Friday, November 16, 2012

Getting Dumber

As I was driving home for lunch, Science Friday with Ira Flato came on NPR. The topic was a new genetic study that suggests humans are slowly becoming less intelligent, and that human intelligence may have peaked thousands of years ago. Then Flato mentions that IQs are going up, so by now I am completely intrigued by the seeming contradiction and thinking a chunk of my lunch hour may be spent in the car listening to the story. We're getting dumber but Intelligent Quotients are higher? Seriously, feed me teasers like that and I am in.

Naturally, my mind leapt to the movie "Idiocracy," the warning labels required for absolutely everything because some people need to actually be told to not eat their clothing and that hot drinks are hot, the half-wits and simpletons "starring" on reality TV shows, and the news stories of citizens petitioning for their individual states to leave the Union of the United States of America. Seriously, the signs seem to indicate that society as a whole is on a speeding train to Stupidville. I may be right there with the brainless masses.

Over the past decade, I am pretty sure I have gotten dumber. Significantly dumber. More than a few sleepless nights I lay awake, wondering how to regain the mental edge I flatter myself by thinking I once possessed. Various potential factors dance with dust bunnies in the increasingly empty cranium. Poor diet? Social isolation resulting from too much time spent with technology and not enough interacting with other humans? Too much quality awake time spent alone in a cubicle? Dangerously expanding hermit tendencies? Failure to remember to take multivitamins?

I was interested in hearing the NPR story. You know, to validate my suspicions on the declining intellectual capacity of the human race in general, because I love to be proved right, even if it's only to myself. The interview began, and it wasn't long before the brainiac scientist guest launched into a high-level technical discussion. It was probably less than a minute into the story before I was lost in genomes and mutations and feeling stupid and like I was actually the point of the story, which is not quite how I had imagined it would be.

My mind started wandering as I was crossing the bridge on Wilma Rudolph Boulevard, and that's when a vehicle approaching from the other direction caught my eye. It was a rainbow striped VW bug, with lettering on the side reading "fagbug." I dropped the thread to the science story I was so desperately clinging to a moment earlier as I said out loud, "What the heck is that?" And in a flash, we had passed each other and fagbug was gone.

That is not a vehicle I've seen in my daily to and fro, and it took another half mile before I could corral my mind back to the radio, just in time to hear some high level speechification about ... well, I don't really know what the heck it was about. The info is evidently too far above my diminishing brain capacity. I'm pretty sure I won't be reading the new book about human genetic mutations and our dumbification -- I think I'm already too dumb for it.

After work, I visited the NPR website looking for an transcript of the show I could read, but all I found was the audio of the story. Maybe if I can clear all distractions and spend a few minutes (or hours) dedicated to listening the story (over and over), I can grasp it. Just not right now. My easily distracted mind flitted over to something I had a better chance of comprehending. I Googled "fagbug," and whaddaya know, it's got a story.

According to Wikipedia, "Fagbug is a Volkswagen New Beetle owned by Erin Davies of Troy, New York who, in response to graffiti on her car, embarked on a trans-American road trip to raise awareness of gay rights." The trip was documented and the film "Fagbug" screened at U.S. film festivals in 2009.

Of course I was wondered if what I saw in Clarksville was THE FAGBUG, and not some imitation, and dang I love the Internet for the immediate gratification. I had the answer in just a few minutes. Turns out, in addition to a Wiki entry, fagbug has a Facebook page, where I learned that it was at Austin Peay State University today. THAT was information I can understand. As for genomes and mutations ... that stuff is way over my head.

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