Being an idiot is not an insurmountable problem. If you are aware of how moronic you actually are, there’s a good chance you’ll try to do something about it. The real problem is not ignorance itself, in other words. It’s ignorance of one’s ignorance. A recent YouGov poll reveals that only 4% of Americans think they are less intelligent than the average American.
This makes sense. No one wants to consider himself “below average.” But the fact is that the whole idea of “average” means that, necessarily, 50% (minus 1) of any population is lower than average. That’s what average means. Being of below average intelligence doesn’t necessarily mean you’re stupid either. The average millionaire still possesses more wealth than most. And the average genius is smarter than I am by far.
The YouGov poll doesn’t tell us much about how smart Americans actually are. It mostly tells us how arrogant most of us are. We inflate our self-worth, mostly by devaluing the worth of others. For instance, in this same YouGov poll, only 44% of survey-takers thought Americans in general were “averagely intelligent.”
So the 4% number is even worse than you thought. Most Americans think they are smarter than the average American, apparently, because the average American believes the average American is a complete dundermuffin. On that, I think I can agree. The YouGov poll even corroborates that to some degree.
There are some really interesting tidbits in the poll. For example, one percent of people with doctoral degrees consider themselves “much less intelligent” than the average American. How is that even possible? Did they get their doctorates in self-depreciation? Also, white people, rich people, and men are more likely than their counterparts to overestimate their intelligence. No real surprise there, I guess.
This YouGov poll doesn’t really indicate much about the current state of American intelligence. But it does indicate that Americans aren’t going to get much smarter in the near future: why would you improve if you don’t think you need to? And given the currently insipid state of America, that is harrowing news indeed.