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.