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nobody seems interested in looking at the thing from the other perspective - why was it an evolutionary advantage for older people to develop this uncertainty-blindness? i would guess that perhaps with age the importance of making a decision rises, even if not the best decision. perhaps it's an evolutionary adaptation to reduce analysis-paralysis in developed adults and improve their self-sufficiency? in any case, it's interesting how we all jumped to "fixing" it. a cute reflection of the culture here.



A wealth of experiences can be a source of wisdom, and a good basis for decision making. Instead of rejecting that advantage in all situations, I think people are exploring ideas about how to learn when prior assumptions should have less bearing.

From my experience teaching older people when I was younger, and myself no longer being 20 anymore, the challenge is figuring out which assumptions to question.

Let's say I'm reading a math proof, and don't really understand a statement. If I pretend I understand it well enough and keep going it might make sense, or maybe I'll get further lost. I feel like I had a better sense both of how not to get bogged down, and when to slow down when I was younger.


That may be asking the right question the wrong way round.

The property of neoteny - the retention of juvenile features in adults is one of the things that humans are particular noted for, and learning is one of them. So we could well still be evolving the ability to learn later in life.

The other unknowable here is environment. It is a lot easier to learn things via the internet than it was even 10 years ago, and it is also a lot more important to keep learning in many jobs. So the really interesting experiment will be to take today´s 70 year olds, who had to be content with evening classes if they could find the time to learn new skills, and compare with today´s 20 year olds, in 50 years time.

In my peer group at least, the difference between those who never opened a book after they left school (a sad, but surprisingly large number of people even with university educations), and those who kept reading, is huge - which also supports the findings.


There doesn't need to be an evolutionary advantage for everything (e.g. vestigal features) - this "uncertainty-blindness" could have just not been exposed to evolutionary pressure.


Very few 70+ year olds are reproducing so evolutionary advantage doesn't make sense in that age group as they have already reproduced (or not) by then.


Historically the aged sat around the fire and taught the young. Which encouraged their genes' propagation. Since Humans became social, its not been all about reproduction.


this is all extremely speculative, of course! but i would say that anything that affects your thinking can pose an evolutionary advantage or disadvantage. (to also answer a peer comment here:) including when you are past your reproductive age, since human beings are social beings, and our evolution cannot be regarded purely individualistically. to give an extremely stupid, but i hope illustrative example, a society where the old people go extremely stupid and start killing people around them is going to have a hard time ;)


It's an interesting question, but many of the changes that occur with old age could simply be side effects of optimizing for performance before and during reproductive age and need not be evolutionarily advantageous per se.


isn't that just saying the same thing, but in different words? :) better reproduction is the ultimate evolutionary advantage. edit - ok, not "the ultimate", but i guess you know what i mean.. ;)

edit again - i'm a little slow today.. you're right, it might just be an accidental side-effect, sure.


Or just maybe fixing the brain after too many years becomes harder (less viable) than just creating a new brain (a baby). Just like old cars are disposed instead of fixed... Or in programming terms: just like building something from the source code is more viable than directly fixing a binary.




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