Jun 292009

Idiocracy is about a possible future world that is the result of the stupid having many more children than the smart, leading to an impossibly stupid population. Starring Luke Wilson, this black comedy is hilarious. More info at wiki page. Luke Wilson gets frozen as part of a military experiment but wakes up five hundred years later completely surrounded by completely idiotic people. But could it happen?

This XKCD comic promoted this post:

While the logic (smarter people have fewer kids thus they’ll just die out in the face of larger numbers of dumb people) seems to hold, I don’t think it could happen for these reasons:

1. Smarter people tend to live longer, and their kids have a higher liklihood of surviving. They are also more likely to be successful breeders. Dumb men, especially, don’t successfully mate much.

2. This line of reasoning ignores the Flynn Effect. The Flynn Effect is a gradual trend that people are getting smarter (or they are becoming more generally “scientific”). A 100 on an IQ test (the “average” population IQ) is actually a 107 fifteen years ago. Some more interesting research is that this effect holds more strongly towards the lower end of the IQ range, that is the dumb people get smart but the smart people don’t improve by much.

3. The world is getting more complicated and if intelligence has to do with the ability to handle cognitive complexity, then I’d say we’re getting smarter. Just look at an tv show like I Love Lucy vs today’s shows. Today’s 23 minute sitcoms will have three interwoven story lines that rapidly switch from one or the other, while I Love Lucy has barely one storyline.

The data seems to point at a future where everyone will be so insanely smart that the “dumb” elements of the future will likely be smarter than the “smart” ones of today. That’s a scary thought.

Note: I do not use the terms dumb/smart as pejoratives, simply as descripters of IQ stats. Dumb being under 100 by half a standard deviation (92.5ish) and smart being above 100 by half a standard dev (107.5ish).

Jun 262009

It’s absolutely infuriating to try to get someone to make the decision that’s better for them in the long run but they just won’t do it, especially when it comes to money. Don’t get me wrong, I screw up a lot. But if someone comes along and bonks me over the head and says, “this is the right way to do it” I listen. I was reading this Money Diary over at I Will Teach You To Be Rich and saw the dreaded phrase, “I deserve it”. I commented on it:

I don’t see this is as a financial problem, I see it as a lifestyle/spiritual problem. It sounded a bit like the person in the diary (who I suppose you’re not anymore) has no sense of purpose, no sense of joy of their own in their life so must fill it with shopping. The “I deserve it” bit just set off red flags in my head. Get some goals that you feel really strongly about, get a job that really provides you stimulation and find people who challenge and inspire you to surround you. The existential vacuum, yada yada yada.

Check out http://www.stevepavlina.com sometime if you’re curious what a lifestyle on purpose would be like.

I would like to add: get your priorities straight. How you spend your time and your money reflects your REAL priorities, not what you say they are. If you say that you value spending time with family, friends or loved ones (they can all be mutually exclusive) but you work 100 hours a week (about 75% of your waking time) then your REAL priority is work. If you spend half your paycheque on work-related expenses, then, hey, your REAL priority is work again. It’s not easy but I’ve been gradually pulling my life more into alignment with what I want my priorities to be. An insidious trap is to state something generally enough that you don’t shoot for the best way to fill that value. For example, say you value having fun. Well, you can say that surfing the web or watching tv is fun, but is it really the most fun you could have? What if you had a hobby that made you jump out of bed in the morning and get out there? Be more specific than “having fun” and set the bar high.

I remembered reading a good article on that phrase somewhere so I googled it and found these two articles:


http://frugaldad.com/2008/04/14/language-of-the-perpetual-poor/ (espeically the “I work hard so I deserve it” part a bit further down)