Monday, June 29, 2009

you said it, xkcd

I don't know if I've ever mentioned it to you personally, oh blog reader, although I'm fairly sure that I mentioned it in one of my previous blog posts, but one of my pet hates is people complaining about societal decline. Why? Because people having been complaining about societal decline in much the same terms for centuries, if not millenia. Ancient Roman writers talk about the debauchery of the present generation and the lack of respect of youngsters for their elders (and doubtless also about the increasing costs of groceries). If you would like a British example, read Bede. But people go on just the same, complaining as though they were facing entirely new phenomena. Surely society has changed? Well yes, but one of its constant features has been lamenting the current generation and their idle and disrespectful ways.

Why mention this now? Well, today's xkcd really summed up my feelings (even though I do not know this 'Idiocracy').


  1. Idiocracy was a movie with Luke Wilson, where he was an ordinary guy accidentally cryogenically frozen, who awoke in the future. In the future, the movie tells us, due to the fact that dimwits have a lot of children and smart people have fewer, everyone is super dumb, and Luke Wilson is now smarter than everyone alive.

    Mmm... condescending. But apparently a ok movie?

  2. Anonymous30/6/09 07:55

    Hmm, intriguing blog post.
    "O tempore, o mores!"
    Actually, at least in Anlo-Saxon society, and maybe more generally over the last thousand years at least (Arab society is an obvious example) RICH people do have more children, and poor people less. Smart and rich generally go together, although there can be exceptions. One possible explanation for the observed superior IQ's of European Jews is that they were not allowed to own land after about 1000 AD, so wealth in Jews was almost entirely due to brains (they got rich by trading, craft work and banking, all areas where intelligence is helpful) so by denying them land the authorities were in effect selectively breeding them for brains. (The author of that theory has put some flesh on the bones of the argument. It looks fairly convincing.) Wealthy European Christians could get by just by the attractiveness of their inherited estates for a while, until they lost them at the gaming table, by bad management, or were just unlucky enough not to be first born.

    And here we have the second interesting genetic implication of law: English inheritance was by male primogeniture, (unlike here) so all the other children didn't get the estates, and so began a drift down the social scale. If they were smart they could arest the drift by being a successful artisan or trader, banker or what have you. But in the end, we are all descendents of the aristrocrats. And some of us know it. Others of us just worry about it. The real aristos couldn't give a toss.
    PS. But I do worry about subsidising dumb people to have children, especially when they are at an age and maturity when they are quite incapable of looking after them. THAT has both short and long term consequences.

  3. Anonymous30/6/09 08:05

    actually, mybe it has all been going backwards ever since classical times.