Checking snopes.com, this can’t be verified as something Albert really said, but I understand the sentiment, even though it is poorly worded. First off, every generation looks at the next one coming up and says they are idiots. That’s been going on for generations. It can be found it writings from ancient Greece. I don’t think we have actually been getting stupider for 3,000 years.
One way to look at it is the older generation just doesn’t understand the younger. They have different technology, which doesn’t make sense to them. And, when you grow up with something already in place, like a phone, or a TV, it is hard to appreciate all that went into creating it. Another way to look at it is, at some points in history, we do regress. There are golden ages and there are dark ages.
I’ve been reading lots of Richard Carrier lately. He calls these phenomena, science1 and science2. Science1 are those times and places where new inventions are popping up all over and great progress is made in knowledge and health. Science2 are the times when people just use those inventions without making much if any improvements in them. We could be entering a science2 phase or we could be already there.
In the 1950’s, we cured polio, now we make Viagra. In the 1960’s we had a green revolution and fed the multitudes in Asia, but we still have cycles of famine in Africa because we didn’t finish the job and figure out how to apply those lessons in different climates. 1969 we landed on the moon and since then we have passed the dates of major science fiction movies that predicted moon bases, space stations and commercial travel to space without achieving those visions.
Some of my previous posts mistook the science2 that was going on in the Islamic world as if it were science1. They may have advanced the art of the astrolabe in that time, but they did not advance the science of it. They may have rediscovered some of the math about calculating the size of the earth and made excellent use of Greek knowledge of medicine, but very little can be counted as advances. They should be acknowledged for keeping science alive, but credit for inventions should only be given where it is due.
We still live in a time with more people dedicated to scientific discovery than ever before, so I don’t really believe we are sliding back toward some dystopia. At the same time, we have people who are using the new technology to promote the ideas that intellectualism is harmful and that only bad can come from scientific progress. Because the older generation gave us a world of instant global communication, they can be quite successful at that.