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December 28, 2003

The Future of People

Today's survey: In the next 100 years, will people be more intelligent, or less intelligent?

A few weeks ago I posed a series of "order of magnitude" thought experiments about the future of people.  I didn't get much response, probably because they were thought experiments, and not multiple-choice surveys where people could just click to vote.  Also asking people to think rationally between Thanksgiving and Christmas is always a challenge :)

But let's consider them together.  They all have the following schema: What if xWould things be better for you, or worse?  Choices for x included:

  • What if the world had {2X, 4X, 10X} more people in it?
  • What if everyone made {2X, 4X, 10X} more money?
  • What if everyone was {2X, 4X} bigger?
  • What if everyone was {10%, 20%} smarter?

What's interesting about these questions is that although there were posed hypothetically, there are definite trends.  From the recent past (say 100 years) through today, the following are unequivocally true:

  • The world has far more people in it (about 8X in the last 100 years).  The trend is that in the next 100 years, this growth will continue but at a slower pace.
  • The world is far more productive (about 4X in the last 100 years).  The trend is that in the next 100 years, this growth will continue and perhaps even accelerate. 
  • People are much larger (about 30% by weight and 20% by height, in the last 100 years).  The trend is that in the next 100 years, this growth will continue but at a slower pace.

The last question is less clear; have people become {less intelligent, more intelligent} in the last 100 years?  An open question, I would say; the Flynn effect indicates "more intelligent", while population analysis suggests "less intelligent".  And in the next 100 years, will the trend be up, or down?

You know what I think, but what do you think

Here's today's survey:

In the next 100 years, will people be more intelligent, or less intelligent?

(The survey is on my blog because I don't know how to host one on GNXP :)

Posted by ole at 11:09 AM