[Pdx-pm] Later Learning (2)

Keith Lofstrom keithl at kl-ic.com
Sun May 1 17:35:46 PDT 2005

On Sun, May 01, 2005 at 07:56:34AM -0700, Keith Lofstrom wrote:
> And the truth is somewhere in between.  I'm 51;  I find it is about 30%
> more difficult to learn a computer language than when I was 18.

On Sun, May 01, 2005 at 12:01:51PM -0700, Michael G Schwern wrote:
> I'm 87% sure that 62% of all statistics are made up. ;P

I'm just going by effort to result.  Part of it is reflexes - I gotta
forget some old ones sometimes (just because Perl uses format statements
doesn't mean I must start my statements in column 6 - old Fortran joke).
I think that is where the accents come in foreign language - different
languages use different sequences of muscle reflexes).  What slows down
late-life language acquisition is what you know already, not what you
can't learn.

> Anyhow, the point is this:  Don't use age as an excuse to stop learning.

Absolutely.  My wife started medical school at age 42.  Her class at
OHSU had a dozen middle-aged women in it, who were finally allowed to
attend medical school after the admission rules were corrected.  Those
dozen women rocked the system, and captured all the academic awards.
Easy to understand.  They represented what could have been among the
best of the previous 20 years, and that age and guile often beats
youth and energy.

Considering that med school involves 5000 new words of vocabulary, 
and learning the most complicated platform in existence (one human
cell is far more complicated than the biggest supercomputer), I
suppose that pretty firmly puts the kibosh on "aging stopping

Aging can slow learning down, though, and that is what I am referring
to by a 30% slowdown.  Allnighters are costly at age 50,  the eyes
don't focus as well, there are more connections to make to pre-existing
information.  Still,  70% speed is still infinitely faster than
somebody who never starts, or who is undisciplined and travels in
circles.  I learned Pascal at 18 faster than I am learning Perl
(granted that Perl is much richer), and Pascal was a relatively big
step from Fortran.   While I cannot pick up a new language as fast
as a 18yo, I probably can get to commercial productivity faster.  And
*teamed* with an 18yo, the pair of us can kick some serious butt.

Regards age discrimination:  this is typically about power 
relationships.  It is easier to dominate a 20yo than a 50yo, and
hiring managers know that.  So a 50yo has to look for places that
value experience more than dominance.  Unfortunately, many 50yo's
still haven't grown up yet, and seek positions suitable for 20yo's
(subordinate late apprenticeship, transition to independence)
rather than 50yo's (leadership or counsellor, mentoring the 20yo's
rather than competing with them).  The life cycle is "learn, do,
teach" (repeat) and organizations have little use for older folks
who can't teach.


Keith Lofstrom          keithl at keithl.com         Voice (503)-520-1993
KLIC --- Keith Lofstrom Integrated Circuits --- "Your Ideas in Silicon"
Design Contracting in Bipolar and CMOS - Analog, Digital, and Scan ICs

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