Facebook Blogging

Edward Hugh has a lively and enjoyable Facebook community where he publishes frequent breaking news economics links and short updates. If you would like to receive these updates on a regular basis and join the debate please invite Edward as a friend by clicking the Facebook link at the top of the right sidebar.

Monday, June 02, 2003

Is There a Youth Premium?

In a time of accelerating technological change (perhaps this is badly put, since if we look back at human history the pace of technological change has always been accelerating, it's just that now it's getting faster, faster than say ten years ago - again this has always been true to, so I think I need to find a better way of putting this, but you know what I mean), well, as I was saying, in times of accelerating technological chage is there a youth premium? Or put better, is the balance tilting to speed of adaptation over exerience? I think so, but Joerg disagrees, and he wants to defend his corner. Any more takers?

To state it bluntly: I think that probably in a modern economy there is no youth premium. The real premium available is the education premium. Winners will be those who realize that there need be no disconnect
between age and education. The "things getting faster faster"-trope is misleading in that it invites us to think of an automatic process that people merely need to adapt to. That is the videogame fallacy. I just read a news item about a psychological study confirming that gaming improves visual recognition capabilities and therefore might be beneficial for children aspiring to be pilots, drivers or air traffic controllers.

Designing and manufacturing cars and planes in the first place, however, is an entirely different proposition - just like programming a game is. Science and technology are currently becoming more demanding endeavours than ever before. Intelligence, dedication, knowledge, perseverance - all these attributes are surely much less age-related than some of the attributes requisite to success in the 19th or early 20th century economic environments. In fact, to some degree some of them correlate positively with age. I am in the IT business. This means I am regularly treated to reports about IT project failure rates of 70%. Apparently, nobody has ever looked at data on the age of the IT professionals involved. How about those COBOL programmers IBM had sacked and then employed as freelancers when there was so much Year 2000-business to get done? I intended to go after some of that but had to realize that I did not have the requisite knowledge. On the other hand, I know countless instances of young guys starting out with a naive fixation on the newest technology but no firm grasp of specs, requirements, interoperability constraints etc. Either circumspect project management rescues the effort, or those guys spend a few millions and finally throw in the towel. These types of risks were entirely unknown in a heavy industry-centered economy where failure more often resulted from ignoring market signals than incompetent engineering.

No comments: