Twenty-three years ago, an American philosophy professor named James Flynn discovered a remarkable trend: Average IQ scores in every industrialized country on the planet had been increasing steadily for decades.

Despite concerns about the dumbing-down of society – the failing schools, the garbage on TV, the decline of reading – the overall population was getting smarter. And the climb has continued, with more recent studies showing that the rate of IQ increase is accelerating. Next to global warming and Moore’s law, the so-called Flynn effect may be the most revealing line on the increasingly crowded chart of modern life – and it’s an especially hopeful one. We still have plenty of problems to solve, but at least there’s one consolation: Our brains are getting better at problem-solving.

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