Why are Americans getting dumber?
IQ scores are nosediving after a long increase
New research from the United States confirms a worrying trend — a long-term decline in IQ scores. In cruder terms, Americans are getting dumber every year.
According to a report in Popular Mechanics, researchers from Northwestern University used “survey responses from 394,378 Americans between 2006 to 2018 to examine if cognitive ability scores changed within the US in those 13 years”. What they found was a general, though not uniform, drop-off in measured ability.
Signs of decline have been picked up in other studies too. For instance, research by psychologist Jean Twenge found that Americans at each education level were less verbally skilled in the 2010s than their 1970s counterparts. And before Europeans get too snooty about the apparent dumbing down of America, there’s evidence of similar trends in France, Finland and German-speaking countries. ...
President Le Pen? It’s never been more likely
A new poll finds that she is the leading candidate to replace Macron
If Giorgia Meloni can become Prime Minister of Italy, then why can’t Marine Le Pen become President of France?
She’s already made it to the final round twice — even if she did lose to Emmanuel Macron both times. However, she can’t lose to him a third time because, after two terms, he’s not allowed to run again. So, assuming that Le Pen has another crack at the Élysée Palace, she won’t have to face her nemesis.
In fact, there’s a strong case that she’s now the leading candidate. It’s still early days, of course, but a shock poll from Ifop-Fiducial gives us an insight into the current state of play. ...
Sanna Marin’s fall confirms that populism is back
But it is not a rejection of Western support for Ukraine
The list of internationally famous Finnish politicians is not a long one — arguably it consists only of the current Prime Minister, Sanna Marin. In part, that’s because she breaks the famous rule that politics is showbiz for ugly people. More importantly, she was in office when Russia invaded Ukraine.
Finland, like Ukraine, has a long border with Russia and used to be part of the Russian Empire. Marin’s response to Vladimir Putin’s invasion was to reverse her nation’s postwar policy of strict neutrality and join Sweden in applying for NATO membership. Her place in the history books is assured — which is just as well, because last night she lost the general election. ...
Why is Jeremy Hunt attacking Joe Biden?
The Chancellor has taken aim at the Inflation Reduction Act
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is probably the biggest thing that President Joe Biden has done in office. But don’t be fooled by the name — it’s not about reducing inflation but, rather, about directing a massive package of subsidies to American industry.
The EU isn’t happy about this at all. Its own industries are already suffering the consequences of Putin’s war, so the last thing that Europe needs now is a wave of unfair competition from the United States.
In all of this the UK has been strangely quiet — until today, that is. Writing for the Times, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, appears to side with the Europeans. Referencing Biden’s IRA he insists that Britain’s approach will be different — “We are not going toe-to-toe with our friends and allies in some distortive global subsidy race.” ...
We can’t stop AI — so let’s ride the tiger
Elon Musk wants to temporarily halt the training of systems
Just for once, an open letter that actually matters. This one is signed by some of the world’s top technologists including Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX, Twitter etc.) and Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple).
These are people who know what they’re talking about — so when they say they’re worried about artificial intelligence (AI) we should listen. Clearly spooked by the rapid progress made by AI language models like GPT-3 and now GPT-4, they’re calling on “all AI labs to immediately pause for at least six months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4”.
Like William F. Buckley’s definition of a conservative, the signatories find themselves “standing athwart history, yelling ‘Stop!’”. However, that’s just the problem. Even if we do stop in the West there’s no guarantee that anyone else will — least of all the Chinese. To call for a pause in AI development now would be like President Roosevelt halting the development of the atom bomb in 1944 and expecting Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin to do the same. ...
Why are Americans dying so young?
US life expectancy is falling well behind Europe
Most of us Brits realise that the US is richer than the UK. But just how much richer still has the power to shock. In 2021, American GDP per capita was $69,185 while the mother country got by on just $46,542. In fact, viewed state by state, America is richer than almost all of Europe. Only special cases like Norway, Denmark and Switzerland do better.
However, before European readers feel too inferior, there’s a twist in the tale — despite their superior wealth, American lifespans are significantly shorter. In fact, as the above chart from NPR shows, the longevity gap between the US and comparable countries is widening. ...
Are raccoon dogs really to blame for Covid?
The latest origin theory for the virus doesn't hold much water
Last week, the Atlantic published an article entitled “The strongest evidence yet that an animal started the pandemic”.
It concerns a new analysis of genetic samples taken from a wet market in Wuhan, which is supposedly where the Covid pandemic started. The study shows DNA from the virus was found in the same place as DNA from a fox-like mammal called a raccoon dog. So, could this be the missing link between SARS-CoV-2 and a host population of wild animals?
That’s the implication of the Atlantic scoop and many subsequent pieces in the American mainstream press. But just how conclusive is the new research? And does it really strengthen the case for a natural origin of the pandemic, as opposed to the politically explosive lab leak theory? ...
The Dutch farmers’ party victory is a warning to the green movement
People across Europe are fed up with unfair environmental policies
Last week, Dutch voters went to polls to elect their provincial councils and the country’s Senate. The full results are now in — and show that the populist Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB) has won an even bigger victory than expected.
With over 19% of the vote, the BBB finished clearly out in front in a very crowded field. What makes this triumph all the more remarkable is that the party didn’t even exist four years ago. It has come out of nowhere to redefine the political landscape.
The dramatic rise of the BBB is a warning to the green movement. That’s because the party was formed in opposition to anti-pollution laws that threaten the livelihoods of thousands of small farmers. For this kind of movement to make so much headway in so little time in such a progressive country shows what can happen when green laws go wrong. ...