Time Heals All Wounds.. And Then Kills the Patient
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Fri Oct 6 10:34:54 2006
Faraday Sukkah

Happy 116*, for anyone geeky enough to know what I'm talking about.

Apart from all this moving at work that has me irritated, everyone's been hearing the sound of hammering and other tool noises. A few days ago I went to check it out -- computer support were building a wooden enclosure in a neighbouring office. It being near Sukkot, and with the things springing up all over town, I assumed that someone was starting to build one indoors for later transport to someone's home. On the second day, I asked -- I was completely wrong and they were building a Faraday cage, presumably to conduct EEG experiments in. I'm thinking it would be a neat project to build my own largeish Faraday cage.

In the recent elections for the Wikimedia Foundation Board, there was a lot of active discussion on appropriate age for a candidate and voters. There were some people running who were 18, some others who wanted to run who were younger, spreading through the spectrum of youngish ppl like me (age 28) to people in their 50s. Interesting was the degree of anger that some young folk tossed at anyone in suggesting that younger candidates would likely not be good in the seat. They tossed the word "ageism" around heavily. I think this is a kind of popular stupidity - a taboo that directly leads people away from decent conclusions. I don't think that age itself has a strict correlation with intelligence and suitability, but there are two areas where age is very important for important leadership ability in roles like this. First, age usually corrisponds to life stages -- in western culture, one long stage in life is when one's living in the nest with one's parents doing initial schooling. The fortunate then go on to university/college, living away but still financially tethered. Everyone then enters the job world, working to support themselves financially while often living alone. The fortunate and interested then meet a suitable other person, cohabit, and possibly start a family. Each step adds responsibilities, trimming out some impracticality and adding some "life maturity". These responsibilities add skills and tweak priorities of many sorts that are useful for many endeavours, including the board seat -- the ability to work with others, deal with money, hold a job, set priorities, avoid impulsivity, etc. An 18 year old hasn't yet learned all those lessons, even if they've gone through to the job stage immediately -- it takes time for these things to sink in and adapting to new circumstances to finish. Unfortunately the wisdom of this is lost to the demos on Wikipedia - being mostly young kids who feel their egos bruised by the idea of their not being awesome in every way, they lash back with terms like ageism and refuse to discuss things like this. As a result, the demos elected someone so full of themself as to brag that he never has held a job because he refuses to work for someone he thinks is less intelligent than he is. Second, age at least provides opportunity for personal growth - even the brightest wunderkind has not learned close to everything they're going to know at age 18. A broad university education helps with being a well-educated person (especially the non-vocational stuff), and thankfully is increasingly common (and required) in today's world, but it takes time for the knowledge gained in that time to come to fruit - even the best programmers at CMU (we have a good CS school) will be much better after years of experience hone their judgement and their workflow. One cannot rightly simultaneously hold the possibility of improvement and the egality of skill/judgement/etc of all people. Some people squander the years they're given for self-improvement and enjoyment, or focus exclusively on one or the other, to their detriment. To those older than us, we should then assume at least that they had the opportunity in their added years to grow wiser, more knowledgable, and towards a saner personality - in sum, towards better possibilities than we have. We should not assume they have in all or any aspects, but that they may have is undeniable. Those who haven't grown enough probably shouldn't be on the WMF board, and similarly, we can understand and respect the minimum age for presidents and other high positions in some countries.