Human Stupidity

Following my post on declining IQ levels I’m starting a new blog category on observed instances of human stupidity. Here is my entry number 1. Oh, I just noticed, I already have a category called Human Stupidity and I posted this very same picture over a year ago. Well that surely proves my point.

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Thinking too far ahead

One thing I have learned over the past 14 years is that you can be right about something and nobody listens. It’s all about timing and whom people listen to.You can be too early with an observation or prediction much as you can with an idea or invention.

I saw this (above) in the newspapers a few days ago. I was thinking about this as a major issue 8 years ago (in fact my book Future Minds from 2010 was about little else other than screen addiction and the insidious nature of Facebook, Twitter et al).

OK, so what am I thinking about now in 2018 that is still widely undiscussed or unreported? It’s a very long list. In my last book from 2017 I was focussed on mental health and stated that loneliness could well be the defining issue of the twenty first century. I’d say this is still true. I also say that sleep will emerge as both a huge risk and opportunity and that anxiety will underpin almost everything. Apart from that there are the issues of water and an emergent new puritanical mindset that is totally at odds with our extreme liberalism. Calm the future isn’t as Yoda might say.

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Are we getting more stupid?

This in today’s newpapers (not the semi-naked torso, the article on IQs, although maybe there’s a link there). I know I’m supposed to only read the old news, but sometimes something creeps in to view. Reminds me of my Mega-trends and Technologies roadmap, that had decline of human intelligence as a global risk under Trump being elected US President.

Also reminds me of the passage below from Digital Vs. Human (chapter on media).

Aren’t we getting smarter?
We know human intelligence has been increasing, thanks largely to higher standards of public health, public education, and social support. In Denmark, a standard IQ test, used from the 1950s to the 1980s to assess the intelligence of potential military recruits, clearly shows IQ levels have risen. Other data confirm this effect. However, since 1998, something strange has been observed in developed countries such as Denmark, the UK, and Australia. IQ levels haven’t just levelled off — they are actually declining.

Evidence to date is thin. It’s possibly a blip. But it could be real and caused by cultural or even nutritional factors. An artificial diet of processed foods, the gluttonous consumption of television and computers, or a dubious banquet of educational reforms might not be helping. One might even argue that humans are reaching the limit of natural genetic gains, much as human height has now plateaued.

A controversial view is that since the most intelligent people tend to have the least children, we might be slowly breeding out intelligence and, as a species, evolving to be more stupid. This could be true, but we’ve had these arguments before, and the outcome last time (eugenics and forced sterilisation) wasn’t pleasant. Perhaps, as a species, we are still becoming more intelligent, only in ways that traditional IQ tests don’t measure — or ignore completely.

So what’s next? Given our limited understanding of the genetic basis of intelligence, it will be a long time before we can tell what is going on, and probably longer before we hack our own genes to improve our intelligence. In the meantime, there’s a straightforward solution: better education.

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Looking into the Future

Oh that’s where my crystal ball went…I’ve been looking for it for ages.

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Shifting Realities – Tech Foresight 2038

I usually speak on the future at conferences, so it’s a nice change to spend some time crafting presentations for other people. This event is on 14th June and there are some places available. See below for an overview and event link.

Enter the world of 2038, where things are not always what they seem to be, and where technological breakthroughs could change the way we enganige with and see the world.

Tech Foresight 2038 will bring industry leaders together with our world-class academics to unravel the impact of technological advances 20 years in the future.

Book your place to explore a shifting reality brought on by computer-assisted synthesis, nanophotonics, artificial scientific discovery, new data approaches, 4D printing and nutrition futures.

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Why not?

Ever had one of these as a kid? It’s a radiometer. Stick one by a light and it spins. So why hasn’t anyone created a giant one that generates electricity (a kind of wind turbine that uses sunlight rather than wind).

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Brainmail on the Blog

What can I say? I truly didn’t know that in this age of too much inforation so many people would care. At one point I had a tear in one eye (why only one will forever remain a mystery). So for all those loyal readers who trust LinkedIn (aka Microsoft) about as much as Mark Zuckerberg here is where you’ll find future issues. The next issue (105 I believe) will go up in a few weeks. Maybe. The format is still a bit unclear, but the intent remains much the same. I’d like it to be printable, but I think some experiments might be in order.

In the meantime, here is a picture of the dog enjoying a pint.

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The Future of Pensions

Here are 4 futures for pensions. Key takeaway is that the state will most likely move away from pensions provision and so will employers – which leaves things firmly at the feet of individuals, most of whom seem to ignore the issue until it’s too late. Delayed gratification is obviously saving and instant gratification is obviously spending. Lots wrong with this, but it does create a starter conversation.

What assumptions have been made here? One assumption could be that societal ageing and a declining birthrate are fixed trends. What if they aren’t? What if people start dying really young again due to diet/lack of exercise or people suddenly decide to have lots of children again (to care for them in their old age perhaps)?

Another assumption might be that people are saving right now but not in ways that pensions experts recognise as being saving.

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Trends 10 Years On

Not bad!? High resolution download here.

BTW, hello brainmail readers. The response to the deletion of brainmail was so heartfelt that I’m seriously considering carrying on in some form here on the blog.

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Things That Won’t Change

Things do not change, we change.
– Henry David Thoreau.

We are constantly told that change is the only constant. This is true, up to a point. Things evolve and we flatter ourselves if we think that anything remains static forever. No man ever steps into the same river twice for it is not the same river and he is not the same man – or something along those lines (Heraclitus, 500 BC). Having said this, one could argue that the really important things in life do in fact change very slowly or not at all and we constantly overestimate the importance of new inventions at the expense of older ones. Consequently, the things that do change are not important.

Here then are five things that I believe won’t change over the next half-century. If this list doesn’t float your boat, I suggest that you look at the seven deadly sins. These haven’t changed much in over two thousand years.

1. An interest in the future and a yearning for the past
People were interested in the future well before Nostradamus. Indeed, the desire to look around the corner or over the garden fence is almost hard wired into the human character. We are curious and what’s going to happen next, partly because we want to avoid risk and partly because we seek opportunity.This interest in the future will not change in the future. In fact I’d predict that the level of interest in future studies will increase as change and uncertainty reach epidemic proportions. So is there a future in becoming a futurist? The answer (I’d predict) is yes, at least for a while. Machines are becoming competent at making numerical forecasts, but we still need humans to ask the questions and interpret what the numbers really mean. In an era of uncertainty we will need prophets, even false ones.

A desire for recognition and respect
People have always craved happiness, recognition and respect. At the extreme this means a yearning for status and power, which in turn fuels a desire for symbols of success. None of this will change in the future, although I would expect that the types of power people crave and the objects people aspire to own and be seen to own will change. For example, children (especially lots of children) may become a status symbol in some cultures with a twin baby buggy having the same social cachet as that of a two-seater Ferrari today. Equally, not owning a watch or a mobile phone may signify wealth in a stealth kind or way – or at least signal that you don’t need to work, which may be much the same thing. Whatever the symbols, the aspiration for recognition and respect isn’t going away.

The need for physical objects, encounters and experiences
We are a social species and the majority of people need physical contact with other people. This will not change in the future, although more of us will live and work alone. Indeed, the more that life speeds up and becomes virtual the more people will crave the opposite – physical interactions with human beings. People who live alone will crave the sensation of being held and touched, but so too will people in relationships. It will be a similar story with physical objects. The more that products and services become virtual the more that people will crave real physical spaces. Equally, the more that high technology becomes ubiquitous the more that people will crave for the old ways of doing things, especially if the rest of their lives are dominated by the insubstantial, the intangible and the impermanent. Hence arts and crafts and making things with your hands (e.g. gardening or bread baking) will flourish in the future.

4. Anxiety, fear and insecurity
When the telephone was demonstrated in 1876, some people thought that the devil was somehow on the line. The reaction to the automobile, the telegraph and even movies created a similar reaction amongst some people. Thus our current fears about the internet or virtual worlds have an historical precedent and it will be no different in the future. We will continue to invent things that make us uneasy and be unsettled and worried about the speed of change. We will therefore want to go backwards in time (or forwards into the future) because historic visions of the past and future will somehow feel safer and more certain. I expect anxiety will accelerate and deepen too, in the sense that future fears will be networked globally. The only solution, ironically, to this insecurity will be our enduring sense of hope and our ability to change.

5. A search for meaning
According to Abraham Maslow’s paper called A Theory of Human Motivation, once an individual’s basic biological needs (food, water, sleep etc) have been met they seek to satisfy a number of progressively higher needs. These range from safety through love and belonging to status and self-esteem. At the very top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is actualisation. Over the last fifty years or so an increasing number of people have reached the peak of this pyramid and have started searching for meaning and this will continue over the next fifty.Implications? I’d expect an increase in spirituality and a search for experiences that transcend everyday life. So pilgrimages and rites of passage won’t go away either. I’d also expect that whilst some things will still need to be seen to be believed, we’ll see more people believing that things need to be believed to be seen.

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