Joe Bauers was put to sleep. When he woke up 500 years later, in a ‘human hibernation’ experiment that went bad, he found himself to be the smartest person in the whole world.

The message embedded in this storyline of the 2006 movie Idiocracy is that humans are progressively getting dumber. The idea presumably arose from some research findings that the size of the human brain has been shrinking over millions of years, though there is no evidence that this has diminished man’s cognitive ability — which has, in fact, only increased.

The ‘shrinking brain’ theory was born out of studies of the skull size of Homininis — our ancestors. It has many takers. John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin long held this view, as did Christopher Stringer, a paleoanthropologist at the Natural History Museum, London. And, more recently, Jeremy DeSilva, paleoanthropologist at Dartmouth College, produced a paper, after studying 987 skulls, that dramatically announced that the brain size of human ancestors increased 2.1-1.5 million years ago, but started to sharply decrease 3,000 years ago, and is now a lemon smaller. This claim has been refuted by other scientists, notably Brian Villmoare, anthropologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The general explanation is that, after humans became domesticated, turned agriculturists and learned to read and write, a big brain was not necessary. With gadgets assisting us, our brains could become even smaller.

Moral of story: if you want to be the smartest person on the planet, just sleep off for 500 years.