Four years ago, I wrote a blog in which I quoted 29- year-old Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, as saying young people were smarter than anyone else. (Click) By my math, he turned 34 on May 14 of this year, and when I read his recent testimony before Congress, I had to smile. (Click) He blames youth for his failure to anticipate his company’s vulnerabilities. A college kid tooling around with electronics in his dormitory couldn’t anticipate the dangers, he confesses.
Well Mark, I sympathize. It’s hard for the young to admit they don’t know everything. By contrast, the old know how little they know. That makes them a tiny bit smarter.
Ageism has been rampant in Silicon Valley from its start. Unfortunately, that speck of the world has set a tone around the globe. China openly discriminates against anyone over 35. (“Over 30 Need Not Apply,” by Shelly Banjo, Bloomberg Businessweek, May 7, 2018, pg. 50.) In fact, it encourages ageism, believing companies will be ”able to move faster than their overseas rivals by throwing people at a problem and younger workers cost less than their experienced colleagues.” (Ibid pg. 52.) I’m not sure what’s going to happen when these younger workers join 47% of the current population that is already over forty. Sadly, some who have crossed over have chosen suicide.
Stephen Hawking died at 76 but not before co-authoring a paper on the mathematical possibility of parallel universes. (Click) He didn’t subscribe to the common myth that math is a young person’s game and that after 30, a theorist is washed up. Age truly is a state of mind. Zeke Emanuel, a physician, wrote an essay about the advantages of dying by 75 (Click) I’m certain the world is glad Stephen Hawking paid no attention to him.
David Good Goodall, a well-known Australian scientist, thought 104 was a good age to die. Though not terminal and his mind working well, he despaired in the decline of his mobility and his diminished sight. He flew to Switzerland where he could commit suicide without death waiting in the wings. As he drew his last breath, his sole complaint was that the lethal injection was too slow in its effect. (Click) By contrast, my mother, at 102 has a lust for life. She loves nothing better than to take lunch with me. As to her “check-out” time, I doubt she’s given that much thought. She likes lemon pie too much.
When does a life stop having worth? It’s a fair question. I’m pretty certain it doesn’t depend on how well a person writes smart phone apps. I do think people need to feel useful at all stages of life, though. Loving and being loved is one good reason to keep going. Being kind and being treated with kindness is another. We could use a few more humans who can provide both. I’d put those talents above the ability to design an electronic game. If the young don’t see the truth in this, then we old folks had better stick around a while longer.