One of the most trite statements to be found in the mainstream is that there is no widespread decline in anything because even the Ancient Greeks complained about their youth. This argument is incredibly dishonest because it is a false equivalence. There may have been a few shitheads around during the times of Plato and Aristoteles, but today, societal decline is rampant, and such reports you do not find in the Greek papyri archeologists have dug out of the sand.
While it is very easy to point at publicly visible manifestations of cultural decline, such as rampant vandalism or trash littering the streets, what is a lot less immediately obvious that people are getting a whole lot dumber. The knee-jerk mainstream response is that it’s not that people have gotten dumber, but that instead today everybody communicates on the Internet. This argument does not hold water because we have plenty of records from history, such as the letters soldiers in the great European Wars sent home to their families. You can find facsimile reproductions. Even if you assume that such material is curated, this does not work as a counterargument either because today content is also heavily curated.
What gave rise to this post was a recent corporate blog post I came across. It struck me because the author used the adjectives “weird” and “crazy” where they did not seem to make a lot of sense. Much more fitting would have been the adjectives “unintuitive” and “complicated”. I paid some more attention to such uses of language for a few days, and noticed that there is indeed a widespread problem with imprecise communication. Seemingly everything is crazy, insane, weird, or scary. I once even overheard a PhD student in a technical discipline say that some experiment — running an algorithm on a standard dataset — was “scary”. You can only shake your head. Really, you meant to say that you were horrified of hitting the enter key in your office?
What I also noticed is that expletives are way too common nowadays. Terms like “shitstorm” are not just used in colloquial language but show up even in corporate communications. I have seen unironic uses of four-letter words or juvenile phrases like “whoop whoop”. It’s corporate kindergarten.
Mass media are not any better. The most obvious example is the term “hate”, which is nowadays used for anything that does not indicate complete agreement. You’re a “hater” if you merely ask someone to defend their position. This is worst in academia when it may happen that a woman gives a presentation and nobody dares to ask any critical questions because they are afraid of being called bullies. Thus, those women get a few softball questions, which they may fumble through regardless, and unjustified praise.
When “textspeak” first came up, the mainstream claimed that people don’t really communicate like that and if they do, it’s — you guessed it! — ironic. Then you go out in the world and realize that people really have a hard time spelling and therefore resort to sending “emojis” and GIFs.
Tangentially related is that even among the supposedly educated, it is rare to find someone who is able to effectively communicate in writing. This is no surprise because the average person practices sending emojis and GIFs back and forth all throughout the day. Having to compose a concise email, in contrast, seems alien even to people whose job depends on this. A beautiful example of this from corporate communications is an open letter the executive producer of Doom Eternal recently posted. Just skim the text! It is ludicrous. It’s several pages of a mere narration of events. I would not even tolerate that level of moronic communication from an eight-year-old. What happened to focusing on what is important?
There is a much more serious implication of those mere examples, namely the measured decline of IQ in the West. This affects all of society. Idiotic decisions at the highest levels, such as opening the borders wide for unskilled mass immigration, show that our political leadership is no longer able to properly assess reality. That a majority of voters support those policies further demonstrates that we live in an age of idiocracy. Going forward, worries about people not being able to precisely express themselves will be the least of our problems, however. Yet, both issues seem highly correlated.
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