Sunday, July 11, 2004

Too soon old, too slow wise

My father used to say, "Too soon old, too late smart." The trouble is that the evidence suggests that we get dumber as we age, not smarter (Over 30 and over the hill, The Economist, June 26th 2004, p60).

Our numerical and reasoning abilities are said to peak in our 20s and early 30s; the only abilities that get better with over time are knowledge-related ones like verbal fluency, which peaks in the early 50s (Age and individual productivity: a literature survey, Vegard Skirbekk, 2003). After that, its all downhill, at least as far as job performance is concerned.

The Sixties saying, "Don't trust anyone over thirty" may need to be recast as, "I'm smarter than anyone over thirty."

The only hope is that wisdom grows as rapidly as cognitive ability declines, or, with luck, a little quicker. If it doesn't, the kids might as well drop us oldies off at the water hole as lion bait and move on.

Garrison Keillor gets to the point: "Age does not always bring wisdom. Sometimes age comes alone."

Here, kitty kitty kitty...

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