+Neil deGrasse Tyson Fan Club
So, Are "We" getting smarter?
We must first define terms.
Secondly, we must create & test hypotheses that give us clear, repeatable empirical results. We must first come up with a empirical, measurable, definition of "Intelligence", or at least an important aspect of it. Many of us intuitively agree on intelligence, but we have to do better.
The terms defined, the parameters tested & measured may give us contradictory results, leaving the broad question unanswered. (Broad scope, Multi-Variable questions measured over long time scales tend to be that way).
Who represents "We"?
Homo Sapiens? Americans?
The World Population ?
Scientists & Engineers?
All folks in general?
Age ranges & educations?
Do some cultures excel while others go "Dumbth!" because of cultural causes? (Religion).
Smarter How? In what skills?
By ordinary folks adapting to exponentially complex technologies? Or dumbing down because our gadgets provide us with answers with no mental effort on our part?
Are just Scientists & Engineers getting smarter in Pure Science or Applied Science?
Interfaces that can be intuitively understood by Bevis & ButtHead?
Smarter in what ways? Technology? Mathematics? History? Languages? Music? Interpersonal politesse? Economics? Philosophy? Foreign Cultures?
The ability to fix broken stuff? The ability to build or create a New Useful Thing?
I don't know. I'm an Engineer.
Electronics R&D. LEDs. Lasers.
During the Cold War, I was a Defense Contractor for USAF.
I wrote A-Level System Specs for Access Control to Top Secret areas using Biometrics.
NASA was very helpful by giving us the Operations & Maintenance Manual for Launch Pad 39b, 900 pages, as a template for the USAF High Security areas, which all AFBs had to follow to the letter, yet still be able to accommodate all AFBs worldwide and their unique Site-Specific Requirements.
Strictly uniform yet infinitely configurarable. Difficult!
That accomplished, I started a new career in Environmental Engineering for treating chemical plants, turning highly toxic effluent that would catastrophically contaminate raw sewage into water 200× cleaner than NYC tap water. This would be very useful for space travel. Still very difficult.
This was inspired by a "Vision Quest", where I went to Hawaii with just a bike & tent for the 1991 Total Eclipse of the Sun.
"To Bear Witness to the Sun in it's Hour of Darkness." Wow!
After the Eclipse, I was befriended by an astronomy student and joined an older couple at an outdoor cafe for a mea& a few beers. It was
Gene & Caroline Shoemaker! Wonderful folks.
They were gracious enough to bring me to the summit of Mauna Kea with a tour of the Keck telescope. I found out that since I was a member of the Planetary Society, that each member's name was micro-etched on a silicon chip attached to the most recent Mars Lander at the time. My actual name is on Mars! Wow!
Back to Smarter or Dumber, I consistently score in the 98th or 99th percentile in general IQ tests & same in very specific tests, like engineering aptitude, petroleum engineering, physics, chemistry, mechanical dexterity, arts & crafts, geology. I remember many conversations verbatim after 25 years or more, and so on.
That is where I found a key differentiating the two.
It's extremely lonely being smart in rural Connecticut. There is no one who can comprehend even simplified explanations of my topics. I've been fortunate to have met and real talks with Science Nobel Laureates, authors, artists & astronauts & more.
Secondly, most local folks here have families, watch lots of televised sports, constantly maintaining homes & yards.
One constant attribute since age 3, was an insatiable curiosity, an intense eagerness to learn (I came to America at age 5 as a political refugee from the Soviet Invasion of my communist Czechoslovakia). I could read Slovak at 3 fluently, but was determined to learn English.
Thirdly was the willingness to spend hours, almost compulsively to get it right. Piano & violin lessons. Reading all 12 volumes of Britannica's Junior Encyclopedia by age 8 (far more interesting than TV fare). Typing, soldering, mowing the lawn with a power mower by age 8 (when I got my first laboratory). I can't live without my own laboratory.
This trait to persist at a task or project in my careers sometimes lasted up to 40 hours, with 1 meal break.
52 year old guys like me lose interest quickly, or quit when the job gets hard.
Yesterday & today, for example. I was up at 9am, did a lot of work until 8pm. Ate supper, had a 2 hour nap. Got up to read science, history & such. Wrote some emails. Wrote 15 one page essays, tying new knowledge to what I already know. It's 1:30am, but I have a 5 hours ahead of me. I'm tired, I hurt, but that's what fills my days. Work, learn, study and write.
Pardon my verbosity. I hope to meet you one day after a lecture at the museum.
The original question:
Dumber or Smarter?
Dumb & Dumber?
I don't know, but the answer may lie hidden in Persistence.
"Pinhead" by The Ramones.https://youtu.be/6BBfybCPkjA