Are We Really Getting Dumber as Devices Get Smarter?

Can we stop the human IQ from declining amidst the growing number of smart devices around us?
Kashyap Vyas

The world sees new smart devices coming to life every day. There are not many domains left without smart devices.

These devices range from smartphones, smart TVs, smart bulbs, and even smart toilets. These smart life devices are designed to bring comfort to our lives.

But the advantages over the disadvantages of these devices can be questioned. Are they suitable for use in the long run? Does the use of these devices mean we are becoming lazy, or does it mean we have time to do better and creative things?


The famous Flynn Effect

There are varied views on the use of smart devices. However, it would be interesting to note if there is any evidence on the increase or decrease in IQ over time. In this case, understanding the Flynn effect can be helpful.

Named after the famous researcher James Flynn, the Flynn effect shows how the IQ test scores of people have increased on an average in the last few centuries. The researchers who have done further studies on this effect noticed that there have only been a few exceptions in the Flynn effect and it is rarely disputed.

There are many explanations and perceptions of the causes of the Flynn effect.

Some say that it is because of the environmental factors while there is a school of thought that gives credit to the education system. There are still other theories that consider societal changes or nutrition as a reason for the increase in the level of IQ in people.

However, according to some of the test results, infants in the second half of the 20th century who were one or two years old performed much better and showed signs of improving their IQ. Hence, this negates the importance given to the education system in improving the intelligence of an individual. Improvement in nutrition levels can be considered a reason for it.

There is no concrete evidence showing the reasons for the improvement in the IQ of people over centuries. But the last few decades did see an improvement in the intelligence levels of people in general.

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However, it is still relevant and essential to study the Flynn Effect because, with the advent of smart devices, more and more people are relying on these devices rather than doing things themselves.

So, is it suitable for the development of the human brain in the long run? Is this trend of showing improvements in the IQ continuing or reversing?

The reversal of the Flynn Effect

According to the researchers of Ragnar Frisch Center for Economic Research, when 730,000 Norwegian military men were given some IQ tests, a decline in the IQ was seen in the period between 1970 and 2009. But there were not too many smartphones or laptops in the 1970s so technology cannot be entirely blamed for this decline.

Children indeed rely on search engines like Google more than their memory now, but this does not mean a decrease in their intelligence. Hence, it is an important issue to ponder upon to see what is going wrong in the current system, which is causing a reversal of the Flynn effect.

Some scientists believe that changes in the type of food people consume, the media environment and the education system can be responsible for this decline. However, technology can also be a significant cause of this decline.

Another study found that people could retain more when their smartphones were not with them. This study also showed that merely turning off the phone or keeping it in their bags was not enough.

They had to make sure that the devices were not nearby to see the difference.

In the end, the critical question to address is if the Flynn Effect is really reversing. Do smart devices have an impact on the intelligence of people?

In other words, are we relying so much on these devices that we are losing our ability to think or nurture our problem-solving skills?

Well, thanks to the smartphones that are always in our hands, we can try to use them for the smallest things. We use a smartphone as a calculator, an alarm clock, maps, and much more.

Almost everyone relies on Google search to get information. But this can be good and bad both.

It is good that we all have a plethora of information at our disposal at all times. Life has become more comfortable with one smart device taking care of everything.

This becomes even better when we add more smart life devices to this list. For example, smart toilets know when to flush, or a smart home switches the air conditioner on when it is time for you to come home.

Similarly, many other things add luxury to your life. Hence, in the ideal world, one can have a lot of extra time and comfort to work on expanding their skills and knowledge.

Therefore, it should actually improve the overall IQ of individuals. So, why has this not been the case?

Researchers from the University of Waterloo found that intuitive thinkers who use smartphones frequently use their device’s search engine rather than their own brainpower to make decisions. This makes them even lazier than they would usually be.

Another insightful research from the University of Zurich suggests that increased screen tapping, clicking, and scrolling has an unusual impact on our brains and motor performance.

So, is your phone better than you?

Let’s admit that there is also a downside to technology. With so much luxury and comfort, we often tend to become lazy. We mostly rely on our smart devices to do the work for us, and we eventually end up doing nothing.

Although the cause of our IQ decline remains a mystery, the downside of smart life devices cannot be ignored as one of the possible reasons for the reversal of the Flynn Effect.


Our declining IQ is indeed alarming, and now is the time to take the right action. As humans, we need to start considering the adverse effects of spending hours staring at screens and our addictions with smartphones seriously.

We need to “think” and inculcate our creativity so that we can always be ahead of these smart life devices. One thing that sets us apart from technology is our ability to think.

Let’s nurture it and not lose it amidst the advancement of technology.

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