Building a Better Idiot
By Bryan Caplan
Let me join Tyler and Steve Sailer in recommending the very funny Idiocracy. If you’re interested in intelligence research and/or behavioral genetics and have a sense of humor, you’ll have a big smile on your face. I know I did. Unfortunately, I watched the movie in a contra-indicated venue – my basement – so I didn’t get to share Sailer’s hysterical epiphany:
[W]hen watching it at home on DVD, you miss experiencing the horrifying Charlton-Heston-and-the-Statue-of-Liberty moment when “Idiocracy” is over and you emerge from the theatre into the mall full of shiny logos and sniggering pedestrians and you realize that reality today looks just like 2505 does in the movie.
My reaction was a little different: The movie reminded me not of my present, but of my K-12 education. When you think about it, that’s the only major remaining area of life where brains do not readily translate into status. (Though at least now, young nerds have the Internet!)
Idiocracy raises a lot of intriguing questions, but here’s the one that struck me the most: Does stupidity lead to gullibility? There are a few scenes where it does. But for the most part, the movie depicts low-IQ people as very hard to trick because they scoff at whatever they do not understand.
Recalling once again my K-12 education, it’s the latter story that seems right. Bullies may be stupid, but it’s nigh-impossible for a nerd to trick a bully into leaving him alone. The bully has a simple but powerful word that keeps the nerd from getting the upper hand: “Whatever.”