Monday, February 27, 2012

Are we getting dumber?


Something extraordinary: The New York Times' opinion section entertains the question, Are people getting dumber?   Who are these people if not us?

Wait, don't say "I'm not dumb" yet (which is a dumb thing to say). There are two ways of approaching this: dodging the question or biting the bullet.

Bill Maher does the former,

One gets the point, my problem with Maher is that he excludes himself from the pandemic. And it's only Maher defending himself against the army of the dumb. Besides, criticizing dumbness doesn't automatically make one smart. 

Given our recent history, it takes some political skill to be dumb:

Or is politics dumber than we thought?

This is how New York Times confronts the issue: Linda Gottfredson thinks the world is getting more complex, which makes us look dumb by comparison.
Many of us feel stupider by the year, if not the week. Age and ill health take their toll, but Mother Nature isn’t the culprit. It’s those clever people busily complicating our lives, innovation by innovation, upgrade upon upgrade. They don’t lower our native intelligence, but relentlessly burden it.
Contra Gottfredson, young people don't seem to mind the accumulation of innovation. On the contrary, they turn the overload into multitasking.

Ritch Duncan disputes that we are dumber. Instead, it's the Internet that makes us look that way:  
Because of the Internet, the really dumb things that people do — even people of average intelligence — get amplified almost instantaneously. You can get a perfect score on your SATs and it will barely register in a world of 200 million tweets a day. But give just one stupid answer in a beauty pageant, and you’ll be the laughingstock of the world before you have time to clear your name on the next morning’s “Today” show.
If so, this post --according to Duncan-- is a dumb exercise. 

(Is it dumb to play dumb?)

To top things off, comedian Erin Jackson defends a marketplace for dumbness:
I am a professional stand-up comedian, so dumb people are good for business. Without dumb people doing and saying dumb things, I wouldn’t have anything to blog, or tweet, or riff about on stage. No joke about the CVS cashier who couldn’t figure out how to give me 15 cents in change because “we ain’t got no dimes,” or the acquaintance who can’t double a cookie recipe without using an iPhone app.
I'm not convinced. Thanks to Socrates we know that one is not dumb if one sees it. So, dumbness can exist as denial. The problem is that one is not transparent to oneself. That is to say, being dumb can become an easy pretension (of smartness). Even playing dumb can become, well, a dumb strategy.


Anonymous said...

So funny, as always Triff.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe we can measure dumbness, not even by comparing the 21st century with previous centuries. Before there were no computers or technological advances. People had to go to the library and spends hours there researching. Now in days, mostly everything can be done via de internet. All we have to do is do the best we can in the professions we are interested and in our everyday lives. If our best is not good enough and we are considered dumb because of it, then so be it. Yet, wouldn't we be considered dumb if we didn't exert our maximum potential?
Iliet Payan

Joaquin Lares said...

All these people talk about dumbness with different approaches. Is dumbness...lack of awareness (Maher’s video)? Is it lack of certain communication skills (Bush’s video)? Is it a phenomenon, product of people comparing themselves/others ...with other people (like the latter two individuals)? And, should we have an aversion to people pretending to be dumb, or think of them as dumber for doing so ( I thought dumb acts occur when the dumb person is not aware to be acting dumb; not like dumbness is a “arbitrary pathway people choose to walk or not to walk into, at every given instant”) Even though I find this post fun, I do not share the fascination that many have for problematizing the subject. Is dumbness spending our time discussing a topic such like this one? Maybe we could think of: drowning with a water cup. Someone does not necessarily have to be neither dumb nor smart to analyze if it is a stupid way of dying. And the person does not necessarily have to be dumb in order to die in this manner (even though this scenario is almost... “Dumpossible”). In addition, I do not think Maher must say "I am included in Dumbness" for us to consider that he is rejecting dumbness in himself. As a matter of fact, he answers his "Pin Head" offense with a phrase I considered "Letting the audience know he has another dumb answer to say"...At the end his show is also a business like the comedian said. My apologies Triff, but I pass on this topic. To be dumb or not to be dumb, that’s the dilemma. Good post though.

Dictionary ->Dumb: 1. lacking intelligence or good judgment; stupid; dull-witted. 2. lacking the power of speech

Emmm….1) theory of multiple intelligences? Multiple kinds of dumbness? …..2) Shyness, articulation problems, Brain-farting? Are these dumb things?

atRifF said...

Got you, Joaquin, but why then are we so obsessed with defining and pointing into other people's dumbness? What makes it so savory to think one is -really- not dumb? Is it "dumpossible"?

Juan Cardona said...

According to Maher people’s unawareness of different topics makes them dumb, However he does not take into consideration the fact that maybe these people are just not interested in the topics he mentioned, if that was the case then why should we say that we are dumb for not knowing something we don’t care for? And according to the video “Great moments in presidential speeches” We think that President Bush is dumb for making mistakes during his speeches. But, is it smart of us to think that Bush is a dumb person? ... Regardless of the fact that he did or did not make mistakes that affected the United States during his presidency. I think it is evident that Bush is a smart man; because not just any random person with basic knowledge can make it to the presidency of the most powerful country in the world……In my opinion no one is dumb, but there are many different circumstances that affect how we can perceive someone else’s knowledge, and sometimes we tend to judge whether someone is dumb or not without really knowing who we are judging.

Juan Cardona

Joaquin Lares said...

I think the only reason we are so obsessed with pointing out dumbness in others, and defining dumbness, is for a group of people to create a parallel feeling of superiority. Or, to take some sort of advantage of the mass of people whose attention is directed towards the communicator (the one stating the criteria’s for dumbness), these people would act in behalf of “not falling into the dumbness criteria”. As humans, or even more specific, as compulsive beings, we will then become obsesed with not being dumb or pointing out the dumbness in others.

smarsan said...

Wow! This post is really interesting. The fact that humans would not be able to assimilate all the information streaming in the internet was a prediction made by scientists a few years ago. We cannot perceive the internet as a negative aspect that makes humans dumber, it is actually a way to be informed and expand our intellectual horizons. It is true that through the internet a lot of dumb information is distributed more rapidly than useful information; however, that is just the way that the human mind works. Humans have always shown a tendency for dumbness, but it is not because of the internet. For example, if the internet did not exist, human would still be dumb, but no one would notice it exponentially as we do in our times. In my opinion, the circulation of dumb information that we can access nowadays, is greater than in older times; therefore, we tend to think that humans are dumber than before, but in reality, I think that the proportion between dumb people and smart people is the same than it was before the Digital Era.

Ana Martin said...

Maher says that people who do not have knowledge of certain facts are dumb and I completely disagree. The fact that a person lacks knowledge of a specific subject does not make them dumb. I know people who have no idea what the facts he mentioned in his video are yet they are the wisest people I know, my grandfather being one of them. The video containing bloopers from former president George Bush makes him seem like a dumb man. Personally I think the video showed that Bush is a regular man that makes mistakes every day like all of us do. If he were really a “dumb person” he would have never gotten to be president.
I would not say that people are getting dumber; I would rather say that people are lacking interest and knowledge on the things that really matter. Now days most people care more about having the latest phone or the newest computer than filling themselves with information that will be with them for the rest of their lives. I believe people have gotten too lost in the materialism of this era, which is why it seems that people are getting dumber.

Melissa Garcia said...

I think the main problem we have as a nation are ignorance and lack of interest. In Maher's video, he makes fun of those who do not have an education level pass high school. He is making fun of the uneducated majority of this country. If dumb is being uneducated, then I agree. But I believe the majority of these uneducated people have the same capacity of being smart as any of you, Maher and all that think like him. You can be intelligent but not have an education, and if Maher is right, you are automatically dumb no matter the circumstances that drove you to being uneducated… no matter how big your capacity of being smart is. Personally, I dislike this topic, because I do not think any of us are in the right to say who is dumb and who is not. If dumb is the lack of good judgement, then we are all dumb because we all have lacked good judgement at some point in our lives, if not at many points…
I think we are not getting dumber, I think we are losing our interest in knowing about things we are never going to use in our chosen careers, and in our lives. Choosing to not learn or care about certain topics is not being dumb, it is a personal choice that is mostly taken due to the lack of time the majority of our citizens suffer because of long work hours and no time to do nothing else but be in a express way of surviving and paying bills.

Jose Carvajal said...

The writer of this article must have seen the movie “Idiocracy”. This movie is a 2006 American film, a satirical science fiction comedy about a man that is put to sleep and is awaken in the future where a stupid human society devoid of intellectual curiosity, social responsibility, and coherent notions of justice and human rights has taken place.
I don’t think we are getting dumber because we are using technological advances to make our job easier, but in order to develop that, someone had to invent it, and the rest learn how to use it. We are not getting dumber, we are getting lazy. Our nation is getting accustomed to getting things handed to them, they have no difficulty in finding any answers because the Internet is giving those answers to them. Because they are not having any difficulties in getting answers they do not learn, therefore, ignorance or “dumbness” is attained without even realizing it.

Francelia Eckembrecher said...

I am not sure what to comment about this topic. It is my belief that there is no way to measure dumbness. I don't think that a person is dumb just because they have no interest in a certain topic. You can call this ignorance but not dumbness. I don't think that we are getting dumber I think that we have lost interest in many topics. I also wanted to make a comment about the Presidential bloopers, there are many people that do not like our former President George W. Bush but what ever their reason was, and I don’t think that this shows “dumbness” it just portrays a human just like anyone of us that does mistakes.

Francelia Eckembrecher said...

I am not sure what to comment about this topic. It is my belief that there is no way to measure dumbness. I don't think that a person is dumb just because they have no interest in a certain topic. You can call this ignorance but not dumbness. I don't think that we are getting dumber I think that we have lost interest in many topics. I also wanted to make a comment about the Presidential bloopers, there are many people that do not like our former President George W. Bush but what ever their reason was, and I don’t think that this shows “dumbness” it just portrays a human just like anyone of us that does mistakes.

Jose Carvajal said...

Now that I read my comment again, I think that my comment contradicts itself at the end. My point of view is that we are not getting dumber, but sometimes, we do get lazy.
I agree with Linda Gottfredson; the word is getting complex. I barely remember an article (I don’t remember the name) related with this point of view. The article said that in the early 1800’s a person would have need a life time just to learn everything (math, physics, chemistry, biology and technology) up to this date. Since then, according to the article, the “same person” would have need more time, growing exponentially. That is why we have in something because there is so much information that a person cannot learn everything in their field.
For example, we usually said that past times were always better. We said that life was easier when we were kids. I think people change and things get more complex than before, and, without knowledge, we lost adaptability to new environments. People don’t understand that internet is there to help us, but we still making the decisions on whether the information is right or wrong. We are skeptical to changes, so we are reluctant to accept that the channels through which we learn has changed.

Daphne Eckembrecher said...

Like many of my classmates have mentioned, dumbness is not the issue that the majority of Americans or inhabitants of this nation suffer from, the true issue in reality is ignorance and lack of interest in certain topics. Sincerely, does it make you a smart person to criticize any other individual in this country? First of all in the video “Great Moments in Presidential Speeches” was a video that was made by an individual to depict former President Gorge W. Bush as dumb, but in my perspective he doesn’t seem dumb, like any all human beings we make mistakes because we are not perfect. Lastly, I have noticed the increase in ignorance in young adults and adults as well because they don’t take time to go to school or even read about any of the current events happening around them that may have an effect on their life.

Nathalia Aldana said...

I believe that we are all afraid and embarrassed to accept the fact that we are dumb at some point. For me, dumbness is being unaware of certain facts. I have fallen into that category when I am asked about astrology, or quantum physics, subjects that I have dumb answers to because I don’t have the knowledge or I am not interesting in knowing them. Dumbness is relative. America is very diverse, therefore, when judging who is dumb for not knowing what the Bill of Rights is, there should be taken into consideration whether these people were predominantly white, or recent migrants and so forth. Nobody is exempt from dumbness. Some will say that dumbness depends on lacking on intelligence, but I lead more towards lacking the experiences necessary to make a reasonable judgment.

Nathalia Aldana