Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Things To Come

It's unsurprising but still sad that many people still haven't given Mike Judge's ambitious "Idiocracy" - best described as a dramatically less-optimistic cousin to "Futurama" - a shot. Whether you've already seen it or not, this opening sequence remains one of the funniest yet most terrifyingly-plausible visions of an unconventional-apocalypse ever put to film. It's not at all hard to imagine looking at this film a decade from now and thinking "It's too late. This guy tried to warn us. We didn't listen. Now it's too late..."


Steve said...

Meh, I prefer the story it was inspired by. "Marching Morons" is fantastic.

Mike R said...

TheDVDGrouch said...

That is easily one of the scariest things I've ever seen.

Arturo said...

Let me get this straight:
according to Mike Judge, the smart people are turning into bigger assholes/wimps, to the point where thier numbers decrease exponentially, and the idiots are just getting dumber AND increasing in number?

Well, we're boned.

661e6642-9c40-11e0-a547-000bcdcb471e said...

New theory: stupid people reproduce more often because the other option is sleeping with people like Bob.

The Tickle Phantom said...

I love that movie! its exactly what I fear is going to happen. Its on rotation on Comedy central and i always watch it if i have the chance.

O.T said...

@Mike R

Its so wierd to see a straw man argument with stick men. Its like, if Munroe drew some more lines, they could all be straw men.


I like idocracy but I dont love it. Its hard for me to watch it all the way through the end, since the constant stupidity of the world becomes anoying to watch play out. Its like actually talking to an idiot. It becomes exhausting.

Still, I always tune in for that little mini-documentery at the start.

Laserkid said...

I have two issues with this movie in general.

1) Intelligence is SO not genetic - I've seen brilliant kids come from the dumbshittiest of parents ever, and I've seen fucking morons come from genius parents.

2) Even if intellect were genetic - the fault of "the stupid" here is wrong, the problem is the inherent selfishness of people who don't want to breed because of the financial drain. Note that this is only true if intellect were somehow genetic.

The intellegince of a child has a fuck ton more to do with the childs desire to learn or not, some of that is up to raising by parents - but beyond that theres also a good deal of general interest in the child period. Even with the right raising if a kid isnt interested in learning they will find a way not to ;)

TheAlmightyNarf said...

While I enjoyed the movie, the premise is complete bullshit. There has never been a point in all of human history that natural selection particularly benefited the well educated. The population rates of the uneducated lower-class has always grown far faster. Honestly, there's never been a reason for natural selection to benefit well educated people.

And, I say "well educated" for a reason... the actual mental capabilities for healthy adults varies pretty much negligibly. Some people choose to fill their brain with philosophy or science, some people choose to fill their brain with reality TV and sports statistic, but the actual mental processes are more or less the same.

A. Ivan said...

Looks funny enough and might even pass as social commentary on some level, but seriously? "Terrifying plausible"? People rank this movie so highly just because it panders to their intellectual narcissism.

OB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
OB said...

Your anecdotal evidence may very well be true, however, science and psychology have proven with twin studies that intelligence--as measured by IQ (and that's actually a little flimsy, but it's the best we have)--is both genetic and based on environment. I read through the comments and I often just read them, but I didn't want to NOT say anything about that, and let that false piece of information live on the Interwebs forever.

David (The Pants) said...

Agreeing with Laserkid on this one. This little opening sequence is pretty cool, though. And it is interesting to think about how yes, on some level, natural selection is less of a deal with humans since medical research benefits all of us. But that's only because the alternative of picking who deserves it or not sounds insanely stupid.

milanjeftic1992 said...

Oh Jesus...we need to start killing Americans agene

antecedentless said...

Dare I say this: the idiots portrayed in this film are what Moviebob honestly believes Republicans (especially religious republicans) are like: "Michael Bay's America...", e.g those "few" with above average intelligence in the conservative movement are just trying to exploit the herd for their own benefit.

WilhelmVonHaig said...

Allthough your trying to make a good point, it's just scientific fact that intelligence is decided by our genes. Genetics decides everything about our brains but environment and situation at birth decide whether our intelligence flourishes or is hidden. The reason you see Smart kids come from dumb parents is called genetic mutation, which is the process by which evolution works. It's why you're not a clone of your parents and it happens in all animals and most forms of life.
Alltogether I don't think this film is meant to be taken too literally, it's more a commentary on how our society valuing of equality before merit has created a situation where the unintelligent are unfairly rewarded.

WilhelmVonHaig said...

*is NOT meant to be taken too literally.

Dave from canada said...

@ arturo. If it makes you feel better, this is based on mike judges pretty terrible understanding of how evolution works.

Joe said...

I also agree with Laserkid. Even if there is a genetic correlation for intelligence, it's not as important as environment and education. There's not that much of a genetic variance. That's why a good public education system is essential to an industrialized nation.

And there's a difference between quantity and quality of offspring as well. Do I really think a majority of high-school dropouts is going to seize the reins of power from the well-educated upper classes? Not bloody likely.

Honestly, I found the movie mostly dumb until the very end. His presidential acceptance speech at the end was some of the best 2 minutes of comedy ever: "And there was a time in this country, a long time ago, when reading wasn't just for fags and neither was writing. People wrote books and movies, movies that had stories so you cared whose ass it was and why it was farting, and I believe that time can come again!"

Ryan said...

Bob, does you posting this video have anything to do with the inevitable box-office smash hit of Transformers 3?

Link3680 said...

jojjo said...

A) Intelligence is in fact mostly genetically determined. As previously said, the environment "only" decides how the intelligence develops and what paths it takes; this has been shown again and again. However there is of course no "intelligence gene", rather thousandths, all working together in infinitely complex patterns; which is why stupid parents can get smart kids and vice versa.

B) The movies premise, funny as it may be, is far from "terrifyingly-plausible". There has been no time in human history where people in general where wealthier, healthier, better educated and more intelligent then they are now. Mr Judge, and you Bob, make two important mistakes: 1) You compare everybody today with the extreme elites of yesterday. It wasn't too long ago (less then 250 years) that only the richest 5% got any education at all, and the fact is that the average scores on iq-tests (admittedly a crude tool, but the best we got) has been rising steadily ever since they where introduced. 2) Evolution still works on man, faster then ever thanks to globalization and our ever increasing number, and one of the traits most strongly selected for is intelligence, not extreme intelligence but above average intelligence. Think about it: a smart, poor person (remember: intelligent =/= well educated, knowledgeable or rich) will have a much greater chance of getting a successful offspring then a stupid, poor person, since he will be able to understand and master social codes better. Similarly a smart, middle-upper-class man or woman may get fewer children then a dumb, poor person, but those children will have a greater chance of reproducing themselves, albeit still in small numbers.

Probably a very good movie though.

Adam said...

Intelligence is like any other natural talent: you either develop it or it does nothing for you. The problem is not that "dumb people are breeding more", it's that as a society the majority of people don't seem to value real education anymore. America per capita spends more on education then any other nation in the world and where does our country rank? Nowhere worth bragging about, that's for sure. The problem lies at home. If parents don't instill the value of education in their kids, they will never care.

We got too soft. Everyone remember Amy Chua? She wrote a book called "Why Chinese Mother's are Superior" which detailed how she raised her two girls and demanded that they take their education seriously and had them sacrifice a lot of fun time for school and music practice when she deemed it necessary. Her kids are succeeding but everyone labels her a monster who's too strict. This is why America falls behind: the parents don't want to be parents.

TheAlmightyNarf said...

@ Jojjo

"Evolution still works on man, faster then ever thanks to globalization and our ever increasing number"

Look into "genetic drift" some time. Globalization and increasing population makes evolution go slower, not faster.

Nixou said...

Its not "stupid people reproduce more", its "poor people reproduce more": rich people have kept there numbers in check for millenia in order to avoid competition among their descendants.

And I love how the family tree implies rampant incest among the "inferior" human beings, which completely ignores the endogamy which has been fashionable among the ruling class since private proprerty was invented by the Summerians.

As for the "scientific" claims that intelligence is genetic: well, it's bullshit, as explained here, for instance:
But I admit that those studies are good masturbation material if you're an insecure white dude who really really really wants to feel superior to the rest of mankind.

The Karligarchy said...

And so it came to pass, that the least intelligent of mankind reproduced while the more intelligent were arguing on the comment sections of their favorite blogs...

Laserkid said...

I've seen studies that do say intelligence is genetic, yes. But I've also seen studies to the contrary.

I will also point out even those of you saying its genetic point out stupid parents don't necessarily make stupid children so my point still stands - just because "stupid" people breed more doesnt mean we're getting stupid kids by result.

Now the environment of stupid parents also varies. Some stupid parents still want better for their kids and encourage it, some don't. Same is true of smart parents.

For an environment condusive to a well educated mind you need an involved caring parent. Doesn't matter how smart they are, if they care they will make the environment to learning there. If they don't care, even if they're genius's its going to matter very little.

Kids also need to care on their own - a friend of mine growing up had a very education focused family. He faked his way through that giving lip service and doing little. He never ended up very smart. >.<

Laserkid said...

I should probably add what I'm trying to say is intellect is not determinate of genetics - not that genetics play no role (mentally retarded parents often will pass that on).

I mainly object to the idea that idiots are idiots by genetics alone, because there are so many other factors that go into end result.

jojjo said...

I'm aware of genetic drift, it's irrelevant in this case. Globalization is the increase of contacts between people or, i other words, contacts between formally separated gene pools. This increase the chance of a beneficial mutation spreading, since each person has a greater number of potential mates. A genetically diverse species is always more robust and adoptable then a more specialized one. That is why inbreeding is a problem, why man-bread species are so fragile and where the racial biologists all went wrong.

Unfortunately my primary source for this is an article in the Swedish magazine "Illustrerad Vetenskap", and they don't put up their articles on the internet; but there's this shorter article as well:

Sylocat said...

Idiocracy is bullshit. Even if genetics are a factor in the intelligence you start out with, (which they may very well be), it's what you do after you're born that shapes your neural net.

Studies in meditation and cognitive therapy have shown that people can actually increase their IQ fairly easily just by exercising their brain like any other muscle (as a Buddhist, I already knew this).

Of course, there are times when I think that the reason Idiocracy is bullshit is because it's too optimistic: It assumes we're not already there.

Environment is a very important factor. And our environment is shaped by our culture, which already worships ignorance as a virtue and thinks that any sort of intellectual stimulation is "pretentious" and "elitist." Smart people are ostracized.

The end result? Our species might not even survive long enough to see whether Idiocracy comes true or not. The planet is dying, racing towards an ecological collapse that will cause us all to starve to death and/or die of drug-resistant superbugs, and nobody cares so long as Jersey Shore is on.

TheAlmightyNarf said...


Ok, here's the math as I understand it...

For a sexually reproducing species, like humans for example, on average a member will have 2 offspring to go and reproduce as well (more if the population is going up, less if the population is going down, but on average 2). If that individual has a genetic mutation they would have 50% chance of passing it on to either offspring, so a 75% of passing it on to the next generation at all. Any of the offspring that got it would then have a 75% chance of passing it on, and the generation after that would have a 75% chance of passing it on, ect. So, that after 10 generations there's only about a 5.6% chance of the gene having survived, with natural selection obviously tweaking the odds a bit up or down. The math simply does not favor new genes.

The only time this changes is when both parent happen to carry the same mutation giving a 75% chance of passing it on to any individual offspring and a 94% chance of passing it on the the next generation. And, of course, any offspring that got the gene from both parents would then have a 100% chance of passing it on to all their offspring.

It's really only in the cases of small inbreeding communities that a new mutation has any sort of chance at gaining a foothold. Large populations make it unlikely that both parents would have the same mutation, and growing populations make it even less likely. With large populations, rare genes are almost always weeded out by more common genes, regardless of the effects of natural selection. And that what's happening with humans right now... the gene pool is homogenizing, not diversifying. The odds of a new gene getting much of a foot hold at all, much less reaching all the billions of our species, is almost nill. And, if it were possible would take millions, if not billions of generations to do it.

jojjo said...

Yes that is the correct math considering neural genes, if the genes are beneficial or harmful however the math is very very different; then natural selection comes into play, and it is an extremely unpredictable force. If that math was all there was there would be no evolution what so ever.

p.s. Sorry if I sound like a douche in this thread.

TheAlmightyNarf said...

@ jojjo

The thing is that natural selection doesn't make the math "very very different". It only tweaks the odds a bit. That's why significant evolution can only ever happen in population bottlenecks. With a species as populace as humans are right now, though, evolution is nearly imposable... and largely unnecessary.

I mean, if any species could be considered "biologically successful" it would be humans... we're filly our niche quite well. And were our environment to change and a large segment of our population to die off, our rate of evolution would start to pick up again.

jojjo said...

Again: that is not what the biologists I've heard says. The problem (I think) is that you don't consider sexual selection, where even small differences can make huge impact. Also, just because "It only tweaks the odds a bit" doesn't mean the math won't be wildly different, since the odds are changed with each new generation in a non-random process; that is what evolution is: the mounting improbability.

TheAlmightyNarf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TheAlmightyNarf said...

(repost do to factual error)

@ jojjo

Biologists can say whatever the hell they feel like saying. "Because a scientist said so" really doesn't mean anything at all to me, and I really don't take anything the scientific community says at face value without doing a bit of my own research. The reasoning and evidence they used to reach their conclusion could be perfectly sound and may sway my opinion, or could be completely baseless conjecture. And when what they're saying contradicts basic arithmetic, I'm inclined to think the later.

Yes, sexual selection does improve the odds. One may average to have 4 or 5 reproducing offspring instead over the 2 of a species norm making the odds much higher that the gene could be passed on any individual generation. But, unless there are several generations of inbreeding where both parent carry the same mutation, the math simply never favors a new gene over already common genes.

And even if it could survive and managed to reach a majority of the species, it would take an extremely large amount of generations to do that. Again, the human population is about 7 billion and growing at about 2% annual (I would take a stab at about 50% per generation). Yes, sexual selection may be able to at least keep the gene up with population growth, but to actually begin spreading throughout that large of a population and reach the entire species would take millions of generations.

jojjo said...

Again: your math contradicts observed fact , if it was correct evolution would be impossible (and they had arithmetic back in Darwin's time you know...). You constantly ignore selection in your calculation (understandably, since it's extremely complex; I have no idea what the correct math would look like), you assume that evolution i reducible to one mutation in one gene at one time, which is simply not the case.

"sexual selection may be able to at least keep the gene up with population growth, but to actually begin spreading throughout that large of a population and reach the entire species would take millions of generations."

That is absolutely correct, however evolution is not (only) one gene spreading to the whole spices, that is very rare and does indeed require a population bottleneck; it's also the situation where drift is at its strongest and selection at its weakest (i.e. where chance plays the biggest role). What I'm talking about is diversification: any specific mutation, beneficial or not, will have the greatest chance of surviving in a growing population with lots of "intermarriage", so it doesn't split into several smaller groups. Furthermore, in a large population a specific mutation may occur more then once, and simply the rearranging of existing genes will result in an individual with new traits. What I mean when I say that human evolution accelerates is not that we are changing in a particular direction (which seems to be what you think I mean). Rather that we change in many different directions, all intertwined, which means that every form of environmental pressure, no matter how subtle, will leave an imprint in just a few generations; but it will be a statistical difference, not an absolute, complete one.

jojjo said...

p.s. Who knew we'd get into such a fun discussion? :)

TheAlmightyNarf said...

@ jojjo

"Again: your math contradicts observed fact"

I would like to know what these observed facts are. The article you posted only mentioned 3 mutations specifically, all of which likely first appeared and began to spread from small isolated populations that gave it the chance to gain a foothold.

"if it was correct evolution would be impossible"

Not impossible, no. It simply requires a population to not be too large. Keep in mind that humans first appeared about 200,000 years ago, but the population was under a million until about 10,000 years ago. And, even then the species was spread out over many small isolated populations. It's really only over the last century or so that human evolution began to hit a wall. It's the "globalization" that's slowing things down.

"(and they had arithmetic back in Darwin's time you know...)"

In Darwin's time they had absolutely no idea what actually caused heredity (DNA wasn't even discovered until 10 years after "On the Origin of Species" was published, and wasn't known to be involved with heredity until about 60 years after that).

"You constantly ignore selection in your calculation (understandably, since it's extremely complex; I have no idea what the correct math would look like)"

You're correct that's impossible to do the math with selection involved, and I tend to ignore it. But, that math for forces working against evolution are consistent regardless.

"you assume that evolution i reducible to one mutation in one gene at one time, which is simply not the case."

Sure, there are thousands or even millions of mutations wandering around out there. But the same math applies to all of them. A few will be lucky enough to survive, most won't.

"Furthermore, in a large population a specific mutation may occur more then once,"

The human genome is over 3 billion pairs long. I don't know what the exact odds of a mutation occurring are, but I'd say that odds of both parents having unrelated occurrences of the same mutation are rather small.

"What I mean when I say that human evolution accelerates is not that we are changing in a particular direction (which seems to be what you think I mean). Rather that we change in many different directions, all intertwined, which means that every form of environmental pressure, no matter how subtle, will leave an imprint in just a few generations; but it will be a statistical difference, not an absolute, complete one."

I'd agree that this sort of genetic "noise" would happen fairly regularly. But, I don't really think of it as "evolution" as it doesn't tend toward any lasting change in the species. It's just noise.

"p.s. Who knew we'd get into such a fun discussion? :)"

It's happens enough around here to keep me interested. :)

jojjo said...

Sorry for the late answer, I'll be brief.
The "noise" you talk about is actually essential for a complete understanding of evolution: it makes the difference between evolution and extinction. A diverse species will adopt under environmental pressure, a specialized one will die out. Without the "noise" there will not even be a bottleneck. When circumstances change a diverse species is likely to already have beneficial traits dormant, since evolution select against, not for.

TheAlmightyNarf said...

@ jojjo

I was worried our fascinating conversation was over.

Yes, it's true that that the larger a populations is, the more likely our species would be prepared for a shift in our environment. But, that's merely potential for evolution, not evolution in and of itself. Yes, if a disaster were to strike human-kind, we would likely be able to evolve around it quickly, because then there would be a stark contrast in reproduction rate or survivability. But, right now humans are flourishing to much for there to be all that much of a contrast.

Currently, I don't see that there's anything exerting strong enough pressure on human-kind to overcome genetic drift. With a species as large as ours, it would require something to kill off a rather large portion of the population to do.