I think a lot of these "dumb players" (I find this sentiment appalling by the way) were new players and people who were trying different things. The EVE player base is more likely moving into a lack of new blood and a singularity of style. That would be the end of the sandbox.
I really, really wanted to love playing EVE. I did love it for years but over time the game seems to have devolved into this insulated elitist attitude that hates new players or any variety in play styles. EVE is not elite. It never was.
I think the thing that kept me subbed for so much longer than I should have been was the potential of the game. Even though the game is crap in many ways, we keep hanging on to the idea that it could be amazing. We keep forgiving horrible planning and implementation because, if it gets fixed it would be the greatest game ever made. Thesse things will never come to pass. There was once an absolutely brilliant concept that was called EVE. Sadly, CCP seems to have no recollection of that concept anymore. The player base has lost interest in it too it seems. They don't want a sandbox. They want world of tanks in space. They constantly scream about how they must maintain the sandbox but are more than willing to break it at any given moment. We hate bots, but there are oceans of them. We hate RMT but it's a huge industry because those same players buy from them. We kill bots but in fact we kill miners since they compete with the bots. We only kill bots that compete with our own bots.
So I have to say that the "smarter" player base is not smarter. It just does less with fewer actual people but with more alts. I really wish the game was what it could be. I really wanted to like EVE.
As I said, interesting perspective! Particularly the implication that players aren't necessarily playing smarter, we're just all settling into the same style of play. I don't agree in the general case, but for players that have been here several years (say, since before Dominion), I think there's some truth to these statements. EVE players have always imitated what works, and shared with each other stories about what works and what doesn't. But there's no question that recently, creativity has been dialed back even more. People are very focused on what has and has not worked for other players, rather than developing new tactics themselves.
As I said in my post, in a way this is good: if you want a more challenging fight, these days, you're likely to get it. The number of bad ships, bad fittings, and bad tactics being used is markedly down. But the way the comment argues against World of Tanks (which is notorious for having good tanks and bad tanks, good guns and bad guns) is a valid alternate perspective.
Thanks for the comment, Anonymous!