Friday, February 15, 2008


There is an article in the NYT about a new book that contends that Americans are getting not just dumber on average but "hostile to knowledge". The comments in the comment section are quite interesting. I saw many comments arguing that this situation is not so bad because the total number of people having advanced knowledge is increasing, and so is the average quality of the knowledge. But what I find strange is that while this fact is true- the top 10% of "knowledgeable" people in the world is probably getting better- how does it matter if especially in democratic countries, it's the majority who is going to vote and make decisions? I don't understand why people feel relaxed about the situation. It does not matter if the top 10% of people in the country are the most knowledgeable and rational people in the country. The other 90% can ruin the world by sheer numbers.

I do agree that knowledge disparity is increasing in the world. On an average, given the social, technological and political situation in various parts of the world, it does seem to me that people are becoming less rational every day and relying more on biased views or, even more dangerously, on gut instinct. Many times, it seems that people just don't want to carefully explore issues and think about them anymore. They don't want to hear both sides of an argument and don't want to take their own time to decide about issues in as unbiased a way as they can. The rise of religious fundamentalism simply quells rational thought. Watching biased left or right-wing programs on television greatly exacerbates the matter. Sometimes I increasingly get the feeling, not uncommon among some whom I know, that humanity seems to be suffering from some self-imploding death wish. I also agree that the top 10% of the world, the people who really want to learn and have the capacity, are getting better. But what's the point? These people are not going to run the world. And in fact they should not run the world and transform it into some kind of knowledge autocracy.

Better to have 90% of the world having basic common sense than 20% of the world being Einstein and the rest relying on their feelings to take decisions.



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