The film, “Idiocracy”, not surprisingly, never had a major theatrical release, but has acquired a cult following. In essence, the film is a satirical look at where writer and director Mike Judge thinks society is heading. Sadly, I don’t think his depiction is terribly far off the mark. As such, I’m left to wonder: is evolution really steering humanity towards some form of idiocracy?

During the film’s prologue, a narrator explains that in our modern society, natural selection does not favor the intelligent (who think deeply about their reproduction choices and tend to reproduce less overall due to financial reasons, etc.) and that less-intelligent people procreate freely and easily out-breed the intelligent because our society focuses on preventing evolutionary creative destruction from occurring. Ultimately, due to this evolutionary twist, the futuristic world portrayed in the film is a dystopia that promotes rampant anti-intellectualism.

Do we see this happening today? If you’ve ever been ridiculed for talking about something intellectual or serious, you’ll probably agree that the dumbing-down effect in our culture is already occurring. I have plenty of anecdotes to support this belief myself. The movie ultimately reminded me that there is a strong case to be made for elitism (I plan to write about this more in the future). It’s incredibly hard to have a rational and logical discussion about things like politics, economics, and the very fate of humanity when so many of the voices who think their opinion should matter are so profoundly stupid.

For instance, my opinion on string theory is of very little value. I simply don’t understand it. In general, I’m relatively stupid when it comes to issues related to anything above basic physics. Suppose, however, that I showed up to a physics conference and said: “I don’t believe in string theory. I’m just not a fan.” I would rightfully get laughed out of the place for having no logical or rational justification for having that belief. This happens with political and economic issues frequently though.

I’ve personally had many discussions about economic related issues with people who simply don’t understand rudimentary economics. The problem is they are unaware that they don’t understand rudimentary economics and actually believe that they do. For some reason, when it comes to issues like politics and economics many people think that their opinion should matter regardless of their lack of intellect on the subject. Perhaps the real problem is that most people fail to realize where their intellectual limits lie. Aside from natural selection running its course, I’m not sure there is a good solution to this problem.


6 Comments on ““Idiocracy””

  1. J Scott Shipman says:

    Frighteningly accurate and funny movie…thanks for sharing. This post reminded me of the words of Theodore Dalrymple to the effect we have an abundance of self-expression without self-examination…

  2. datxomin says:

    Isn’t there is a difference between being ignorant and stupid? Surely, people that are proud of their ignorance (or that use their ignorance as a weapon) are behaving in a stupid manner and, indeed, this is a common behavior. However, the acquisition of domain specific knowledge is not exclusively reserved to the intellectually gifted. Hard work will get you more insight than cognitive dexterity every time.

    One question. I haven’t watched “Idiocracy” (and I’m not inclined to). Would you say it would be an intelligent investment of my time?

    • Greg Linster says:

      Sure, I think there is a difference between being ignorant and stupid. The
      ignorant usually fail to realize they’re stupidity as it pertains to certain
      bodies of knowledge. A stupid person, however, isn’t necessarily ignorant;
      they may be well aware of where they lack a certain body of knowledge. And
      I also agree that the acquisition of a specific domain of knowledge is not
      necessarily limited to the intellectually gifted; however, not all domains
      of knowledge are of equal value to certain issues.

      If you like satires (think Office Space, but more annoying), then, I
      think you would like it, otherwise I’d say it’s not a wise investment of
      your time.

    • It has its funny moments, and some rather sobering and frightening ones as well…
      “Comin’ up next on The Violence Channel: An all-new “Ow, My Balls!”… or am I the only one who’s been exposed to “America’s Got Talent” thanks to members of my own family?

      And…”Please come back when you can afford to make a purchase. Your kids are starving. Carl’s Jr. believes no child should go hungry. You are an unfit mother. Your children will be placed in the custody of Carl’s Jr.”  or am I the only one who thought of this quote from the movie when the story about the little girl who’s bag lunch was deemed unfit by school officials made the news a few months ago?

  3. Tanya says:

    One of the most frustrating things about trying to have intelligent discussions with ignorant people is that those who know the least are the most resistant to being persuaded differently lest it make them appear “stupid”. For some reason these people think that adherence to an idea no matter how absurd makes their position admirable and that being persuaded otherwise shows weakness. That’s my perception anyway.

    As a stay at home mom I rarely get the opportunity to have intellectual discussions with reasonable people but when I do it is an absolute breath of fresh air. I readily invite others to try and persuade me and I will always enter a discussion with an open mind. Very few people do this though, hence the frustration.

    • Greg Linster says:

      @8b76bc8dc9266b51443538ea85b2c3be:disqus I think your perception is entirely accurate.  Psychologists have shown that humans have a robust confirmation bias.  Most people merely find arguments to support their own beliefs and ignore arguments, no matter how sound, that refute their beliefs.  You are in a small minority of people that challenge their deepest held beliefs.

      This is is the essence of the Argumentative Theory, which states that we evolved to be at arguing, not necessarily to get at truth.  Being good at arguing can be useful, but it can also be detrimental to your ability to get at truth if it is unchecked and unchallenged by others who are good at arguing.

      You’re always welcome to come to Coffee Theory if you want to have intellectual discussions online!

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