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“The Flynn Effect”

James Flynn: “Why our IQ levels are higher than our grandparents”

James Flynn hypothesizes why our IQs are higher than our grandparents, known as the “Flynn Effect.” He suggests it’s because we are increasingly willing to treat the abstract as literal.

This reminded me of my IB Theory of Knowledge course in high school. The entire point was to apply logic to hypothetical ideals, to make us better and more creative thinkers. One especially relevant work is Bertrand Russell’s, “The Problems of Philosophy: Reality and Appearance,” which asks “What is the real table?” Meaning, how do we discern between appearance and reality? The response mirrored Flynn’s discussion- many people were unwilling to even consider the idea, others were. Flynn also mentions the role technology has played, using the example of shooting targets. My example would be screenshots of films from its invention until now. Just looking at the pictures, Martians might assume the films are better, however, I would argue that the technology is better, not the content.

The same would apply to testing scores. Students currently memorize, Google and test for everything, and we now know more than ever before, but does this mean that we’re smarter? A similar dilemma is presented in the film Quiz Show (based on the 1950s quiz show scandals, specifically of the Twenty-One scandal) in which a parallel can be drawn between Herbie Stempel and Charles Van Doren. Stempel can rattle off lists of useless facts but may not necessarily come off as “intelligent,” Van Doren, an intellectual and professor, does. So, who is smarter? The one who knows more, or can synthesize that knowledge into something applicable.

Another connection is the amount of abstract data and knowledge there is. I found it amusing that Flynn kept using the word “Imagine,” which for any teenage girl might instantly conjure up the term “fanfiction,” where fans create abstract realities and treat them almost literally (in their worlds, at least). One can even go so far as to look at the communities of people, online or otherwise, united by other abstracts outside of celebrities, found in fiction (think Harry Potter, Twilight). He also mentions the “bubble of the present,” and being “ahistorical.” In my opinion, this is due to the demagogic, literal styles of history, which relays towards attitudes about politics. I would recommend teaching history like language arts or music, where our country’s story is being examined not regurgitated.

– Contia’ Prince, Editor-in-Chief, Founder & CEO

For more Ted talks, visit ted.com.

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This entry was posted on September 28, 2015 by in Life and tagged , , .

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