Are Humans Getting Dumber or Smarter?

           Here’s the caveat: I am leaning toward the former. You would presumably think that since technology is diffused more so than it was 100 years ago that we’d be tremendously smarter, but it seems as if our intelligence is getting impeded by our ignorance. Albeit, it’s generally difficult to put intelligence under one heading; it’s an ambiguous term that can be quantified in many different ways—the most popular being the IQ test. However, studies indicate that our IQs have been steadily climbing in the past century, but Smartphones seemingly buttress any type of uncertainty we’re fraught with, whereas 200 years ago these things needed to be committed to memory. Cellphones take away from the hands-on working memory we’ve been burdened with for the past 100,000 years, which puts an abridged life span on things we assimilate. So, we may be getting both dumber and smarter, but we are struggling to adhere to basic principles and facts that befall on our civilization, unremittingly. Another thing, which I will primarily focus on is willful ignorance; which isn’t going to provide our planet with prosperity; instead, it takes the route to dystopia where people are constantly muddling misinformation and bickering over pseudosciences. My gripes, that continue to get my blood to boil, are the persisting battle to accept homosexuals and the never-ending rejection of science. I stick with my theory: the smart people, or those who want to be smart, are becoming more intelligent, but unfortunately, the obtuse people remain stagnant and obstinate, leading to less overall intelligence.

          I think intelligence not only corresponds with a comprehension capacity, but also to the cognizance of what’s happening to oneself and the environment. Smart people are aware of malnutrition and thus look toward healthy foods to keep themselves around longer than usual. The rise in technological advancements has led the way to pure laziness, which obviously engenders obesity. Sapient beings should realize this and attack it at its roots, but we don’t—willful ignorance. According to the Health Organization, from 2004 to 2010, obesity increased from 11% in American adults. It’s not hard to adumbrate that this is a bad omen for years to come since many food distributors are selling deleterious processed foods to get more gain on their product.

          Climate change is a dire problem that is nearly irreversible at this point because of the narrow-mindedness coming from the naysayers and deniers. But, the evidence for global warming is incontrovertible: a study revealed 97% of climate scientists agree that global warming is anthropogenic (man-made). Now, I’m not sure if the average lay person is more astute than any esteemed scientist (embrace the pun), but if I were a betting man, I’d listen to the scientists who painstakingly and feverishly work at understanding what’s happening to our climate. And, for those unsure about global warming, here’s a short summation: Global warming is the excessive release of greenhouse gases (Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, etc.) into our atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation that traps the sun’s heat in our atmosphere, giving rise to the earth’s average temperature. Furthermore, this opens a Pandora’s box: sea levels rise, storms’ intensity increases, droughts become longer, extinction plagues animals, a scarcity of food and water occurs, and there is a proliferation of fatal diseases.  In order to remedy this bleak situation, we must look toward alternative energy sources, but we remain unchanged and are elongating the resolution process. This, my friends, is willful ignorance: you can try to run on a broken foot, but there comes a time when one must be prudent and get healthy before making things worse.

          In the year 2014, the ubiquity of hatred and ostracism of homosexuals truly baffles me. It’s obvious that genes have something to do with being gay; I mean, if you’re heterosexual, try to choose to be suddenly gay–you can’t. That’s beside the point, though. We’re splitting hairs over the same sort of nonsense that divided us as a nation only a mere 60 years ago, and that’s racism. Now it’s just a different minority. A homophobic person really is masquerading something more sinister deep down. Whether it’s because they aren’t cut from the same cloth as you (narcissism) or because your religion tells you it’s bad (dogma), it’s still morally reprehensible to dislike someone because they’re different than you. It’s not like we all sat in front of a big screen and got to create ourselves, atom by atom; we had no choice in any of our physical make up. Therefore, there should be no problem with homosexuals on any level. Given the multifarious diversity of life on planet Earth, it would be perverse of you not to understand that differences exist.

          The Pew Research Center recently released a study that indicated one-third of Americans do not believe in evolution. This finding is exasperating to say the least. The planet screams evolution in thousands of different ways, from the growth of disease to the rise and fall of dinosaurs; it’s clear that the planet is billions of years old. It is old enough to have tiny nuances in each new generation that brought us from single celled organisms and common ancestors millions of years ago. A total of 98.5% of scientists treat biological evolution as a fact—as the process of continual development from successive generations. Once again, willful ignorance is apparent. The numbers don’t lie, and evolution has provided us with a myriad of apposite medicines because diseases themselves evolve.  Most people assert that evolution is just a theory, and indeed it is. But, it is a scientific theory, which, in the hierarchy of credibility, stands higher than a law. Theories come with a preponderance of empirical evidence that is tested thoroughly throughout years of intricate studies. It has yet to be disproven, and it fits perfectly with what we know about the planet.

          The willful ignorance that I touched on is an epidemic that is preventing our consciousness from expanding. All of the information I presented is a couple clicks away; it just takes a spark of curiosity and common sense to discern the malarkey from the truth. I’m no luddite, but I know that the tsunami of information that gets blasted into our brains daily can easily render us susceptible to gullibility and unsureness about what’s true and what isn’t. So, back to my main point: are we getting dumber or smarter? The answer is both; scientists and pundits of enlightened subjects seem to be thriving exponentially while laymen remain static, constantly looking to confirm their bias and turning a blind eye to reality. I try to question everything but am extremely receptive when learning new things. The truth may be discomfiting and somewhat incomprehensible, but for us to become smarter, we first have to accept what’s patently staring right at us. Einstein once said, “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” Let’s not be the ones who fall victim to those sentiments.

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Photo courtesy of Lee Verdecchia

Sleep Is Everything

For about one-third of our lives, we are lost in the sea of oblivion. Sleep is one of the most fundamental features of human nature. Nowadays, it seems as if we intentionally deprive ourselves of it; whether it is from an unrelenting work habit, cellphone addiction, partying too much, disorders, or a bad sleeping environment, we are always at the mercy of our brain and how much rest it actually gets. You can mask your exhaustion through energy drinks and such, but the truth is: we all incur a sleep debt, and this debt has to be amortized in some sort of effective way or else we pay the price of being eternally fatigued and worn-down. Adequate sleep qualities can lead to a healthier life. In modern society, sleep studies are being conducted every day; long-term and short-term studies are orchestrated to determine how sleep affects our lives and how it can be deleterious to our wellbeing, granted being devoid of it. The five stages of sleep contribute to the sufficient restoration of not only our physical body, but our cognitive faculties.

For the past month, I have been dutifully using the sleep-cycle application, which monitors sleep phases and duration, in order to wake you at the appropriate time at which you are not groggy. My average night’s sleep is a morbid 5 hours and 54 minutes a night. However, my sleep is entirely reliant on everything I have done in the day, leading up to the night’s rest. If I had an early-evening coffee or decide to partake in a later-than-usual (9pm) workout, then I will find myself wallowing in bed for numerous hours, beset by the unending thought of wondering why I can’t fall asleep. My haphazard schedule of sleep has affected me in many different ways. Any night when I do not reach the optimal amount of sleep (7-8 hours) for a person in my age bracket, I automatically pay the piper. For instance, when I get less than 5 hours of sleep, I feel disoriented and less sharp. Here’s the caveat: ironically, I’m typing this on 4 hours of sleep, so my exposition may be less transparent. Everything is fleeting; my memory is like a perforated plastic bag full of water, leaking out all of the essential things I took heed of the prior day. Also, my weight fluctuation seems to tip the scales more than usual with a precarious appetite, leading me to crave high-calorie foods. However, the nights when I get the ideal amount of slumber, I feel ebullient; my brain is fast-witted, and my weight is stabilized and properly managed. Now that I’ve learned that satisfactory sleep can reverse the effects of aging, I am painstakingly aware of how many hours I obtain a night because we all want to look younger.

The vaunted rapid eye movement (REM) sleep can be disrupted by drinking alcohol. After a night of imbibing excessively, you will ineluctably be beleaguered by lethargy and laziness. This empty feeling that we have all been victims of, puts our bodies and minds in a state of fluster. REM, the most restorative stage in sleep, is thrown off-kilter and reduced because of the body’s way to combat the effects of alcohol leading to a light-sleep repose, in which you are easily awakened. When a person is constantly overwhelmed by unsound sleep, this creates other effects. These effects include: gravitation towards unhealthy foods, lack of motor skills, attention deficit, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, weakened immune system, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, etc.

The distractions that we battle everyday flies in the face of proper somnolence. All of the artificial light and gadgets that stand in the way of bedtime are arm-wrestling with 100,000 years of evolution. Our circadian rhythm, a process that regulates our sleep-wake cycles in respect to a 24-hour interval, has been tampered with by the new technologies and varying work hours. Melatonin, a hormone in the pineal gland that is responsible for determining the times to sleep and wake, has been inhibited by all of the aforementioned interruptions. No matter how many coffees and Red Bulls we drink, nature has a way of telling us that we need time to unwind before something unpleasant happens. Thousands of car accidents a year are due to sleep deprivation; this is something that can be easily avoided with a routine sleep schedule. Sleep–as we know it–essentially discards the unnecessary information and keeps the important lessons we’ve gained from the preceding day. Even a 15-30 minute nap can provide you with more alertness. In the book Dreamland by David K. Randall, he writes, “Naps are even being used to provide a competitive advantage in the workplace. Companies such as Google, Nike, Procter & Gamble, and Cisco Systems have installed designated napping areas in their offices. The idea is that naps may allow engineers and designers to arrive at creative solutions more quickly than they would by staying awake all day.” People who remain faithful to a regimented sleep agenda tend to live longer than those who do not. Sleep itself is basic; try not to get caught up in all of the hoopla before your bedtime. Overtime, you will slowly notice your body going in the direction that you desire.

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