Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Are younger people smarter?

Mark Zuckerberg, the 22-year-old founder of FaceBook, seems to think so:
I want to stress the importance of being young and technical. Young people are just smarter. Why are most chess masters under 30? I don't know.

Nothing against 22-year-olds, but here's a more likely explanation: if you have both the virtues of being smart and having lived past your early twenties, you probably have better things to do than go to work for a 22-year-old at a startup. Then again, you can't fault Mark for fluffing his employees.

13 Comments:

Blogger Justin Rudd said...

Up until I was 24, I'd work for anyone and do all kinds of crazy hours. I even worked without normal pay for 6 months on the promise that when the company was bought out I'd get a percentage of the sale price.

Now after 8 or 9 hours, I'm ready to go home and nap :)

5:15 PM  
Blogger Henri said...

Young people are:

* More acceptable to risk
* More brain cells
* Less wise (so willing to do crazy things)
* More adaptable (unlikely to have a specialization yet).

The 30 year old comment is a classic in Maths too. Nearly all great mathematician peaked before 30. After that they either self-imploded or pottered away in their specialization doing little things (relative to the world of mathematics).

Mostly though - I find it's having a family. Playing with your kids is more fun than coding for other people.

That and I can maintain the sugar habit.

7:54 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

Great insight, Henri, especially the point about specialization. I definitely see that in myself (and I'm only 27).

8:05 PM  
Blogger The Absurdist said...

It's a common misconception that mathematicians peak before 30. Studies show (based on publication records) that mathematicians peak at 35 and 55 years of age. Technology and science often has a cult of youth associated with it, promoting an idea that great ideas appear not out of experience but out of a mystical place.

9:04 PM  
Blogger Timothy said...

Seems to be a pretty cynical view. Sidney Harris once said, "A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past, he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future." If these kids are proclaiming themselves to be smarter than their elders, I wonder if it occurs to them that they will soon be the very older folks that they have proclaimed to be inferior - seems like premature disappointment in their futures to me.

I think that most of us start our careers with a general body of knowledge. That's the easy part. There are two paths from there. One path leads to expertise - the kind that breaks through new barriers in your field of choice. The other leads to leadership. As you move along, you learn to inspire others to reach levels you may not be able to reach alone. Sadly, youth generally fails at the latter.

Anyway - just two cents. Cheers!

10:06 PM  
Blogger Breed said...

There are two kinds of genius, the under 30 genius, and the older genius. Wired had a good article about a sudy that David Galenson did.

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.07/genius_pr.html

7:51 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

There is a more obvious explanation to Zuckerberg's quotes -- he's an idiot. He's a young guy with lots of people around him telling him how smart he is because his company is successful. He has made the mistake that many people would make -- he's believed the sycophants. Now he's suddenly comparing himself to chess masters.

This just in, success is not a consequence of intelligence. Not only does one attribute not cause the other, there is not even strong correlation.

8:13 AM  
Blogger Jman said...

I believe the prefrontal cortex -- the part of the brain responsible for higher-level cognition -- is fully mature by age 35 and starts degrading at age 55.

12:18 PM  
Blogger stu said...

Try listening to Zuckerberg's (and his partner Jim Breyer) speech/session at Stanford's Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders course...their belief that only "people like us" are useful at FaceBook is stunning.

My opinion of those two, and of what they have to say, is colored by their past hubris. They may score well, and facebook has made them rich, but wow...how clueless can they be?

Stu (washed up and useless at 36)

11:47 PM  
Blogger b0b0b0b said...

I think it's some of the things the previous commenters have mentioned, but it's mostly this:

When you are young, you vastly overestimate your abilities. On the other hand, the stupid also overestimate their abilities. The difference is, if you are not stupid, you have a chance at bridging the gap between actual and perceived ability by applying sweat and luck.

10:04 AM  
Blogger Victor said...

The nice thing about life that this arrogance passes pretty quickly.

7:28 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

Is it just me, or are there shades of "Logan's Run" in the comments made by Mark Zuckerberg - or is it just that I'm old enough to remember "Logan's Run"?

;-)

2:59 AM  
Blogger GaryTheDirtyWhiteMannishBoy said...

Just another attempt at the so-called 'younger and smarter people' to gain more media attention. How smart is it for a young guy as Zuckerberg to have dropped out of college, or whatever just to start a social site on the internet? Amazing that the pc was invented for the young people of today so it would brain wahs them into thinking like this guy does. Keep your sh-t in check, Zuckerberg and other young socialites, because you will get older and die just like everyone else on this planet...

Also, about his discerting view on privacy; this is just so he doesn't have to go through the rhetoric of what the 'powers that be' tell society what is in THEIR main interest, to spy on everyone so as to keep tabs on everyone and where the tax paying dollars go to. Valhalla forbid if they didn't know the whereabouts of where the funds to pay for his, and their, lifestyles went to? Can anyone say, Greedy?! And that ploy that he's donating millions..., just to get more people on Facebook. So to the young guy named Henri; you do the math, Einstein, because your God's gift to life. I guess... (or probably not)

6:20 AM  

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