Re: Young vs. Old

From: Robin Hanson (
Date: Tue Jul 10 2001 - 13:54:18 MDT

Mark Walker wrote:
> > > > To me one of the great tragedies of the human condition is that the
> > > > young largely ignore advice from the old.
> > >
> > >The same folks who are repeatedly fleeced by evangelists, stock shams,
> > >telemarketers ...
> >
> > Those same folks used to be young once. However ignorant they are now,
> > they were even more ignorant when they were younger. ...
>You might be right but I wonder about your implicit ceteris paribus clause
>here. If the Flynn effect is real then the greater intelligence of the youth
>may allow them to gobble-up more from the epistemic trough.

I think you are assuming that an individual's intelligence stays constant
across their lifetime, but increases with the year of their birth. Perhaps
instead the world getting smarter makes both old and young people smarter.

>... speed in which the world is changing, certain types of knowledge may no
>longer be particularly valuable. Grandpa might no better how to replace a
>vacuum tube in a radio, or get over the Berlin wall, etc. but the value of
>this knowledge is not what it used to be. Even fleecing has become more
>sophisticated: knowing how to get an Encyclopaedia salesmen's foot out of
>the door might not help the elderly in avoiding telemarketers.

Yes, but the areas in which the young are the most resistant to the advice
of the old are the areas where knowledge should transfer the best: love,
marriage, friends, children, careers, work ethic, institutional reliability,
etc. And in fact I'd say knowing how to say no to an Encyc salesman is
probably most of what you need to know to say no to a telemarketer.

Robin Hanson
Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030-4444
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323

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