From a talk I gave on 15th March
Sometimes, I’ve noticed, I irritate people around me who would rather be sad. I wondered why I was an optimist and always saw the glass half full.
This example came to mind.
It is perhaps not widely known that the world is facing a new crisis. It is an inescapable conclusion if two assumptions are correct. First, that intelligence – however it is defined – is hereditary. Second, that more intelligent people have fewer children. If intelligence is inherited and the intelligent have fewer children, it does not take an Einstein to realise that the world is getting dumber every day.
We know that intelligence is at least partly hereditary. Furthermore, all over the world, the number of children the intelligent have has fallen sharply. It is simple arithmetic that generation after generation, the world must be dumbing down. Or rather, generation after generation, children of the world must have dumber parents.
This reasoning has a few flaws. Intelligence is not just hereditary. It also depends on nutrition, education and the environment the child grows up in. Knowledge is also not the same as intelligence, and measurement of intelligence cannot avoid including some influence of knowledge. It has been calculated that even if we do know that knowledge is increasing, and has increased continuously, human intelligence peaked when we were still hunter-gatherers about 15,000 years ago. So although human intelligence has probably reduced, it has done so very slowly and is partly compensated for by the increase of knowledge. What is clear, however, is that intelligence is not increasing at the rate it would if it were a survival factor for natural selection.
In any case, if and when an intelligence problem becomes a crisis, we can always solve it with the right choice of tax system. As you all and every politician knows, no problem exists that cannot be solved by an appropriate tax system. So, in the event of a crisis, my solution would be very simple. Income tax would be scrapped and replaced by a tax on intelligence. The tax would increase with intelligence, but those with higher intelligence than the average would have their tax rate reduced for each child, while those who were below average would have their rate increased with every child.
The world would be a very boring place without problems to solve.
Perhaps it is so that fiddling with the tax system is not the solution to every problem, but in my worldview, problems exist to be solved. Not a problem in every challenge, but a challenge in every problem.
And that is why I am an optimist.