you aren't worth being heard" - Give me a break. No one is perfect. Not to put you on trial or put words in your mouth, I just wanted to include that bit.

    > Who would struggle to be smart in a society that rewards idiocy and blind alignment to asinine political discourses

    I agree with this to a point. A lot of this happens online first, and companies will do whatever they can to align themselves with what's popular online at the time. These companies align to whatever the most virtuous opinion is at the time. To touch on your original point, these few dozen companies can almost be viewed as a microcosm of society as a whole. None of their alignments are real. Maybe that's why you roll your eyes when a big company suddenly aligns to some virtuous "cause" very soon after a viral movement online?

    >a society where the loudest opinion is the only one that matters

    I agree, but only on the internet. Conversations in real life don't contain upvotes or retweets. Even if people seem to behave this way in real life, everyone has their own thoughts and opinions. This will always be true, because those thoughts and opinions are one of the few things that define a person.

    > the richest man in the world is a simple minded moron that acts like a 16yo in the middle of a sugar rush

    There seems to be a lack of self awareness in this statement... Do you really believe this? This isn't a snarky post at an attempt to seem condescending either - I'm genuinely interested.

    > when they can see that plenty of mediocre adult content creators can earn more in a week than your average office worker in a month

    Content creation is NOT easy. Have you ever tried to do it? I know it seems like I'm nitpicking your post, but you seem extremely jaded. If you made a strong effort to take an objective look at the world at large, I promise you would reconsider some of these claims. Or not. But what matters is that you are honest with yourself.

    • BlargMcLarg 6 days ago

      >I truly believe it's never been further from reality

      The joke is that of all sites, imageboards are probably the only places you'll see real stories called out as fake more than the other way around. Those are also the few places you can be about as real as legally possible, if you're willing to give up your sanity for it.

      >I agree, but only on the internet. Conversations in real life don't contain upvotes or retweets

      I believe GP is more alluding to how the world overvalues charisma, which is absolutely true. So much importance is put on presentation, social skills and the likes, it's hard to argue we're all saints willing to filter based on information alone. Even democratic voting has surprisingly many similarities to upvote culture, when you think about it.

      If it was just conversations we'd have to care about, that'd be one thing. But in a way, this charisma requirement has seeped through the entirety of the world. Partially because even in real life, you're still competing with whatever is available in the other party's hand with a few swipes. Partially because the interconnectivity of today has absolutely exploded options, and humans are brutal enough to filter lesser options.

    • Tao332 6 days ago

      Those first couple paragraphs offer a good explanation for why I feel disgust every time someone refers to some part of the internet as a place. People stating that they feel unsafe on Twitter makes about as much sense to me as saying they feel unsafe holding a newspaper.

  • daniel-cussen 6 days ago

    At Stanford no less. As long as you obey the dogmas, you can be a moron who lied and cheated her way in and be fine. I think that's enshrined by admissions, one of the edge cases is being extremely left-wing politically active, that'll get you in easy. That's how 10% of the undergraduates are like that, and they're the worst students studying political majors. College admissions is political speech.

svantana 6 days ago

The data from the study has a giant elephant in the room: war. The participants are 18 year old Norwegians who were forced to take a military examination. The reason they do an IQ test is to evaluate if they are suited for a more analytic role, such as radar and comms. The peak result is for the birth year 1975, i.e. tests taken in 1993. During the cold war, a soviet attack was a real possibility, but that threat pretty much evaporated in the 90's. I did this exam in 1998 and the general vibe was pretty much: "why are we still doing this?" Few people took it seriously.

  • habibur 6 days ago

    It's not from one study. From 2nd paragraph of the article.

    > Similar studies in Denmark, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Finland and Estonia have demonstrated a similar downward trend in IQ scores

    • speleding 6 days ago

      If the numbers from other countries also come from the military then the point is still valid. I got tested for conscription in the Netherlands in the 90s and a lot of people were wondering if there was any point to it (conscription was abolished soon after). So I can see an earlier generation of conscripts being much more motivated to do well.

      • oriolid 6 days ago

        For military test it works the other way too: If you score high you're more likely to end up in officer training or some specialist troops so you have to serve longer. Shorter service is a strong incentive to get a lower score on purpose. (source: I live in Finland and have done the military service)

        • trompetenaccoun 6 days ago

          Someone I know pretended to be a drug addicted idiot to get out of the mandatory service. It worked, he was classified not fit for service. I've heard of another case where they pretended to be gay, back in the day when they wouldn't draft gay people. It's absolutely plausible and highly likely if you ask me that people would purposefully perform badly given the right incentives.

          • oriolid 6 days ago

            I've understood that the army gives the not fit for service grade quite easily, because the people who are willing to go that far to avoid service could be serious trouble if they'd be forced to serve anyway. Back in the day many employers considered missing military service suspicious so serving and doing the bare minimum would be better than trying to avoid it completely.

          • 6510 6 days ago

            Right, when they asked me if I used drugs I replied: Are you asking this because of the urine test?

      • isitmadeofglass 5 days ago

        This is just silly speculation. Your not just arguing that people over time cheat themselves dumb more. Your arguing that they are doing so in an extremely marginal fashion, consistent with the tests, and coordinated across generations and families in such a way that the data comes out looking exactly like there is a small but certain correlation.

        The hypothesis that people just don’t care and are therefore cheat themselves dumb would have data looking completely different. And unless your also arguing that this applies to absolutely everyone you would be seeing a bimodal distribution as a clear sign of this effect on the population intentionally scoring worse.

        • speleding 5 days ago

          I'm not arguing that people were passing themselves off as dumb, I'm saying that when there is little relevance to the outcome of the test it could have a significant impact. (There is about 5 years between being tested and getting called up so many people were aware there was a high chance of never having to enlist when they were testing). I know that I would probably try a lot harder to do well if I knew it would be the difference between an officer level function or washing jeeps.

    • lordnacho 6 days ago

      But the same dynamic applies for all: "The Russians are kaput and aren't going to attack us. They might even be our friends now."

      It might be hard to find numerical evidence for it, but many people will tell you that conscription in their country basically became a joke (if it existed at all) and you could wriggle out of it easily, or get an easy ride.

      FWIW, I know people from all those countries who will verify this, plus South Korea and Israel, where it is not a small thing. I've heard of Isrealis even preparing themselves especially hard in order to do well on the conscription, something I'd never heard of since.

      • FabHK 6 days ago

        But not all IQ data comes from military conscripts (and might therefore be tainted by people not taking it seriously nowadays).

      • selimthegrim 6 days ago

        The technical/electronic military intelligence units in the IDF are very prestigious and often gateways to high tech startups

    • zdragnar 6 days ago

      Having multiple studies does not mean that obvious confounding factors found in one are irrelevant. If anything, it calls into question the other studies.

  • seydor 6 days ago

    And why would conscripts try harder in 1975? What difference did it make?

    Another suggestion is that it has to do with the fact that this test is taken at a specific age. My very scientific hunch is that in the past few generations, adolescence was extended by decades, and the real problems in life started way later, while in 1975 people still married young

  • ChuckNorris89 6 days ago

    >During the cold war, a soviet attack was a real possibility, but that threat pretty much evaporated in the 90's

    It didn't really evaporate, it's happening right now, except not in Norway.

    • brokencode 6 days ago

      At the very least, the perceived threat evaporated.

    • _moof 6 days ago

      I'm guessing by your username that you were quite young at the time. But things actually were different thirty years ago.

dcx 6 days ago

At the time of writing, much of this thread is centered around (a) dismissing the study based on considerations that were ruled out within the article, and (b) dismissing the format and value of IQ tests. Let's set these aside and discuss the open question:

> What specific environmental factors cause changes in intelligence remains relatively unexplored.

What might these factors possibly be? Some candidates I am aware of, that are known to affect IQ: heavy metals in infant formula [1], increases in baseline CO2 levels [2], stress [3], deficiencies caused by soil depletion [4]. Leaded gasoline seems to have been ruled out by timing.

It's interesting to me that this started in 1975 and is observed across Europe. Do we know of any major changes in habits or industrial practices that started around that year?





  • themodelplumber 6 days ago

    Plastics off-gassing in the home, car, and at work comes to mind. It would kind of bridge the gap between habit (shopping) and industrial practice. Though I'm not sure about health or IQ implications specifically.

  • jmclnx 6 days ago

    I cannot speak about Europe, but in the US, mid-seventies is when one US Political Party started its war on Education, and that accelerated in the 80s and still on going. So I agree it is lack of quality of free education in the early years of childhood development.

    Too bad the study did not also look at IQ differences between private/public schools over the same period. By private, I mean the schools that only the very rich can send their children too.

    Also, I did read somewhere else, a study was also done on increased CO2 and intelligence and found higher CO2 could lower peoples intelligence level.

    • pessimizer 6 days ago

      Attacking education has been bipartisan. It was absurd to attack Amway princess DeVos for pushing the same dismantling of public education that was accelerated by Arne Duncan under Obama. Democratic Party darling and shooting-concealer Rahm Emanuel closed down half of Chicago's public schools, whose entire white enrollment had already left with their vouchers to charters and privates so it didn't affect anyone who mattered. Hell, you could sell the buildings to the charters.

      edit: Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan endorses Kerr for state schools superintendent

      GOP-backed candidate for schools chief says she’s a Democrat

    • jdminhbg 6 days ago

      Spending (inflation-adjusted) per pupil in the US is up 50% since 1990 alone:

      • swasheck 6 days ago

        do they have more granular says that allows for nutrition programs, teacher salaries, physical plant, materials, transportation, admin overhead (it infrastructure, elearning platforms, superintendent salary, etc)? that breakdown would go more to help understand the educational endeavor over against the political or developmental endeavors

    • mdp2021 6 days ago

      I am afraid also Europe has seen debilitating attacks in more Countries. Parts of the attacks have been public - some intentional, some collateral - or exposed; results can be evident and documented.

      Nonetheless: scholarization is surely impactive but not necessitant on Intelligence.

  • hcarvalhoalves 6 days ago

    Is IQ connected to genetics somehow?

    That could maybe indicate that lower percentile IQ are just as - or more – successful at leaving descendants nowadays than before.

    If we consider the world spent half the century in large scale conflict, maybe that was an IQ “filter” (since, for example, academics wouldn’t be drafted to the front lines), but now humanity doesn’t face the same pressure?

    • dcx 6 days ago

      Paragraph 6 of TFA:

      > "It's not that dumb people are having more kids than smart people, to put it crudely. It's something to do with the environment, because we're seeing the same differences within families," he said.

  • isitmadeofglass 5 days ago

    The timing of the start of the drop to me also seems to correlate with the period when PBC was used extensively in building materials.

    But if that was to blame then we would likely already start seeing a recovery as it’s been banned everywhere.

  • ParetoOptimal 6 days ago

    > (b) dismissing the format and value of IQ tests. Let's set these aside and discuss the open question:

    >> What specific environmental factors cause changes in intelligence remains relatively unexplored.

    If IQ tests don't accurately measure intelligence, what's the worth of discussing those environmental factors?

    • isitmadeofglass 5 days ago

      Let’s imagine for a second that they hand not used IQ tests but instead evaluated peoples ability to catch a baseball with their left hand. That obviously doesn’t correlate to intelligence in any traditional sense. But then imagine that we had countless studies that correlated the result of that test with the ability to perform successfully a wide range of other tasks, and with a ton of positive things in peoples lives.

      Does it matter that the test didn’t correlate to what we think of as intelligence? No, it’s not the point of the study, it’s just showing the tendencies of a measure that has scientific interest. The reason the measure has scientific interest is because of those correlations.

      People get so insecure around the whole IQ test range. Imagine if someone had released a study showing humans were getting shorter over time and that environmental factors were to blame, and all the comments were from people arguing that “being short doesn’t make you less attractive! Being short doesn’t mean you can’t reach the top shelves, because you can just use a ladder! Height tests are bogus, I scored 5’3” in one, but I’m really good at basketball!” It’s silly and overshadows the really interesting scientific investigations that are possible because we have this great measure.

      • ParetoOptimal 5 days ago

        > People get so insecure around the whole IQ test range. Imagine if someone had released a study showing humans were getting shorter over time and that environmental factors were to blame, and all the comments were from people arguing that “being short doesn’t make you less attractive! Being short doesn’t mean you can’t reach the top shelves, because you can just use a ladder! Height tests are bogus, I scored 5’3” in one, but I’m really good at basketball!” It’s silly and overshadows the really interesting scientific investigations that are possible because we have this great measure.

        I'm not saying that.

        I'm saying if you don't know what IQ tests measure, you don't know what the external factors are causing.

steebo 6 days ago

An environmental cause appears likely, since this trend is being observed in many countries. Both the increase in IQ to 1975 and the drop thereafter could have environmental causes.

The increase could be due to improved nutrition following WW 2, such as better access to food overall and the iodization of salt.

For the decline, my money is on PFAS ( and organohalogens more generally. Iodine is also a halogen, and all the other halogenated compounds we are pumping in the environment could interfere with iodine metabolism. These compounds are in nearly everything, and we're using ever larger quantities of them.

There is evidence this affects fetal development and cognitive functioning years later (, which is also why jurisdictions are banning flame retardants ( )

  • dcx 6 days ago

    This seems like a pretty good hypothesis. I believe the main source of exposure to PFAS for most people is food packaging (IIRC nonstick pans don't move the needle unless you heat way above the safe range, and you'll smell the coating melting). What is the main source of exposure to organohalogens? I'm seeing information about mattresses, flame retardants, and seafood.

    • steebo 6 days ago

      PFAS is in so many common consumer products you might well say "it is in everything." That outdoor jacket you're wearing? Coated in PFAS. Your stain-resistant couch? PFAS.

      All textiles break and release fibres, and we inevitably end up eating them.

      And if you are cooking with a non-stick pan, it is a guarantee that you are ingesting them. It doesn't have to be the PTFE itself, the emulsifiers (such as PFOA are more volatile and have been measured in food cooked with non-stick pans.

      • dcx 6 days ago

        > There is general agreement that dietary intake is the largest source of PFAS exposure rather than inhalation or dermal contact [...] For PFOA, EFSA suggested the most important sources of chronic exposure were milk and dairy products for toddlers (up to 86% of exposure), drinking water (up to 60% for infants), and fish and other seafood (up to 56% in elderly).

        > There really is a very minimal amount of residual PFOA or other perfluorinated chemicals in the nonstick pans — like, you know, thousands of folds lower than what is observed in the water or food. -- Dr. Mimi Huang, NIH (7:47)

  • deeg 6 days ago

    Wouldn't this be balanced out by the reduced lead in the environment? There is a fairly strong argument that removing lead has lead to the decrease in crime (due to less development damage).

  • Mo3 6 days ago

    I too believe it has to have environmental causes. I saw a phenomenal documentary a few years ago that went into great detail of how especially pesticides and flame retardants are the most likely cause.

bretpiatt 6 days ago

The analytical side of me doesn't understand how scores on a test that baselines the average to X (in the case of IQ, it is baseline of 100), then distributes them around that baseline on a normal distribution curve can go down over time.

The article didn't link data so I can't dig in further.

  • impossiblefork 6 days ago

    Ḯ've heard that statement from many but I've never understood how they've been able to make this conceptually difficult for themselves:

    IQ tests measure relative to a reference population. So we can speak of the IQ of a person aged 20 born in 1990 on a test where 100 is the average score at age 20 of the population of those born in 1960, etcetera.

    Changes in average IQ has been something that has been spoken of in the literature since Flynn was young, back when IQ scores were rising.

    • bretpiatt 6 days ago

      Okay, I see what you're saying, so we take two sample groups, use one as a baseline, then lay the second group over that curve.

      So now we need to be really careful about bias in the sample groups.

      To say IQ scores are dropping and we don't know why then means to me we don't know what variables were the key drivers of the first groups results so we therefore cannot possibly create a consistent second group to measure against the baseline.

      I'm still stuck but I'm often dense and skeptical on these type of analysis.

      • prepend 6 days ago

        > don't know what variables were the key drivers of the first groups results so we therefore cannot possibly create a consistent second group to measure against the baseline.

        This is why there are practices around statistics sampling and confidence intervals and whatnot. Of course we can’t exactly recreate, that’s impossible, but we can create samples in a way that the results are generalizable in both the baseline and the comparison. And the results are useful.

        I have a friend who says that it’s impossible to know if we can’t sample 100% (“how can we know how it will work in 100 million if we only test in 1000?”) and it’s frustrating how just basic concepts of math and statistics make it hard for them to accept any research.

        • impossiblefork 6 days ago

          There are many ways of knowing the means objectively. In countries with mandatory military service and where IQ tests are administered in connection wit that service there is reliable data.

          Another source is the number of clinical cases of mild mental retardation. This will mostly depend on how large the population subgroups with lowest IQ are, but if they are approximately fixed and there's no explosion in assortative mating it would be possible to calculate the true mean from that.

          • aoeusnth1 6 days ago

            > Another source is the number of clinical cases of mild mental retardation.

            This assumes both classification criteria and testing rates remain constant over time. Both are poor assumptions.

            • impossiblefork 6 days ago

              Maybe, but the first one is certainly a good source.

      • staticassertion 6 days ago

        The tracked increase year over year of IQ over the course of a few decades is largely attributed to wider access to education, I believe.

        • pas 6 days ago

          wasn't the IQ of young kids also increasing? which is mostly attributed to better health [both physical and mental] (which is mostly due to better socioeconomic situation in developed countries, so basically the whole post-WW2 upward curve)

    • isitmadeofglass 5 days ago

      If you have a measurement tape with 1000 irregular markings with no system to them. You can use it as a measure of a persons height by reading off which marking a large group of people end up closed to. But reporting those marks make little sense, since they are irregular. So instead you report that a person is at the marking for the %percentile of the revenge group.

      It’s easy to see how such a system can be used to measure a decrease or increase of height over time, even though your normalizing your reporting and even though the markings are irregular.

  • RobertoG 6 days ago

    20 years ago you would have understood! ;-)

  • Naga 6 days ago

    The article linked the study though:

    • bretpiatt 6 days ago

      Thanks, missed the link, reading study.

      So many variables here including way the math portion was measured moving to multiple choice in the 1990s when the scores start dropping, hopping on a flight, still skeptical.

      Other quick one, all 95% confidence interval on data that moves less than +/- 2.5% either way. I understand confidence interval isn't a straight linear margin of error, it one I'd want to also look at further.

  • zone411 6 days ago

    The most of obvious way would be to use the same test as previously and just compare the scores.

    • throwaway6734 6 days ago

      Isn't it possible that changes in education style or focus could bias scores?

      • staticassertion 6 days ago

        > Access to education is currently the most conclusive factor explaining disparities in intelligence, according to Ritchie. In a separate study that has not been released, he and his colleagues looked at existing research in an effort to demonstrate that staying in school longer directly equates to higher IQ scores.

        > But more research is needed to better understand other environmental factors thought to be linked to intelligence. Robin Morris, a professor of psychology at Kings College in London who was not involved in Ritchie’s research, suggests that traditional measures of intelligence, such as the IQ test, might be outmoded in today’s fast-paced world of constant technological change.

        > “In my view, we need to recognize that as time changes and people are exposed to different intellectual experiences, such as changes in the use of technology, for example social media, the way intelligence is expressed also changes. Educational methods need to adapt to such changes,” Morris said.

      • esja 6 days ago

        The first step is to run the same test. The second step is to work out why the results are different (if they are), which might include teaching styles, focus issues, malnutrition, or many other things.

  • Frost1x 6 days ago

    The average can vary from a given sample set over time and be used as a comparison. For a statement like "IQs are going up/down" you could probably get away with simply monitoring the average over time.

    If you start digging around to see that you're fairly comparing the groups then you'll almost always be able to split hairs. Most statistics outside of a theoretical context are flawed if you poke them hard enough.

walkhour 6 days ago

The article insists several times this is not due to genetics, because people with lower IQ don't have more children. This is not true[0]. What the article may want to say is that it's not due exclusively to genetics.

Given fertility is negatively correlated with intelligence, and how hereditary IQ is, it's just a matter of time until IQ declines.

This is not so shocking, how many kids does your typical college professor have before 35, is it 0 or 1?


  • marcusverus 6 days ago

    You hint at this, but it's worth saying it explicitly--folks with lower IQ could out-produce folks with high IQ even without having more kids per-person, as long as they're reproducing at a younger age. If, say, lower IQ people were to have kids at an average age of 23, and higher people have kids at an average age of 33, the lower IQ folks would have twice as many kids over a ~100 year span and 4x as many over ~150 years!

  • wodenokoto 6 days ago

    The article acknowledges this, and says that the major findings is:

    - IQ is not as strongly correlated to parents as believed

    - IQ is not negatively correlated with fertility

    When an article says "we've found evidence against current accepted knowledge" it is not a counter argument to say "Current accepted knowledge says otherwise, therefore you are wrong!"

    But we do need better access to the numbers behind both sides in order to participate in the discussion.

    • hajile 6 days ago

      IQ builds on itself.

      You gain static intelligence (what you’ve learned) using fluid intelligence (IQ). But learning new things quickly relies on a large body of knowledge to draw from.

      Lots of poor people denigrate education. “Street Smart” is considered the only useful knowledge. Lots of these parents literally don’t care if their kids fail out of school (after all, they did too and are “just fine”). These kids never build up that critical knowledge early which nullifies their IQ for life.

      Bad diet, abuse, crime, high stress, being raised by a single mother, etc also affect IQ. All these things are pervasive in most poor neighborhoods.

      Parents don’t affect initial intelligence as much, but they certainly affect whether that intelligence is squandered.

    • walkhour 6 days ago

      I agree you're technically right, however I think the article does everything possible to obscure this fact, see some quotes:

      > The research suggests that genes aren’t what’s driving the decline in IQ scores, according to the study, published Monday.

      > The causes in IQ increases over time and now the decline is due to environmental factors

      > It’s not that dumb people are having more kids than smart people, to put it crudely. It’s something to do with the environment, because we’re seeing the same differences within families

      But I agree we need numbers, which was the most important thing the article could've provided.

  • dqpb 6 days ago

    It also begs the question, who’s really more intelligent? The person who spent their prime years pontificating, or the person who won the evolution game?

    • missedthecue 6 days ago

      The person who won the evolution game only has a more adept ability and grasping, retaining, and applying concepts, especially at high levels. I remember people at University who so easily managed to apprehend abstract concepts while I would struggle for hours. They weren't necessarily more or less intelligent, but they were wired differently and could clearly operate at a higher level.

    • ralusek 6 days ago

      This statement is like saying "who's really the strongest, the strongmen or the lady who won the marathon?"

      • dqpb 6 days ago

        It’s more like saying “Whose more productive, the Engineer or the Farmer?”.

    • throw_m239339 6 days ago

      > It also begs the question, who’s really more intelligent? The person who spent their prime years pontification, or the person who won the evolution game?

      You're right, who's smarter? The people who manage to reproduce thus pass on their genes or the ones that are "too smart" not to?

      • zo1 6 days ago

        You could say they're winning, but they are essentially abusing the good-will of society by imposing the care of their offspring onto society instead of caring for them themselves. It may sound bad, but in my mind, purposefully bringing children into the world without security to care for them seems immensely evil and selfish.

        • dqpb 6 days ago

          Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

          • walkhour 6 days ago

            What is the game in this context, democracy?

            • dqpb 6 days ago

              Reproduction. It’s THE game. It always has been.

Foobar8568 6 days ago

In france, kids in the 50s could write with a nib/ink by 6, before starting primary school. We are lowering our education requirements since the 70s. Basically since the rise of "international governing education", see failure modern maths and global reading.

And while IQ is not too much related to education, we let kids do what ever, when ever for a so call peace of mind, so yeah a kid who is never challenged can't have broad skills. I would dare to say that video games are saving IQ scores but for all the wrong reasons (fast pattern recognition and spacial movement related tests).

  • ddanv 6 days ago

    You don't play the correct video games. See puzzles and be puzzled :)

    • FredPret 6 days ago

      Perhaps only the hackernews crowd plays the interesting games

  • dj_mc_merlin 6 days ago

    The French education system has always been needlessly tough on kids. I went to a European school with many nationalities mixed in (each with their own section), and the poor French were overworked to hell and received lower grades than us anyway. Each teacher viewed this as normal and said that in France it would've been even harder. None of the French were especially smart because of it though, so I have no clue why they were doing it. Sadism?

    So in my mind it's a welcome change.

  • xornox 6 days ago

    In Finland, everybody and your mum has ”higher education”. Requirements are surely decreasing. Old academic universities are now vocational schools.

tharne 6 days ago

> Norwegian researchers analyzed the IQ scores of Norwegian men born between 1962 and 1991 and found that scores increased by almost 3 percentage points each decade for those born between 1962 to 1975

Statements like this have always made me question these tests. Ten points in IQ represents a movement of one standard deviation in intelligence. To believe the quote above would mean that there was a massive increase in intelligence between the 1960's and the 1990's. But an increase of one standard deviation across any trait at a population level is very very unusual, and likely would have been noticed long before any studies were conducted.

Put another way, do we really believe that someone with slightly below average intelligence in 1962, say an IQ of 85, is the intellectual equivalent of someone with a significantly below average IQ (e.g. 75) in 1990? An IQ of 75 typically means you're not in public school or if you are, you're in Special Ed.

  • paulpauper 6 days ago

    the Flynn Effect is controversial for this reason. IQ tests are still useful of assessing and predicting individual differences of ability.

Arun2009 6 days ago

There are three strong factors that come to mind:

(1) Physical fitness. These same years have seen the explosive growth of obesity and related lifestyle diseases. A greater percentage of people in first world countries (and increasingly elsewhere) are either obese or overweight. I recall reading that one way to keep your mind sharp is to be physically fit (cf: "Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain" by Ratey and Hagerman). The corollary could be that if you are not physically fit, your IQ will suffer.

(2) Pollution. Air pollution has been shown to affect IQ scores ( It could be that greater pollution has been causing lower IQ scores.

(3) Sleep. I recall reading that people get lesser high quality sleep than they used to. It has very clearly become easier to stay up late today. Poor sleep is really bad for you for a number of reasons, including your cognitive performance and brain health.

lrvick 6 days ago

I blame smartphones. Really I do. My overall ability to focus and consume longform content has gone up dramatically since ditching my phone several months ago.

  • nottorp 6 days ago

    You don’t need to ditch the phone. Just disable all notifications and maybe uninstall some content consumption feeds like FB or twitter.

    A phone is what you make of it.

    • bowsamic 6 days ago

      Then I spend too much time on HN

      • Snowworm 6 days ago

        Maybe set time limits then. Also have an alternative thing to do on your phone if you can't do anything else (like Duolingo or respond to important emails).

      • tintedfireglass 5 days ago

        Do you spend time on HN or waste time on HN. If it is spend then it is not a problem.

  • mrtranscendence 6 days ago

    I’m inching closer and closer to just deleting every app on my phone and tablet except what allows me to take calls, answer emails, and read books. I read so much when I was a kid, with a great deal of focus, but now I feel like I need constant shifting multisensory stimulation. I can hardly get through ten minutes of a movie without pausing to look at my phone. I can’t listen to a podcast without playing a game or something at the same time.

    I absolutely feel that I’ve gotten dumber in the last fifteen years.

    • hedora 6 days ago

      Do you know of a phone that lets you do that? In particular, how do you uninstall the web browser?

      • mdp2021 6 days ago

        If you cannot with your own, you could try with custom ROMs, or through rooting (check the security implications though).

        One thing, "to each its own", but I would like to /have/ a web browser on my mobile OS devices: no browser I know does text reflow since very many years, which implies, "there is no browser". Maybe you should really assess the quality of your practices: awareness (of the absurdities) will have you manage your actions differently and accordingly.

      • mrtranscendence 6 days ago

        Technically you can remove Safari from an iPhone the same way you uninstall any app, though I’ve never tried it (yet). Apple added the ability to remove built-in apps a few versions ago.

        I suspect it leaves the guts in place, as Safari is used by the OS, but it should remove the ability to use it as an app.

        No idea about android.

        • throwawayboise 6 days ago

          Android is shipped with a number of apps that cannot be removed (or even disabled). Some are Google's, and some are added by the phone manufacturer (e.g. Samsung) and some are added by the carrier (e.g. AT&T) if you buy the phone from the carrier.

  • tintedfireglass 5 days ago

    The smartphone has actually improved my life a lot. I still have the habit of reading 2-3 books a month but as far as my personal experiences with a smartphone. I could be biased cuz I don't use any social media(facebook/insta/snapchat/tiktok) and I have removed all algorithmic feeds from the information I consume. Smartphone is just a big sheet of glass. What you do with it is your choice and it is a very big choice.

  • isitmadeofglass 5 days ago

    It’s a bad hypothesis to argue that someone born in 1985 scored lower in IQ in 2003, than someone born in 1975 scored in 1993, due to a category of devices, for which the first widely adopted was released in 2007.

  • jti107 6 days ago

    that was my first instinct as well... that its probably something to do with attention span. a lot of these IQ tests requires considerable focus, for 60-75 minutes. there are studies that show a drop in attention span from the 70's to now. I think we are now at 8 min for the average person.

    its that or there is some common particle that is slowly making us dumb (like lead couple decades ago) and we haven't discovered it yet.

  • carapace 6 days ago

    It can't be just smartphones, the downward trend started in the 1970's. My guess is television. The "idiot lamp" made idiots, QED.

    • zo1 6 days ago

      Also seems to coincide with the "War on Poverty".

      • carapace 6 days ago

        That is a USA policy, these studies are of Europeans:

        > Norwegian researchers analyzed the IQ scores of Norwegian men born between 1962 and 1991 and found that scores increased by almost 3 percentage points each decade for those born between 1962 to 1975 – but then saw a steady decline among those born after 1975.

        > Similar studies in Denmark, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Finland and Estonia have demonstrated a similar downward trend in IQ scores, said Ole Rogeberg, a senior research fellow at the Ragnar Frisch Center for Economic Research in Norway and co-author of the new study.

    • mdp2021 6 days ago

      As many are implicitly noting, there seems to have been an increase of passive consumption of addictive material. Still ongoing (read posts nearby who speak about smartphones as if it were nicotine...)

minihat 6 days ago

>"The study looked at the IQ scores of brothers who were born in different years. Researchers found that, instead of being similar as suggested by a genetic explanation, IQ scores often differed significantly between the siblings."

I can think of a multitude of reasons younger siblings should, on average, have a lower IQ than their older brothers. Could this independently account for the 'decline' that researchers are measuring?

HL33tibCe7 6 days ago

I wonder whether we need to take another look at our modern school education system. Maybe some of the things we (rashly?) ditched had some importance that we didn’t realise at the time. Like learning poetry by heart, learning multiplication tables, “old-school” teaching methods that have now fallen out of favour.

thret 6 days ago

Is this attributable to leaded gasoline? "Use of leaded gasoline, which he invented, released large quantities of lead into the atmosphere all over the world. High atmospheric lead levels have been linked with serious long-term health problems from childhood, including neurological impairment"

  • staticassertion 6 days ago

    Lead poisoning disproportionately affected those born between 1950 to 1980 and have significantly dropped in the last 20-30 years. So I don't think so.

    • andrew_ 6 days ago

      I believe you're neglecting the cascade effect. If those people had children (they did) then their emphasis on education and the kind of rearing for children that encourages more intelligence was surely effected.

      • staticassertion 6 days ago

        Sure, I'm willing to buy that it's related, but it's going to definitely be tertiary effects and not that the population is poisoned.

JaceLightning 6 days ago

The article doesn't mention pollution which is a HUGE contributing factor to lower IQ.

Leaded gas wiped nearly 10 IQ points off of everyone and is still used in general aviation.

  • _moof 6 days ago

    I see this "GA still uses leaded gas" thing thrown around here a lot. And while it's technically true, what I never see accompanying it are any numbers. Things like how many gallons of avgas are burned over time compared to how many gallons of leaded mogas were burned prior to it being outlawed. Or the results of anyone's blood labs. The other day someone was complaining about lead exposure from being near a small airport. Had they been tested and found to have high levels of lead in their blood? Oddly enough, they didn't say. You'd think if they were that concerned, they'd have the numbers to back it up, but they didn't.

    I'm not saying leaded avgas is good by any means, but I would very, very much like to see some actual quantification of its effects before we all decide it's some kind of global catastrophe on par with having an active nuclear meltdown in every living room on Earth.

    • throwawayboise 6 days ago

      Yeah, while there's no "safe" level of lead ingestion, not only do we not use leaded gas in cars, commercial aviation (with very few exceptions) does not use it either, and the private/general aviation piston-engine planes are emitting it several thousand feet in the air, not at street level around houses and people. We should get rid of lead in aviation fuel, but it's not a substantial source of environmental lead these days.

contravariant 6 days ago

Anyone with some domain knowledge willing to pitch in whether it's correct people are equating IQ with education in this thread?

  • Out_of_Characte 6 days ago

    From what I've read is that IQ is largely genetically determined, With all the complexities that genes bring with them. And its very hard to increase intelligence in a meaningfull way. But whats important is that its very easy to make someone really really dumb. Like the disaster that was leaded gasoline causing an estimated loss of 2 to 8 iq points on a test.

    Education absolutely increases IQ test scores but wether its an increase in intelligence itself whatever that may be is questionable.

    • kazinator 6 days ago

      An IQ test cannot distinguish between a subject who originally came up with a problem-solving technique due to innate intelligence, and one who has already seen that type of problem and learned the problem solving trick from someone else (possibly from having challenged numerous IQ tests).

      There is some alignment between IQ tests and academic work; an academic background gives you a few tricks for solving those kinds of problems.

    • amusedcyclist 6 days ago

      It all depends on how define intelligence, If by intelligence you mean the ability to reason about and solve complex problems then education definitely improves intelligence. However, if you choose to define it as something innate then by definition education does not change that. I think the former is a far more useful definition, its more important what a person can actually do as opposed what they could do in some hypothetical world

      • Out_of_Characte 3 days ago

        The problem I see is that intelligence is at large innate, someone with a 110 IQ bracket can't realisticly retest at an IQ of 140 unless you're training purely on IQ tests. This puts a severe upper bound on what anyone can 'solve trough education' as someone with a first tested IQ of 140 requires zero education to achieve a retest of 140 AND has the ability train or educate themselves even further. The IQ test itself is as real of a problem someone can solve as any other hypothetical problem. So if you choose to define intelligence by education, then you're still selecting for innate intelligence plus someones work ethic. Which to me is silly because the education system itself already selects for that and IQ tests are carefully designed for innateness which is why retests or learning for an IQ test bars you from a valid score. I'm sure Intelligence is somewhere inbetween but we can barely solve for one variable at a time.

    • SyzygistSix 6 days ago

      A guess is that quality education, like encouraging the curiosity to read and tinker, has a bootstrapping effect.

  • derbOac 6 days ago

    So the Flynn effect (rises in IQ to a certain point in time) has been demonstrated in many many many cultures with many tests, many of which are difficult to explain in terms of formal western education. Like nonverbal pattern recognition tests given to traditional tribes in jungle areas. It's one of the mysteries about the Flynn effect and why it's so difficult to explain.

    It's also not just the case that the "bottom is being raised", but also that the whole distribution was shifting.

    I think these kinds of things make it unlikely education is explaining at least the rise part of the curve. To the extent the fall is in a subset of these types of measures of settings it also might not be (but it could be).

    The more recent decline has been less well-documented although there are multiple studies using multiple measures that have shown this, so I believe it is a trend at least in some regions of the world (developed, western). I have a fuzzy memory that the decline is stronger with verbal measures (as opposed to nonverbal) but I might be misremembering that.

    Education is strongly related to IQ/g/general cognitive ability but they're not perfectly correlated. I think when I looked this up a week ago or so, the best estimates were like 0.50 in a general population sample.

    Clinically a discrepancy between IQ and educational achievement is important, as it points to someone not getting resources they need etc.

    So yes, they're related, and yes, education could explain general population trends over time, but no they're not the same.

  • PopAlongKid 6 days ago

    I just read this passage from the short story "Flowers For Algernon":

    "I'm not sure what an I.Q. is. Dr. Nemur said it was something that measured how intelligent you were--like a scale in the drugstore weighs pounds. But Dr. Strauss had a big argument with him and said an I.Q. didn't weigh intelligence at all. He said an I.Q. showed how much intelligence you could get, like the numbers on the outside of a measuring cup. You still had to fill the cup up with stuff."

    Maybe that stuff is education.

  • annyeonghada 6 days ago

    Here[1] there's a summary of the evidence for and against IQ.


    • mrtranscendence 6 days ago

      All that verbiage and the best he can do with respect to establishing causality is an offhand remark that causality is “heavily implie(d)”. Controlling for confounders won’t necessarily recover estimates of causal impact.

      At the least I’d like to see something like an instrumental variables analysis.

torginus 6 days ago

I wonder if there is a negative impact produced by people having kids later in life - the reduced sperm and egg quality must play some role in this.

  • ausbah 6 days ago

    as you get older its harder to have kids, but that doesn't make the kids worse off

    • hedora 6 days ago

      It definitely makes the kids worse off. The reason it's "harder" is because the number of complications/birth defects increase exponentially over time. In a few years after age 40, the odds cross from "negligible" to "don't have kids".

ramesh31 6 days ago

With a global average IQ hovering around 80, it really terrifies me what the future has in store given how manipulable the masses are via social media. The recent Phillipines presidential election is a perfect example. There's a sort of cutoff I've noticed around 85-90 IQ where at or below that, people can simply be spoon-fed whatever form of reality you wish for them to accept. The truth no longer matters when someone's entire reality is shaped by 30 second TikTok videos that are actually just performances masquerading as "POV real life". All of those absurd fake videos we see and laugh at only exist because they work.

  • pessimizer 6 days ago

    Colonial powers (not just the US) pour cash and military support into dictators supported by dumb nationalists, with the overt intention of helping them marginalize or exterminate their intelligent populations. And I don't mean that it happens inadvertently, I mean that we actively search for the effective influencers within rising movements happening in countries that we're draining the natural resources from through friendly dictators, and we inform those dictators who we also arm.

    We're actually breeding for stupidity.

    • lvass 6 days ago

      This is a very extraordinary claim and should have really strong evidence. At least I'd want to know exactly what is being done to exterminate some groups. The latest example I know of is Stalin's food redirections. Or are you talking of mass migrations and "replacement genocide"?

rossdavidh 6 days ago

"In a separate study that has not been released, he and his colleagues looked at existing research in an effort to demonstrate that staying in school longer directly equates to higher IQ scores."

...or maybe, it just improves your test-taking ability?

blululu 6 days ago

The actual research comes from 2018:

The one thing that stands out is that the sample population comes from Norwegian Military conscripts. Since the end of the Cold War militaries have contracted across NATO and Western Europe. I would be curious anyone from Norway could comment on whether there might be a fundamental shift in the data. If a lot of smart kids avoid conscription by going to University somewhere then the results of these tests ought to trend downwards.

  • lordnacho 6 days ago

    I'm not Norwegian but my guess is the system is much like in Denmark, where officially there is also conscription.

    The thing is though, it's not taken terribly seriously anymore, and this has probably been a trend since the cold war ended. If you want to avoid getting called up, just about any excuse will do just fine, there's no shame in it at all.

    My guess is the people who want to avoid it are the kinds of kids who would rather go and study than run around a field at night. Those kids will also tend to have the higher IQs, which will thus vanish from the test set.

dash2 6 days ago

This is a really interesting, simple and clever study design and I look forward to reading it. That said, I think there is strong evidence for selection against intelligence at genetic level. The question is more "does it explain the Flynn effect and its reversal", or "is it large enough to have an important effect?" See our paper:

fastball 6 days ago

Idiocracy a documentary?

  • underwater 6 days ago

    That movie really missed the mark. It made out like the dumbing down would be a result of generations of poor breeding. Instead we see the dumbing down has been due to people willingly thumbing their nose at science and reason.

    • marginalia_nu 6 days ago

      The backlash against science is fairly reasonable, given how often science is misrepresented and how often preliminary findings are reported as facts, often in some misguided attempt to help make it easier for people to understand.

      People pick up on the discrepancies, and overstating our confidence early makes it look really bad when it turns out that the results were incorrect.

      The Covid pandemic is a great example of this, a lot of extremely sketchy and highly preliminary studies were misrepresented as certainties. It takes many months to produce a solid scientific study, sometimes even years. Yet here we were, a month into the pandemic inundated in studies that simply could not be solid. But they sounded scary, so they made the news. This created the appearance that science kept contradicting itself. One week the virus had a 40% mortality rate, and then next it had 0.1%. What gives, science?

      The basic posture of science is "I don't know". If you gloss over that fact because it's scary when science doesn't have answers yet, then what you are communicating isn't science, it's something else, speculation, the party line, I dunno.

      Overall the fundamental problem is a basic lack of faith in grown adults to make their own judgements, and a willingness to simplify the message so much that it no longer is good science. If you don't let people be adults, they will be children instead. That is exactly where we are right now.

      • fennecfoxen 6 days ago

        > The backlash against science is fairly reasonable, given how often science is misrepresented and how often preliminary findings are reported as facts, often in some misguided attempt to help make it easier for people to understand.

        Oh, that's nothing. You should have seen the post-WWII era, when the backlash against Science was rooted about efficient new ways of killing people and destroying the environment (both with and without the atomic bomb), and against authoritarians touting Progress while demanding the regimentation of society and destruction of traditional values and ways of life.

        • marginalia_nu 6 days ago

          The position of science in society is a discussion worth having.

          Excessive optimism toward science has had fairly detrimental results in the past. Often the problem isn't science itself though.

          A trap is that you can't actually derive values from science, because it doesn't provide any -- whatever values you extract from science are those you put in yourself through hidden assumptions. That makes it very easy to lean on science to ostensibly support almost any action through some line of reasoning like "Science shows that if we kill the poor, we'll be able to reduce taxes by 90%. Therefore we should get our guns!" Science doesn't care if our taxes are high or low, it doesn't care if we live or die. Even if the premise about taxes is scientifically correct (I don't know), the conclusion isn't based on science alone.

          That's a bit of a parallel to the discussion of lockdowns and masks and so on, while science may be able to answer what effects these have, science can't say we ought to do these things. That requires something else to be added, although sadly the discussion has almost entirely been about what the science says about these things, not the relative worth of saving lives versus individual freedom vs GDP, which is the real discussion.

          • xvilka 6 days ago

            The science itself is good. It's scientism that's dangerous. Also malicious intents of some academia members to get grants or lifelong job based on the misleading research.

      • SyzygistSix 6 days ago

        >a lot of extremely sketchy and highly preliminary studies were misrepresented as certainties.

        Were they? I thought they were being represented as the best current understanding, and it was a given that it was a new disease.

        • marginalia_nu 6 days ago

          My point is we didn't have an understanding. Science doesn't move that fast, and whatever was published was highly speculative, but the it sounded scary so it got media coverage.

      • fastball 6 days ago

        Don't forget the huge swath of "science" that is almost wholly unreproducible.

    • andrew_ 6 days ago

      It was slapstick... it wasn't supposed to hit any mark. It was supposed to make you laugh. Just because some elements are used to mock the current state of things doesn't mean it's supposed to be a reference.

  • staticassertion 6 days ago

    > “It’s not that dumb people are having more kids than smart people, to put it crudely. It’s something to do with the environment, because we’re seeing the same differences within families,” he said.

    > The study not only showed IQ variance between children the same parents, but because the authors had the IQ scores of various parents, it demonstrated that parents with higher IQs tended to have more kids, ruling out the dysgenic fertility theory as a driver of falling IQ scores and highlighting the role of environmental factors instead.

  • SQL2219 6 days ago

    Brawndo is the environmental factor at play.

  • Bhurn00985 6 days ago

    More like a prophesy or prediction ?

Simon321 6 days ago

This is from 2018 to be clear.

  • flint 6 days ago

    ^Should be top comment.

justinclift 6 days ago

> Access to education is currently the most conclusive factor explaining disparities > in intelligence, according to Ritchie.

That sounds weird. Doesn't that mean they're "measuring intelligence" wrongly, as plenty of people without extensive formal education are extremely intelligent?

eg those same people getting further formal education may indeed score higher on these IQ tests, but the education is in no way changing the persons IQ

  • snowwrestler 6 days ago

    Imagine two people own farms. One has very rich soil, full of nutrients, ready to grow amazing crops. The other has thin depleted soil, barely able to support plant life.

    The farmer with rich soil has the opportunity to out-produce the other one, but only if he works the land. And the harder he works it, the more productive he will be (up to a point).

    Or think of top athletes. Only a few people have the inborn talent to become Olympic champions. But no one becomes an Olympic champion unless they work hard—no matter how talented.

    Heritable intelligence is best thought of as a potential. Education can increase a person’s IQ scores for the same reason that working out can increase a person’s athletic performance.

    We don’t have a way to directly measure inherited potential in people; we can only measure what they do. Even an IQ test is based on what people do as they take the test.

    But also the idea that intelligence is fixed at birth does not align with what we know about brain development. We know the brain develops through early adulthood, and that different life experiences result in physically different brains. While inheritance may put a top-end limit on how intelligent someone can become, it does not necessarily fix intelligence precisely on the IQ scale at birth.

kkfx 6 days ago

Intellect need stimuli, education not stereotypical Ford-mode workers formation like neoliberal schools have planted ad any level of the society because is easier to govern Ford-model workers than acculturated Citizens.

That's is. If we teach from the early childhood we nourish intelligence, if not we nurtured stupidity. The rest might matter to a certain extent but it's mostly background noise.

batch12 6 days ago

My suspicion is that having direct access to all information has offloaded some of our cognitive capabilities to our devices. Also, making everything political-- and as such being told what to think about every topic doesn't really help us exercise our critical thinking skills. Maybe we need to "use your brain" more- as my dad would have said.

Gigachad 6 days ago

Are there any credible / non scammy ways to take one of these tests online? I haven't looked much myself but it seemed like they would largely be garbage social media bait, or make you take a long test and ask for money at the end.

andi999 6 days ago

I am too dumb to understand what they actually did. (or too lazy understanding the study on my mobile). Can anyonr explain? I mean the IQ tests were not the same for every batch, right? So how do you milk the result out of the data?

willmadden 6 days ago

This is a garbage CNN article about a laughable iq study that’s so bad it borders on propaganda.

The study focuses on “two brothers” cohorts and makes the claim that iqs within families are on the decline, but fails to adjust for confounding factors, like the selection bias inherent in their cohort selection process.

Other studies show that first borns have a higher iq than later siblings, and to a greater extent than what this study found!

Iq isn’t boosted by higher education. This isn’t up for debate. Outside of malnourishment and sensory deprivation it it mostly heritable.

notahacker 6 days ago

So two hypotheses: Generation X was a generation of unparalleled genius effortlessly surpassing their idiot ancestors before who merely built the modern world and their children who merely consumed and produced vastly more written content than ever before whilst playing with increasingly complex abstractions on computers, or IQ test comparisons between dissimilar populations don't really mean very much, because the "quotient" is a ranking mechanism for solving a certain type of paper puzzle, not an actual thing.

  • jakobnissen 6 days ago

    Luckily, we can easily test how much IQ matters by looking at the relationship between IQ and health, wealth, educational achievement and so on.

    And it turns out that IQ mean quite a lot, no matter which way you believe the causality goes.

    • notahacker 6 days ago

      The apparent peak IQ generation consistently scores lower than later generations on age-adjusted measures of health, wealth, educational achievement etc though.

      The fact that IQ test scores are somewhat useful as a ranking mechanism amongst a cohort is completely consistent with it being just being a collection of standardised tests calibrated to score in a particular way, not an actual "thing" where apparent subtle generational changes might represent genuine changes to our physiology or intellectual potential and not just inconsequential differences in our preparedness to solve paper puzzles.

  • istinetz 6 days ago

    >the "quotient" is a ranking mechanism for solving a certain type of paper puzzle, not an actual thing.

    Sure, except it strongly correlates with pretty much every single measure of fluid intelligence you can think of. And with a billion real life outcomes, besides.

    It just so happens that the best statistical distillation of intelligence measures happens to take the form of "paper puzzles". We can, I guess, do a 12 hour barrage of 50 different intelligence tests, but what's the point, when one does the job.

    >So two hypotheses

    There are plenty of other hypotheses.

    • notahacker 6 days ago

      > Sure, except it strongly correlates with pretty much every single measure of fluid intelligence you can think of. And with a billion real life outcomes, besides

      Sure, test scores correlate with other test scores (surprisingly badly) which correlate with other proxy measures of intelligence. Quelle surprise!

      There's a massive difference between acknowledging a test is somewhat useful in ranking peers and agonising over whether one cohort getting scores in a particular test a couple of points lower than another cohort from a completely different background represents some real world shortcoming of the latter cohort in anything other than that particular set of puzzles. The research establishing a lack of support for supposed "dysgenic" trends (though absence of evidence isn't necessarily evidence of absence) because the drop happens within families might be superficially interesting, but we're looking at tiny points of difference in a noisy series. There's typically more variation between Weschler and Raven tests adminstered to the same individuals than the measured generational "IQ decline" the headline is encouraging us to agonise over. When all the points of data other than IQ tests suggest that subsequent generations haven't struggled intellectually compared with their forebears, there's not much reason to suspect the trends in paper puzzle scores are a signal and not just noise.

skozharinov 6 days ago

Isn't IQ designed to average at 100?

  • kube-system 6 days ago

    Yes, after it is adjusted. But the average performance of the test groups have changed over time.

  • xupybd 6 days ago

    Yeah I'm pretty sure that's the definition of the test.

  • rightbyte 6 days ago

    The test is graded to a curve with 100 as middle and usually 15 points SD. Size of the SD might vary.

ParetoOptimal 6 days ago

Aren't IQ tests basically BS?

> TruTV’s Adam Ruins Everything is known for debunking accepted wisdom. It took less than two minutes to demolish IQ tests:



  • gruez 6 days ago

    >Aren't IQ tests basically BS?

    Depends on what your starting premise is. If you start out with a strawman like "IQ fully captures a person's intelligence", then yeah it's "BS". At the same time, if you're arguing that IQ tests are "BS" (ie. no value whatsoever), then that's also false, see:

chris-orgmenta 6 days ago

I suspect that long-term benzos, alcohol and/or marijuana use is contributing to this to a significant degree. Would be interesting to see data on this.

hitovst 6 days ago

Forced redistribution of wealth is dysgenic, and there is no single greater indicator for success in life than IQ.

fortran77 6 days ago

Maybe we'll finally achieve equity, where everyone has the same (low) IQ. Wouldn't that be the most ideal situation?

nathias 6 days ago

Decades is understating it. The beginning of civilization marks the start of the first downtrend in hominid brain to body ratio. There are a few different theories about why, but I find the systemic one the most plausible. The increase in the complexity of a system comes with a reduction in complexity of the parts.

  • mrtranscendence 6 days ago

    And aren’t domesticated animals generally less intelligent than their wild relatives?

    • nathias 6 days ago

      yea, that's the second theory, but the timings don't really match, we started self-domesticating a long time before civilization

photochemsyn 6 days ago

IQ tests seem woefully outdated and highly biased at best. As many note, the ability to do well on these tests is greatly increased by practice, as with most testing procedures. The notion that an IQ test is a standalone measure of innate intelligence is not well supported.

Perhaps specific areas could be tested, such as memory - but even with such a basic concept, we know that the ability to memorize a long string of numbers is a highly trainable skill. If we go to 'higher level' mental processes, such as pattern recognition, symbolic interpretation, analytical capabilities (i.e. higher maths), and creative capabilities (inventiveness), again we see that these abilities are highly trainable.

The only real way to sort this out would be to apply the same educational program to a large cohort of individuals, over the course of at least a year, involving intensive one-on-one tutoring, and administer the prospective IQ test both before and after this process takes place. This has come up before and such a study has never been done to my knowledge, nor has anyone ever pointed one out.

  • qiskit 6 days ago

    > IQ tests seem woefully outdated and highly biased at best.

    Maybe in the early 1900s, but not today.

    > As many note, the ability to do well on these tests is greatly increased by practice, as with most testing procedures. The notion that an IQ test is a standalone measure of innate intelligence is not well supported.

    Then everyone would score 200+.

    > If we go to 'higher level' mental processes, such as pattern recognition, symbolic interpretation, analytical capabilities (i.e. higher maths), and creative capabilities (inventiveness), again we see that these abilities are highly trainable.

    Yes. Nutrition, education, etc can help you reach your potential. But there seems to be a natural limit. Not only that, some have a natural talent for it and people have different levels of potential.

    If you believe what you believe, then why haven't you used your revolutionary knowledge to increase the IQs of people with downs syndrome. All it takes is training right?

    • asdffdsa 6 days ago

      If there was sufficient profit for it, I'd quit my job and take an iq test and score awfully low on it because I always do poorly on something the first time I try it (SAT test, tech interviews, etc.). Then, I'd study for iq tests, take ~1,000 practice ones, and score in the top 10%. The iq advocates would be flabbergasted! I managed to increase my iq by several standard deviations: what a revolutionary, miraculous result!

      Then, I would probably create a startup that would offer the same service to the children of wealthy families who wanted their child to be intellectually gifted. With an annual tuition of $10,000 over 10 years, their child could be catapulted for life into the top levels of life outcomes and live as part of the elite class in America. Enrolling a mere 1,000 students (200 in East bay, 200 south bay, 200 SF, 400 in Northeast) would net a revenue of 100 million dollars.

      Wait a second, maybe I'm onto something here...

seydor 6 days ago

I know mine has

phendrenad2 6 days ago

Why is the best source of IQ information we have "Norwegian military conscripts"? Maybe we should make all politicians take an IQ test, so we get a good sampling of the smartest people at any given point in time.

  • robbiep 6 days ago

    IQ is mostly a genital measuring test for anyone who wants to talk about it, I don’t think that’s a great idea.

seydor 6 days ago

There s no use to fret about it. I think nature is telling us that IQ (or intelligence) is not needed. sorry folks you ve been optimizing the wrong thing

Is there a method to dumb yourself down? asking for my smart friends

freahsteaksauce 6 days ago

The book I'm reading Weapons of Mass Instruction explains this as being part of the goals of forced schooling as designed by Carnegie and other industrialist to make easier to manage laborers.

  • qsdf38100 6 days ago

    You just created an account to say "education bad" ?

egberts1 6 days ago

It is probably how CNN works too, but with declining journalistic creedo.

darthrupert 6 days ago

It's because the highest IQ people of the previous generation were almost all hired to find out ways to capture everyone's attention as much as possible.

Not surprising that they succeeded doing that.

fedeb95 6 days ago

I always had a problem getting the point of IQ tests. It necessarily makes assumptions on what intelligence is, seems a bit self referencing. It measures how you conform to what a specific group of people think intelligence is...

So I can't really take into high consideration inference based on average IQ test results. It could also mean that people are becoming intelligent in stuff not measured by the test. I really don't know.

Another point to consider: even if we had the perfect way to measure intelligence, so what? Why waste an intelligent person time doing a test about intelligence? What does this accomplish?

  • bena 6 days ago

    Intelligent people will learn faster. Sometimes without explicit instruction. Just like those with intellectual disabilities, hyper-intelligent children also need special resources.

    A lot of people want to keep the hyper-intelligent in the same classrooms as the normally-intelligent students as a form of child labor almost. The idea being that the hyper-intelligent children could inspire and help the normally-intelligent.

    I always like to ask if they would also be amenable to allowing those students with intellectual disabilities in the general classrooms. And the answer is always no, because those students would slow down the classroom. And I ask why can't the normally-intelligent inspire and help the intellectually disabled. And they still don't get it.

    The distance between the hyper-intelligent and the normally-intelligent is the same as that between the normally-intelligent and intellectually disabled. Any help the normally-intelligent may receive is undercut by the harm done to the hyper-intelligent.

    They need special resources just as the other side of the spectrum does. But they often get less. And we often have to stretch the definition because while one intellectually disabled child would be enough to allocate resources for special instruction, you need at least 5 to 10 hyper-intelligent children before you're allowed to split them off for special instruction.

    Intelligence is a trait, just like height. Some people are tall, some short, some average.

    • fedeb95 6 days ago

      I share your point on help across all the spectrum of abilities, and I don't think there aren't differences in intelligence. I just question this way of measuring it and that measurement is useful. The IQ test models results with a gaussian distribution, so this should mean you don't have to think about distributing people across classrooms by hand. It's pretty rare to only have a class of intellectually disabled or geniuses all banded together.

      And to measure height only takes a meter. Pretty straightforward and without biases. The creator of IQ tests seemed to have doubts about the validity of the test, so... (validity, not its reliability)

      • bena 6 days ago

        Both Simon and Binet objected to misuse of their work, but they never doubted that it had use and actually measured something. But, who wouldn't object to the misuse of their own work.

        You do understand how the special education system works, right? They specifically place kids in the programs because those kids need the resources. It is not rare at all. Because we explicitly do it. In nearly every school district in America, you will find teachers who are specifically there to service special education children.

egberts1 5 days ago

Check the background d of the two authors of the original publication: two economic professors … who have been measuring IQ.

Sounds legit.

bhouston 6 days ago

I suspect it is partly environmental pollutants.

lbj 6 days ago

Great to finally have some data. The tendency has been pretty clear for some years now, with more and more crazy ideologies spawning among the young.

  • barry-cotter 6 days ago

    “Our sires’ age was worse than our grandsires’. We, their sons, are more worthless than they; so in our turn we shall give the world a progeny yet more corrupt.”

    Book III of Odes, Horace circa 20 BC

    “Modern fashions seem to keep on growing more and more debased … The ordinary spoken language has also steadily coarsened. People used to say ‘raise the carriage shafts’ or ‘trim the lamp wick,’ but people today say ‘raise it’ or ‘trim it.’ When they should say, ‘Let the men of the palace staff stand forth!’ they say, ‘Torches! Let’s have some light!’”

    Tsurezuregusa (Essays in Idleness), Yoshida Kenkō 1330 – 1332

SemanticStrengh 6 days ago

I believe the effect of Tiktok will be unprecedented

sremani 6 days ago

I think Taleb gets it right about IQ, lack of it is a dis-qualifier and beyond a point after certain IQ score it becomes noise.

BurningFrog 6 days ago

"A single new study shows something scary and/or surprising" is a near certain sign that the conclusion is wrong.

yarg 6 days ago

No, they aren't - and by definition (IQ across the population has a fixed mean and standard deviation).

ranprieur 6 days ago

People are becoming smart in different ways and the tests aren't keeping up.

kybernetyk 6 days ago

Regression to the mean.

  • seydor 6 days ago

    regression of the mean

paulpauper 6 days ago

Interesting...could this explain secular stagnation?

3qz 6 days ago

It’s because of changing demographics

o_m 6 days ago

co2 levels is also getting higher which have negative impacts on learning and concentration.

jmpman 6 days ago

Brawndo has electrolytes.

thriftwy 6 days ago

I'd like to say 'hi' to xkcd with his religious attitude towards Flynn effect and readiness to ridicule others over that.

tls 6 days ago
mattwilsonn888 6 days ago

I thought the effect was just localized to this website.

everyone 6 days ago

I thought IQ tests were pseudoscientific anyway?

If the number doesnt have any rigorous meaning then who cares if it changes, up or down, could mean anything.

  • xupybd 6 days ago

    They're a good proxy for abstract ability.

  • annyeonghada 6 days ago

    >I thought IQ tests were pseudoscientific anyway?

    This is false. Look a this reddit post[1] for a summary of the scientific consensus.


    • everyone 6 days ago

      You seem very certain. Several of the links in that wall o' text are merely to surveys where a number of psychologists are asked whether they think IQ is a valid measure or not.

      The reddit post just shows that some (maybe even a majority of) psychologists accept IQ. I could post an equal amount of links to psychology studies rejecting it. But that doesn't even matter. What's more important is that the field of psychology as a whole is still in it's infancy as a science. Up until about the 90's almost 100% of it was pure bunk. Psychologists were using the DSM up until only a couple of years ago! Recently there has been the revelation of the reproducibility crisis. In short, psychology has a long way to go before it's on the same level as other sciences, I wouldn't be so certain of something from psychology's dark past like IQ.

  • bigbacaloa 6 days ago

    People who score well on them are usually convinced they are scientific.

  • BlargMcLarg 6 days ago

    IQ tests can be trained for and gamed, at the very least.

    • ryan93 6 days ago

      no one does. there are orders of magnitude more studying for the SAT and studying for the sat has a marginal benefit for many

      • BlargMcLarg 6 days ago

        Europe doesn't use SAT.

        I concede most people don't actively train for IQ tests, especially not people who only have to do it once. But one can't exactly claim "IQ tests are flawless measures of IQ" when they can be trained and gamed, which is the point.

        • ryan93 4 days ago

          But the scores that psychologists use in their studies weren’t collected from people who trained for the IQ exam. Almost impossible to find out what they ask on exams since they are sold directly to practitioners.

  • jjgreen 6 days ago

    They're a great measure of intelligence -- if you believe in them, you're an idiot.