Re: Young vs. Old

From: Mark Walker (
Date: Tue Jul 10 2001 - 16:22:20 MDT

Robin Hanson wrote:

> > >
> > > Those same folks used to be young once. However ignorant they are
> > > they were even more ignorant when they were younger. ...
> >
> >You might be right but I wonder about your implicit ceteris paribus
> >here. If the Flynn effect is real then the greater intelligence of the
> >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.
> instead the world getting smarter makes both old and young people smarter.

You are right. There is of course nothing about the Flynn effect itself that
dictates that it is the young getting smarter. The correlation could be
entirely due to more intelligent geriatrics. But as you know, there is other
evidence that intelligence increase with the year of birth, e.g., children's
brain weight in the U.S. increased one SD from the 1920s to the 1970s. (Our
old friend M. Storfer cites some of this literature).

> >... speed in which the world is changing, certain types of knowledge may
> >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
> >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
> etc.
You may be right about this--it is hard to be sure at this abstract level.
But I think a lot of the items you cite here have changed drastically in the
last fifty years, so I don't know what sage advice Grandpa will have.
Marriages and careers are much more--how shall I put it?--fluid than they
use to be. Very few got divorced in Grandpa's day, most get divorced now.
Very few pursue their entire career with the same company today, many did in
Grandpa's day. Certainly there is a lot more career mobility these days.
Grandpa may have had different views on raising children--most of us don't
have a woodshed anymore even if we wanted to heed his advice. I am not sure
whether Grandpa would understand why one might want to spend so much time
with your "friends" on the internet rather than Joe six-pack who lives
"right next door". We can do all the armchair theorizing we want. Perhaps
you'll agree that these are ultimately empirical questions.

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