[O]ver my lifetime there have been interesting dramatic changes in the underclasses that I wouldn’t have expected. We know that the spread of science has had profound impact and is probably responsible for the continued increase in intelligence. We know that the spread of general knowledge has had impact. But we have also seen the spread of ‘general awareness’, which means everyone seems to know about almost everything so that unscientific or irrational rumours are much harder to spread.
A lot of this has accelerated since the expansion of the internet, and now even more so because of the universal spread of smartphones. But it was already happening under television, radio, magazines, newspapers, pamphlets and books.
But while the method and content of intellectual discourse (IMHO) hasn’t changed much in the past 150 years or more, the method and content of underclass conversation has changed so much that it’s unimaginable.
I sat at a kitchen table listening to some ‘poor-folk’ (loggers) as a child and I remember how much it horrified me that adults could talk about such nonsense. I couldn’t have been more than twelve at the time. Probably younger. Conspiracy theory is and must be (Dunning Krueger) part and parcel of underclass experience. And it’s probably the most consistent metaphysical assumption of underclass conversation.
But that level of ignorance has been forced out of all but the sub-80-IQ crowd.
I routinely read academic work written over a century ago, and some back into the post-civil-war period. And honestly, aside from changes in technology, the metaphysical assumptions shared in that thought is pretty consistent across the century. (We have to largely discount the sixties and seventies though as an age of mysticism.) I could talk to most pre-war thinkers on level terms and not feel a void separated us. But if you talked to common people in 1900, 1965 and 2014 the difference would be astounding. Not just in what they talked abut, but what they knew about.
Knowledge is enough. Saturation in information will do the job that training cannot.