Re: Young vs. Old

From: Robin Hanson (
Date: Wed Jul 11 2001 - 07:40:40 MDT

Mark Walker wrote:
> > 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.
>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,

There are two models I had in mind:
IQ = Year of Birth + Personal factor
IQ = Current Year + Personal factor
Both models predict a correlation between year of birth and IQ.
And both predict the factoid Damien B. cited: "Flynn showed that
the increasing raw scores appear on every major test, in
every age range and in every modern industrialized country".

> > 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.
>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. ...

I agree that it is possible in principle for the world to change so fast
that the knowledge of the old is irrelevant. I just don't believe that we
live in such a world. Shakespeare, for example, who lived hundreds of years
ago, has many useful things to tell people today about how lives are lived.

>... Perhaps you'll agree that these are ultimately empirical questions.

Of course, since it is logically possible that you are right,
I must remain open to being show so empirically.

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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