Searching for a scary movie to watch on Halloween, we came across Idiocracy, a sci-fi satire about the world’s dystopian future. Not a horror film, but its prophetic depiction of the dumbed-down society we’re rapidly becoming is terrifying, nonetheless.

Written and directed by Mike Judge of Beavis and Butthead and Silicon Valley fame, the movie is about an average Joe (that really is his name, Joe), played by Luke Wilson, who awakens 500 years in the future from a botched hibernation trial to learn that he’s now the smartest man alive in a society of media-addicted morons.

When Joe is taken to the White House, he meets the Secretary of State, who repeats “brought to you by Carl’s Jr.” after everything he says. And the President – porn star and five-time wrestling champion Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho – looks Joe up and down and says, “So you smart, huh? I thought your head would be bigger. It looks like a peanut.”

Since everyone’s a moron, the only structure left standing on the ruins of civilization is a city-sized Costco with a jumbo jet crashed through its roof that no one seems to notice. A public defender named Frito actually got his law degree there. And the new mega-conglomerate version of AT&T is called AOL Time Warner Taco Bell U.S. Government Long distance.

That’s supposed to be 500 years from now. If you ask me, we’re getting there way ahead of schedule. Even more concerning is that the film, released in 2007, actually preceded the smartphone / social media revolution. Things have only gotten worse.

Urban Dictionary defines Idiocracy as “A movie that was originally a comedy, but became a documentary.” Chilling indeed.

Chapter 3 of my new book is actually called The Idiocracy Effect, a term I use to refer to the effect that our socially connected, post-Web 2.0, world is having on our ability to focus and think critically. We may not be devolving genetically, at least not yet, but behaviorally, we’re well on our way.

Part of the problem is that we’re all so distracted by the 24×7 bombardment of media, messages, emails, tweets, updates, posts, videos, and images that we’re no longer inclined to question, let alone verify, anything. We take fads, myths, and complete and utter BS – pretty much everything we hear and read – at face value. Big mistake.

Critical thinking and the scientific method are both based on the Socratic method – the questioning of common wisdom and beliefs to determine their validity and seek optimum solutions to problems. None of the benefits of modern society and technology would exist without the classical Greek philosopher, Socrates, and his eponymous method.

Meanwhile, consider the ever-growing list of words, phrases, and titles that used to exude integrity but have become so diluted that they lack any credibility: CEO, entrepreneur, political leader, business leader, journalist, news, ‘A’ grade, award-winning, best-selling, investor, professor, academic, expert, influencer, keynote speaker, TED, research, study, attorney, common wisdom … it’s a long, long list.

The Idiocracy Effect impacts every aspect of our lives in profound ways. In business, in politics, in education, in our careers — every day we’re tempted to make decisions based mostly on nonsense. The solution of course is to question everything, accept nothing at face value, trust your gut, think, and for God’s sake, use a little common sense.

The future is not preordained, but we can only change it by our actions today.


Image courtesy 20th Century Fox