Zuckerberg Said Older People Aren’t as Sharp. How Wrong Was He?

 

In the words of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, “Young people are just smarter.”Although in certain ways, this might ring true, in others it most certainly doesn’t.

So if you are a small company that is now attempting to enter the 21st Century of the Cloud, of better spreadsheets and better website data analysis, hiring someone who cut their teeth on Edlin might not be the way to go. (Especially if that individual has never moved on from the once-ubiquitous early programming tool.)

Because young people tend to be much more up-to-date on technological matters. I conceded this fact even when I was a youngster in my mid-forties. Back then, if there was some process I needed to have happen regarding my computer or Blackberry, far better to call on the 20-something son and hand the project over to him.

Sure I felt bad that time had marched on. But refusing to face reality meant I could spend several hours conquering my new computer project, and fail to get it done. While of course, it took him mere minutes to succeed.

However, technology is a field where obsolescence is built in. Other aspects of life, like understanding human relationships, and mastering the subtle diplomacy needed to survive several decades-long friendships as well as a marriage, require wisdom, and not technological know-how.

And wisdom develops over time.

Outdoors Online recently published an article examining this dichotomy.

As the report succinctly stated:

A study, conducted by MIT in conjunction with the U.S. Census Bureau, analyzed 2.7 million people who started companies between 2007 and 2014 and found that among the fastest growing tech companies, the average founder was 45-years-old at the time of founding. The researchers also found that a 50-year-old is twice as likely to have a massive success—defined as a company that performs in the top 0.1 percent—than a 30-year-old. “These findings strongly reject common hypotheses that emphasize youth as a key trait of successful entrepreneurs,” write the authors of the study. “The view that young people produce the highest-growth companies is in part a rejection of the role of experience.”

In other words: Success in business, even in the fast-paced start-up world, isn’t just about age-related smarts. Wisdom, a deeper kind of knowing that can only be gained through experience, matters too. And apparently, it matters quite a bit.


All around me the months on the calendar march on. One month is devoted to celebrating African Americans. Cinco de Mayo is now almost a bank holiday here in California, out of recognition for the Hispanic community.

June has become “Pride” month, which offers yet another group of people to celebrate an innate physiological characteristic that many scientists and many gay people believe has more to do with genetics than with choice.

One very pretty spring day a year ago, I announced to a group of grandparents at a local park, all of whom had been assigned babysitting duties over the happy group of toddlers surrounding them, that I felt it was time for a Senior Citizens month.

The remark drew applause.

Whether living to be retirement age is genetics or a choice, aren’t we seniors the group that is now fair game for comics?  Should the new “payment platform” Affirm really be allowed to make fun of an elderly gentleman who wears Speedos and despite his athleticism, is mocked by his unfriendly neighbors for his bad choice in attire?

I find it interesting that it was not an older person of color who had to don the Speedos in this commercial, or an older gay man, but a white guy. Our societal dictates right now are that no one is to ever single out African Americans or gays as a target for “humor.” But older white people are the easy mark.

Brad Stulberg, who authored the Outdoorsonline article I quoted  above regarding the deep connection between wisdom and age ended his account with this:

All of this points toward a greater theme: Peak performance is complex, and results from a combination of variables. Sometimes the variables that are hardest measure, like experience, matter the most. So try not to sulk at your next birthday—Whatever you’re giving away in age you’re gaining in wisdom.

His full article can be read here: https://getpocket.com/explore/item/an-ode-to-being-old

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  1. Misthiocracy has never Member
    Misthiocracy has never
    @Misthiocracy

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill: A study, conducted by MIT in conjunction with the U.S. Census Bureau, analyzed 2.7 million people who started companies between 2007 and 2014 and found that among the fastest growing tech companies, the average founder was 45-years-old at the time of founding. The researchers also found that a 50-year-old is twice as likely to have a massive success—defined as a company that performs in the top 0.1 percent—than a 30-year-old. “These findings strongly reject common hypotheses that emphasize youth as a key trait of successful entrepreneurs,” write the authors of the study. “The view that young people produce the highest-growth companies is in part a rejection of the role of experience.”

    Were the 45-to-50 year old founders first-time entrepreneurs, or had they already founded a series of unsuccessful companies?

    • #1
  2. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    Misthiocracy has never (View Comment):

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill: A study, conducted by MIT in conjunction with the U.S. Census Bureau, analyzed 2.7 million people who started companies between 2007 and 2014 and found that among the fastest growing tech companies, the average founder was 45-years-old at the time of founding. The researchers also found that a 50-year-old is twice as likely to have a massive success—defined as a company that performs in the top 0.1 percent—than a 30-year-old. “These findings strongly reject common hypotheses that emphasize youth as a key trait of successful entrepreneurs,” write the authors of the study. “The view that young people produce the highest-growth companies is in part a rejection of the role of experience.”

    Were the 45-to-50 year old founders first-time entrepreneurs, or had they already founded a series of unsuccessful companies?

    I am a bit peeved that the link to the study does not work. I’ll see if I can locate the study using my trusty Russian search engine “yandex.com” later today.

     

    • #2
  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance.

    — David Mamet

    • #3
  4. The Great Adventure Coolidge
    The Great Adventure
    @TGA

    I’ve been working in the tech world for 25 years now, performing implementations of Transportation Management Systems.  There’s lots of young hot-shots that know way more about coding, EDI, API’s, GUI’s, XML, JSON, and a host of other acronyms than I do.  I have no desire to learn that stuff, nor do I need or plan to.

    But I know the business.  My experience brings the business requirements to the game. I understand the need for the system to be able to model LCVs (Long Combination Vehicles – doubles and triples) in Oregon but that they can’t go into California.  A recent (young) client exec was bragging that their Teamsters contract allows them to change over their operations from static routing (same loads go to the same places on the same days at the same times) to dynamic (load stops and sequences are driven by freight volume).  If he had listened to me and phased this in slowly rather than yanking the bandaid, they could have avoided a strike.  I know the complications of planning ocean movements.  And parcel.  And intermodal.

    Thus the billing rate for the hotshot young (and usually offshore) resource who is banging away writing code is significantly lower than it is for me.

    Shrug.

    • #4
  5. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    Misthiocracy has never (View Comment):

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill: A study, conducted by MIT in conjunction with the U.S. Census Bureau, analyzed 2.7 million people who started companies between 2007 and 2014 and found that among the fastest growing tech companies, the average founder was 45-years-old at the time of founding. The researchers also found that a 50-year-old is twice as likely to have a massive success—defined as a company that performs in the top 0.1 percent—than a 30-year-old. “These findings strongly reject common hypotheses that emphasize youth as a key trait of successful entrepreneurs,” write the authors of the study. “The view that young people produce the highest-growth companies is in part a rejection of the role of experience.”

    Were the 45-to-50 year old founders first-time entrepreneurs, or had they already founded a series of unsuccessful companies?

    Here is “Inc”s take on the same MIT/US Census study:

    https://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/a-study-of-27-million-startups-found-ideal-age-to-start-a-business-and-its-much-older-than-you-think.html

    I realize it doesn’t answer your question.

    I lived In Silicon Valley for some 3 years, and maintained valuable business and maintained personal contacts for two decades more.

    By the time a computer person reached age 40, they would often quip, “If I had held on to all the stock certificates I took from start-ups in lieu of a larger paycheck, I could wallpaper my den.”

    I assume many in their forties and fifties had either worked at start ups or had been involved in start ups that failed.

    That experience helped them finally come to understand the big picture, which is usually not apparent to the dewy eyed young  computer “genius” who thinks a company’s success is about a better idea.

    Sure, MicroSoft, Google and Facebook all are companies which had young ambitious men at the helm. And these young men all touted the superiority of their product as being the reason for their companies’ success. But in Reality Land, all three of these companies had deep ties to early on military support, as well as Google and Facebook being entertwined with DARPA.

    Military contracts and DARPA involvement offer deep pockets to provide valuable funding.

    In the 1980’s, I was privy to companies hiring young technical wizards from our nation’s heartland. These wizards were so happy to leave behind the measly 27K salary for a 39K salary, never realizing that unless they doubled their pay early on, in 15 years time they would be burnt out, and have nothing to show for it. (In the early 1980’s, 27K salary in upstate NY meant home ownership. 39K in the SF Bay area meant you’d be losing your mortgage payment deduction, upping your Fed tax payments and quite often losing the ability to ever leave your status as a renter.)

    • #5
  6. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Here is a report on the results of a 2018 survey of Americans, which found that only 36% could pass the US citizenship test.

    • 74% of those aged 65 and older passed
    • 19% of those under age 45 passed

    This is only one test, of course.

    It appears that Zuckerberg is 38 years old.  I suppose that it’s possible that he’s one of the 20% of people his age who have a borderline understanding of American history, politics, and civics.

    • #6
  7. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill:

    Because young people tend to be much more up to date on technological matters. I conceded this fact even when I was a youngster in my mid-forties. Back then, if there was some process I needed to have happen regarding my computer or Blackberry, far better to call on the 20-something son and hand the project over to him.

    Sure I felt bad that time had marched on. But refusing to face reality meant I could spend several hours conquering my new computer project, and fail to get it done. While of course, it took him mere minutes to succeed.

     

    Conquering the computer project faster doesn’t matter if the computer project is the wrong project. An example from a business class I took mid-career used a ladder example: It doesn’t matter how fast you can climb the ladder if the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall. 

    • #7
  8. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    A very interesting post. I hope it gets the attention it deserves. 

    We have the same phenomenon in show business. A younger screenwriter knows better than an older one what it’s like to be a social media influencer. On the other hand, an older screenwriter knows how to write a movie. 

    • #8
  9. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill:

    Because young people tend to be much more up to date on technological matters. I conceded this fact even when I was a youngster in my mid-forties. Back then, if there was some process I needed to have happen regarding my computer or Blackberry, far better to call on the 20-something son and hand the project over to him.

    Sure I felt bad that time had marched on. But refusing to face reality meant I could spend several hours conquering my new computer project, and fail to get it done. While of course, it took him mere minutes to succeed.

     

    Conquering the computer project faster doesn’t matter if the computer project is the wrong project. An example from a business class I took mid-career used a ladder example: It doesn’t matter how fast you can climb the ladder if the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.

    That is a very good point!

     

    • #9
  10. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    I’ll agree that I might not be as sharp as I was when I was the Space Alien’s age (I’m 67).  But I recall that expression, “Old age and treachery beats youth and enthusiasm any day.”  I’m old, and very treacherous . . .

    • #10
  11. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Stad (View Comment):

    I’ll agree that I might not be as sharp as I was when I was the Space Alien’s age (I’m 67). But I recall that expression, “Old age and treachery beats youth and enthusiasm any day.” I’m old, and very treacherous . . .

    Or, what was it… “Fried Green Tomatoes?”

    “I’m older and I have more insurance.”

    • #11
  12. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    • #12
  13. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    Not brilliant for a CEO, especially a high-profile CEO, to make such a comment in public. It will be used as evidence in the next age-discrimination lawsuit against Facebook.

     

     

    • #13
  14. Misthiocracy has never Member
    Misthiocracy has never
    @Misthiocracy

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy has never (View Comment):

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill: A study, conducted by MIT in conjunction with the U.S. Census Bureau, analyzed 2.7 million people who started companies between 2007 and 2014 and found that among the fastest growing tech companies, the average founder was 45-years-old at the time of founding. The researchers also found that a 50-year-old is twice as likely to have a massive success—defined as a company that performs in the top 0.1 percent—than a 30-year-old. “These findings strongly reject common hypotheses that emphasize youth as a key trait of successful entrepreneurs,” write the authors of the study. “The view that young people produce the highest-growth companies is in part a rejection of the role of experience.”

    Were the 45-to-50 year old founders first-time entrepreneurs, or had they already founded a series of unsuccessful companies?

    Here is “Inc”s take on the same MIT/US Census study:

    https://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/a-study-of-27-million-startups-found-ideal-age-to-start-a-business-and-its-much-older-than-you-think.html

    I realize it doesn’t answer your question.

    I lived In Silicon Valley for some 3 years, and maintained valuable business and maintained personal contacts for two decades more.

    By the time a computer person reached age 40, they would often quip, “If I had held on to all the stock certificates I took from start-ups in lieu of a larger paycheck, I could wallpaper my den.”

    I assume many in their forties and fifties had either worked at start ups or had been involved in start ups that failed.

    That experience helped them finally come to understand the big picture, which is usually not apparent to the dewy eyed young computer “genius” who thinks a company’s success is about a better idea.

    And that’s my point.  The way this study is reported makes it sound like folk should do nothing until they’re 50 and then start a company.  The truth is that the people who succeed at 50 have been trying to succeed for decades.  You need to start when you’re young so that you can succeed when you’re old.  It’s really about perseverance and learning from mistakes, and not about age.

    • #14
  15. DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax)
    @DonG

    Misthiocracy has never (View Comment):
    Were the 45-to-50 year old founders first-time entrepreneurs, or had they already founded a series of unsuccessful companies?

    Exactly.   Past success is a better predictor of future success than age.

    • #15
  16. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    I remember Jordan Peterson talking about “fluid intelligence” and “crystalized intelligence” but don’t remember the details of his discussion, though I believe I’ve seen and experienced the differences in real life. 

    • #16
  17. Django Member
    Django
    @Django

    Misthiocracy has never (View Comment):

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy has never (View Comment):

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill: A study, conducted by MIT in conjunction with the U.S. Census Bureau, analyzed 2.7 million people who started companies between 2007 and 2014 and found that among the fastest growing tech companies, the average founder was 45-years-old at the time of founding. The researchers also found that a 50-year-old is twice as likely to have a massive success—defined as a company that performs in the top 0.1 percent—than a 30-year-old. “These findings strongly reject common hypotheses that emphasize youth as a key trait of successful entrepreneurs,” write the authors of the study. “The view that young people produce the highest-growth companies is in part a rejection of the role of experience.”

    Were the 45-to-50 year old founders first-time entrepreneurs, or had they already founded a series of unsuccessful companies?

    Here is “Inc”s take on the same MIT/US Census study:

    https://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/a-study-of-27-million-startups-found-ideal-age-to-start-a-business-and-its-much-older-than-you-think.html

    I realize it doesn’t answer your question.

    I lived In Silicon Valley for some 3 years, and maintained valuable business and maintained personal contacts for two decades more.

    By the time a computer person reached age 40, they would often quip, “If I had held on to all the stock certificates I took from start-ups in lieu of a larger paycheck, I could wallpaper my den.”

    I assume many in their forties and fifties had either worked at start ups or had been involved in start ups that failed.

    That experience helped them finally come to understand the big picture, which is usually not apparent to the dewy eyed young computer “genius” who thinks a company’s success is about a better idea.

    And that’s my point. The way this study is reported makes it sound like folk should do nothing until they’re 50 and then start a company. The truth is that the people who succeed at 50 have been trying to succeed for decades. You need to start when you’re young so that you can succeed when you’re old. It’s really about perseverance and learning from mistakes, and not about age.

    In the music industry they talk about “overnight successes” that worked in obscurity for 15+ years before making the charts. 

    • #17
  18. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    David Foster (View Comment):

    Not brilliant for a CEO, especially a high-profile CEO, to make such a comment in public. It will be used as evidence in the next age-discrimination lawsuit against Facebook.

     

     

    Zuckerberg’s statement indicates that he may not be quite as smart as he thinks.

    • #18
  19. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Stad (View Comment):

    I’ll agree that I might not be as sharp as I was when I was the Space Alien’s age (I’m 67). But I recall that expression, “Old age and treachery beats youth and enthusiasm any day.” I’m old, and very treacherous . . .

    I’ve told the story before that the two cats on either side of our first house fought over which got to claim our yard (which had previously been occupied by a dog) as territory. The older and generally lazy cat won out over the young enthusiastic cat. 

    • #19
  20. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill: In the words of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, “Young people are just smarter.”

    In his defense, he made that statement 15 years ago. That was before his product completely destroyed society.

    https://www.cnet.com/culture/say-what-young-people-are-just-smarter/

    https://venturebeat.com/2007/03/26/start-up-advice-for-entrepreneurs-from-y-combinator-startup-school/

    • #20
  21. Brian Wyneken Member
    Brian Wyneken
    @BrianWyneken

    Of course there are differences between the old and the young, for instance the “sharpness” component that for many declines as we become more elderly and the plasticity of rapid Brain “growth” for children and young people. But, for most of our lives assuming full function our brains otherwise remain very capable of adapting to learn new skills.

    Nonetheless, there has been for at least several generations these rather silly assertions, popular with leftists mainly, that somehow younger people are just “smarter” than people a generation older. 

     

     

    • #21
  22. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Brian Wyneken (View Comment):

    Of course there are differences between the old and the young, for instance the “sharpness” component that for many declines as we become more elderly and the plasticity of rapid Brain “growth” for children and young people. But, for most of our lives assuming full function our brains otherwise remain very capable of adapting to learn new skills.

    Nonetheless, there has been for at least several generations these rather silly assertions, popular with leftists mainly, that somehow younger people are just “smarter” than people a generation older.

     

    From before Jonah went off the deep end, into an empty pool:

     

    https://www.adrive.com/public/b667dv/Remnant%20with%20Jonah%20Goldberg%2003-15-18%20clips%20Hillary's%20Pillory%2C%20Lamb's%20Slaughter.mp3

    • #22
  23. Headedwest Coolidge
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    I would like to write about this, but I kind of forgot the question.

    • #23
  24. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    I think it was Julian Simon who said that “Youth is a talent”.  The young usually have less to lose and are more willing to try creative things, often simply because they don’t know any better.  Usually they’ll crash and burn (and hopefully learn from the experience).  Occasionally they’ll hit a home run.

    I’m definitely dumber at age 60 than I was at age 30, at least as far as memory and quick recall go.  But that’s different than saying that young people are smarter.  Young people are generally idiots.  I may be dumber than I was, but I’m no longer an idiot.

     

     

    • #24
  25. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    David Foster (View Comment):

    Not brilliant for a CEO, especially a high-profile CEO, to make such a comment in public. It will be used as evidence in the next age-discrimination lawsuit against Facebook.

     

     

    Some of us lose a little mental quickness as we age, and don’t multi-task as well. It helps level the playing field with the Zuckerbergs of this world. 

    • #25
  26. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    ctlaw (View Comment):

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill: In the words of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, “Young people are just smarter.”

    In his defense, he made that statement 15 years ago. That was before his product completely destroyed society.

    https://www.cnet.com/culture/say-what-young-people-are-just-smarter/

    https://venturebeat.com/2007/03/26/start-up-advice-for-entrepreneurs-from-y-combinator-startup-school/

    Glad you clarified the situation.

    But fifteen years ago! When he himself was just a young whipper snapper.

    I wonder how he will feel about his statement some 15 years from now!

    • #26
  27. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill (View Comment):

    ctlaw (View Comment):

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill: In the words of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, “Young people are just smarter.”

    In his defense, he made that statement 15 years ago. That was before his product completely destroyed society.

    https://www.cnet.com/culture/say-what-young-people-are-just-smarter/

    https://venturebeat.com/2007/03/26/start-up-advice-for-entrepreneurs-from-y-combinator-startup-school/

    Glad you clarified the situation.

    But fifteen years ago! When he himself was just a young whipper snapper.

    I wonder how he will feel about his statement some 15 years from now!

    Maybe he’ll finally be smart enough to realize how stupid it was to create Facebook.

    • #27
  28. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Misthiocracy has never (View Comment):

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy has never (View Comment):

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill: A study, conducted by MIT in conjunction with the U.S. Census Bureau, analyzed 2.7 million people who started companies between 2007 and 2014 and found that among the fastest growing tech companies, the average founder was 45-years-old at the time of founding. The researchers also found that a 50-year-old is twice as likely to have a massive success—defined as a company that performs in the top 0.1 percent—than a 30-year-old. “These findings strongly reject common hypotheses that emphasize youth as a key trait of successful entrepreneurs,” write the authors of the study. “The view that young people produce the highest-growth companies is in part a rejection of the role of experience.”

    Were the 45-to-50 year old founders first-time entrepreneurs, or had they already founded a series of unsuccessful companies?

    Here is “Inc”s take on the same MIT/US Census study:

    https://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/a-study-of-27-million-startups-found-ideal-age-to-start-a-business-and-its-much-older-than-you-think.html

    I realize it doesn’t answer your question.

    I lived In Silicon Valley for some 3 years, and maintained valuable business and maintained personal contacts for two decades more.

    By the time a computer person reached age 40, they would often quip, “If I had held on to all the stock certificates I took from start-ups in lieu of a larger paycheck, I could wallpaper my den.”

    I assume many in their forties and fifties had either worked at start ups or had been involved in start ups that failed.

    That experience helped them finally come to understand the big picture, which is usually not apparent to the dewy eyed young computer “genius” who thinks a company’s success is about a better idea.

    And that’s my point. The way this study is reported makes it sound like folk should do nothing until they’re 50 and then start a company. The truth is that the people who succeed at 50 have been trying to succeed for decades. You need to start when you’re young so that you can succeed when you’re old. It’s really about perseverance and learning from mistakes, and not about age.

    Harlan Sanders started Kentucky Fried Chicken when he was 62 . . .

    • #28
  29. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    Django (View Comment):

    I remember Jordan Peterson talking about “fluid intelligence” and “crystalized intelligence” but don’t remember the details of his discussion, though I believe I’ve seen and experienced the differences in real life.

    I am worried about evaporated intelligence.  

    • #29
  30. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    Headedwest (View Comment):

    I would like to write about this, but I kind of forgot the question.

    There was a question?

    • #30
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