The body language is quite distinctive - tentatively pressing keys with an outstretched index finger as if the keyboard might jump up and bite them, pushing around the mouse with their fingertips rather than grasping it with their whole hand, leaning away from the screen as if it might explode in their face.
Some older people just can't internalise the idea of looking at the screen for clues as to how to proceed. No matter how many times they're told and shown, they just don't get the idea that computing is interactive. They try to memorise every interaction as a series of rote steps, so if something unexpected happens they're completely lost. They are completely incapable of navigating a UI without very explicit instruction, even if it's broadly similar to UIs they know how to navigate. Something as trivial as accidentally scrolling down a few lines on a website is a complete showstopper. I don't understand it, but I find it endlessly fascinating.
I wonder how much it would help these people if you framed it more as an interaction with a person. Which it is. For example, telling them things like "OK so the programmer who wrote this told the computer to grab that bit you just typed, and display it for you over here [point, point] for your reference." In other words I wonder whether knowing a little about what's going on inside the thing, and the fact that it was just some silly ordinary dufus that wrote the software, helps a person like that be a better end-user.
Oh, and when you ask them to "look at the screen", they're only mentally able to process a 2-square-inch "window area" at any given moment. So you first have to direct their gaze, very specifically, before you can actually expect them to read and process anything. (Of course it doesn't help that many of them used bifocals that made it difficult to actually see anything up close, except maybe a book, without squinting at a weird angle. Not sure if that's still an issue today.)
The same thing happens to my kids when I present them with a bash shell. They don't understand how to read the instructions, and they're uncomfortable with text commands. They don't want to type 'man' or 'help', and they give up very quickly. Everything they use on computers and game consoles are GUIs, most of them extremely easy to use by the standards of text interfaces like bash & vi.
This is a familiarity problem. You have years and years of experience with your OSes, which is what allows you to see outside the 2-inch window when you use a new application. You know exactly what you can ignore, and exactly what you need to pay attention to. They don't. Being unfamiliar with all of it and not having any idea how any of it works is what makes it seem like they're not learning quickly, but it's more because they're trying to learn everything at once, and are overwhelmed, not because they're not learning at all.
Uhm, the issue here is squarely on Bash's end, not your kid's. Even the Windows command prompt is far more intuitive to learn. I know because I vividly remember how much more confused I got when learning the former.
In Windows, when you type "help", it actually gives you helpful commands: COPY, MOVE, DEL, REN/RENAME, etc. and at least the basic commands are actually what you'd expect. At least you have a foothold somewhere that you can ground yourself, and you start learning a bit more every time.
Try that in Bash, and good luck learning out how to do anything in Bash on your own. Oh, you want help? I gotchu! I'm guessing you're looking for job_spec, bg, compopt, coproc, disown, shopt, or trap? Oh I'm so sorry, you said all you wanted was to just copy a file? Haha I'm just a shell! You can't expect me to know how know what it means to "copy" a file! I can't even find that command! But if you need help, type "man -k" (what kind of a name is that??) to find out more about other commands. Oh, so you typed "man -k"? Okay, "apropos what?"??? (You, thinking to yourself: is 'apropos' even an English word?? I literally just typed in man -k like they told me to, and I got back a question I don't understand...) And on and on and on, until weeks later you realize the darn command was helpfully named 'cp' and not 'copy'...
But, my point is that my kids lose all their confidence and all their patience, and they become tentative and fearful. They show all the same symptoms that were mis-attributed to age in the above comments.
On a game console, my kids are not afraid to explore every menu and push every button. In a text interface, they are lost and they don't try things. They seem to learn slowly and they don't seem to listen to instruction because of how different text UIs are from the GUIs they know. When I get a new text interface, I know all kinds of things to try, and I do so without much fear.
Yes, this. I recall back in the MS-DOS days that I frequently used a text-GUI help menu that showed all the commands you could do and what each one did.
Personally, this is what I struggle with on *nix shells - I can do the very basics but there's little guidance showing you a broad overview of what is possible. Granted, the world is bigger now but if you asked me how to do a random task I'd probably google it first instead of reading a man page.
Once you learn the 8000 or so commands, it becomes incredibly intuitive.
It's not just the shells! ;)
Yes, MS-DOS was easy to learn. XCOPY worked in MS-DOS.
"copy doesn't copy directory structures, it will only copy the files, hence the error message you're encountering. To do a deep copy such as this you can enlist either the tar command and use the construct tar cvf - --files-from=... | (cd /home/tmp/test/files/; tar xvf -) or you can just use rsync."
That's so much better..
The issue in the question is that the person has expanded, into the cp command line, a bunch of full paths, effectively like "cp a/b/c/file1 a/b/d/file2 .... dest" and wants those relative paths to be re-created under dest as dest/a/b/c/file1 and so on. Indeed, cp does not do that; it simply puts the specified objects file1 file2 ... into dest.
An option to create each object's relative path under dest would be useful, but it would be a pretty awful default behavior.
GNU cp has this option:
Form the name of each destination file by appending to the target
directory a slash and the specified name of the source file. The
last argument given to `cp' must be the name of an existing
directory. For example, the command:
cp --parents a/b/c existing_dir
copies the file `a/b/c' to `existing_dir/a/b/c', creating any
missing intermediate directories.
If you lack that basic curiosity and courage, I don't really know how "intuitive" anything can be. Isn't "intuition" driven by understanding concepts behind things? The best way to get that intuition is through a bit of instruction and a lot of experimentation.
Now, you might answer that you can't really break anything that badly with software, but I'd say that's not right. I could delete documents I needed with no way to recover them, or end up with ransomware, or end up putting my credit card number somewhere I shouldn't have, or whatever, and I'll likely be bewildered and unsure what happened, if I don't know anything about computers.
This is the exact same problem I've always had many times when tinkering with electronics, so I can wholeheartedly understand it. Fortunately with computers you can pretty much promise laymen that any problem they cause fixable with no cost (except time), but in the case of electronics I find it much more difficult to overcome the fear that I might actually physically fry something and need to buy a new one. Anyone have tips for that?
A few tips:
- Do not touch anything you cannot afford to lose.
- Buy at least twice as many components as needed for a project, if this is too expensive, that's a good sign you might want to get more experience with more simple projects before taking on this one.
- Avoid soldering as much as possible, at least at the beginning.
- If you want to learn how to solder do it with very simple circuits like those that only include LEDs and resistors. Practice a lot and then use your skills on a project you like.
- If possible, measure components before installing, do not trust your knowledge of color codes or nomenclature or pins configurations in the case of diodes and transistors.
- When tinkering with digital circuits try to use only 5V level components, avoid 3.3V components. Of course you can use converters to interface but it's nice to avoid that complexity at the beginning.
Hope this helps.
Set yourself a learning budget and accept that blowing things up is part of the experience. It's not terribly expensive to buy a large stock of basic components. Sellers like Banggood offer assortments of resistors, capacitors, diodes and transistors for a few bucks. Arduino Nano clones are about $2 each on Aliexpress, so buy half a dozen. The Aneng AN8008 multimeter is more than good enough for student use and costs less than $25; a Daniu DT832 is perfectly usable for basic measurements and costs about $5, so it's no tragedy if you blow it up. You can find an old analog oscilloscope on eBay for about $50.
If you're getting into repair, ask your local thrift stores for broken electronics or buy a job lot of cheap broken stuff on eBay. If you can't fix it, you can always scavenge it for components.
I notice the biggest difference between me and a child is that children don't care about messing up. Meanwhile I often have this worthless apprehension of "better not practice Spanish on these Spanish speakers, I might mess up and feel stupid."
I tried to learn Spanish like I learned how to program. Now I'm living proof that you can become good enough to read books in Spanish yet amaze people with your inability understand spoken Spanish.
Two quick hacks to try.
1) Stop reading books in Spanish silently. Read them out loud. This will force your brain to create neural pathways between understanding, comprehending, and speaking.
2) Put in your earphones and walk down the street. Play something that is like a Spanish conversation podcast and try to mimic what they are saying. Doing it in public will help conquer the 'ego' that gets in the way of making mistakes in public and eventually with other people.
All the polyglots say you have to be willing to mess up a lot and work to shed your fear of feeling stupid. In fact, try to seek it out because that's the primary way you get feedback & learn.
(I've anecdotally heard stories of "gringos" picking up conversational Spanish just from working in the back of a restaurant with a Spanish-only staff.)
In linguistics, it's pretty well accepted that kids learn languages faster than adults for neurological reasons, with considerable research support:
There's just a lot more to learn during first language acquisition than during second language acquisition. It's possible for a child to learn faster than an adult in general, and for it to still take longer to learn a language to basic proficiency, because there's a lot more to learn the first time.
The article you linked even acknowledges that and confirms my premise from above: "Certainly, older learners of a second language rarely achieve the native-like fluency that younger learners display, despite often progressing faster than children in the initial stages."
The research support on second language acquisition seems rather mixed here to me. There's certainly some evidence that kids eventually learn more, but this article presents some evidence against, and the evidence here on time to proficiency vs amount of effort isn't exactly what I'd call considerable. Most of the discussion is on whether second language learners achieve perfection, not on how long or how much effort it takes to become a basic speaker.
Very little discussion on the learning environment difference between kids and adults. Kids get full immersion and years of constant feedback. Adults usually get a few classes or books, a few hours of practice a week, and are usually speaking bilingual while learning, etc. I'd like to see studies comparing apples to apples.
I'd postulate it's probably easier for trained adults to learn new programming languages as they're more familiar with structured syntax and the semantics involved, and are more likely to have exposure/experience with a similar language. Also, concepts from one programming language carry over to another, even if they're expressed differently.
I don't have any studies to back this up; it's just my gut-feel.
When I speak (and learn) Japanese, my conscious understanding of Japanese grammar simply makes it easier. The same when I speak French. I don't unlearn anything; I learn different patterns, and I simply switch to them.
In fact, it's what you suggested about programming languages, but for spoken languages. In my experience, adults can learn foreign languages far faster than children can. Maybe it appears that children are better at it because they are completely immersed in the language they need to learn and have no other means of communication. If I spent 16 hours a day immersed in a foreign language, with people trying to communicate with me and no other way of communicating back, I reckon I'd pick it up pretty swiftly.
But think about how much faster you learned JS than the time it took to learn C (or whatever your first programming language was.)
Don't forget to account for the vast amount of learned information you get to leverage from your first language, even if you have to unlearn a few things or learn a few new things.
Even though JS is very different from C, learning JS was much, much faster for me than learning C was, because I already knew a whole lot about the way all languages work just from learning C.
I'm learning Icelandic right now, and it only took a few weeks of 30 minutes a day to cover some basic conversational skills, gather maybe 100 or so words of vocabulary, and get an introduction to the basic speech patterns & conjugation. It'll take a lot longer to be fluent, but children take years to get that far, because they're starting from scratch and don't have connections to build on. I see a ton of connections to German and English that kids wouldn't.
It's also hard to compare programming to high school Spanish, since it's easy for us to spend 10 hours a day programming, but in high school we topped out at like 3 hours a week of Spanish exposure, and most of that wasn't practicing very hard.
I moved to Mexico as a child (during my first grade year), and learned enough Spanish to go to school, play with the kids, etc. I feel like I'm picking up languages faster now than I did then.
and here: is Chris Lonsdale saying adults can learn useful amounts of spoken Chinese in 6 months, with immersion and being able to watch mouths closely and see how speakers move their moouths to pronounce things (IIRC): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0yGdNEWdn0
and there's a bunch more; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WLHr1_EVtQ and so on
We can't really do the same with languages, but it's interesting! I definitely feel how I tense up if I have to practice openly.
It's difficult to be in the open like that - but it's a lesson in humility.
It has given me a great appreciation of my children who are also in the class (at higher grades), and been a fascinating lesson in learning and development. It's helped me in many ways - I'd recommend it.
1. Don't buy a 2 or 3 octave keyboard like I did.
2. Synthesia is great. Guitar hero for a midi keyboard.
3. musictheory.net is a great interactive way to learn some basics.
My learning is mainly geared towards producing for games, so I thought I could get away with a 25 key keyboard, but I regret it a lot.
A physiological difference you wouldn't have noticed are that children will be making more neural connections than adults at that stage of their development.
...and not so much as physical aging as the cause of these.
Maybe we are mostly surrounded by people who age without questioning culture around them, or their mind and body habits.
I’ve found that with age and certain practices I’ve become more available to learning, more available to retraining/rewiring of habits, and more responsive to change. My strong opinions are more loosely held and I constantly focus on letting go of any grasping that causes me suffering.
“Drop it while it’s hot” has a whole and new wonderful meaning. My body is aging but my experience of the world is becoming more colorful, more vibrant and more exciting.
My dad is close to 80 year old, an active surgeon, at the top of his field, actively publishing papers, teaching, seeing patients, driving to jobs in different cities, with yoga and tennis on a semi regular basis while writing a book and editing a magazine. Many of these require him using a desktop and laptop computers, he just got an android smartphone which I wished him luck with because it’s too complex for me to support.
All of the new stuff I’ve started has been on the cautiously optimistic end of the scale. This could be the best thing ever but it’ll take a long time for it to be so. Just show up until then.
But the all else being equal part is the catch. Adults often don't put as much effort into the work as children and a big problem is preconceptions that people have difficulty letting go of.
I also consider myself some slight degree of proof of the hypothesis. I didn't even learn how the pieces moved until I was 17, which is ancient in the chess world, and didn't take it seriously until I was in my 20s. And now I have enough grandmaster scalps to create a.. err.. something that uses lots of scalps!
But Progressing through to expert or world-class? History verifies the conventional wisdom that ages ~12-30 show the greatest gains.
And when you look over to things like language and music, the difference in learning ability is vast.
Kids can become trilingual effortlessly, while adults almost never get close.
Laszlo Polgar's experiment is tangential but an interesting aside here at least on the notion of 'conventional wisdom'. Polgar wanted to perform an experiment on the nature of mastery of something (mathematics/music/chess/etc) being a matter of work rather than some natural talent as was, and remains the view of 'conventional wisdom.' After some consideration he decided to use chess, something he had no particular talent in, as his test bed -- and announced beforehand that he would create a master. He found a wife (also of no meaningful chess talent) willing to participate and they had a child which was their experiment subject. In fact the experiment was made doubling interesting by the fact that he had a girl. Then another. Then another. "Conventional wisdom verifies" that girls tend to do worse at chess than boys. Those children were Susan, Sofia, and Judit . He created 2 grandmasters, and one international master. Judit becoming the 8th highest rated player in the world!
Language is another interesting example. I enjoy traveling and know many people that became fluent in languages as adults. And the vast majority tend to share one thing in common - they were forcefully immersed in the language. Cutting out the abstracts there - they tend to have wives or girlfriends that speak little to no english. There's no chicken or egg there, they invariably learned the language after moving in with the person. I expect you'll find the children that are genuinely trilingual (and not I took 4 years of spanish in school and can kind of speak it passably type 'fluent') will be made up heavily of children where multiple languages were spoken in their household - the same sort of 'forcible immersion.'
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susan_Polgar
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sofia_Polgar
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judit_Polg%C3%A1r
The difference in circumstances is likely greater than the difference in brain plasticity past a few years old.
This doesn't mean learning ceases past the point (clearly not). But it does mean that changing synaptic weights and forming new synapses comprise the bulk of learning rather than new neuronal projections and creating new neurons of which the later two become insignificant with small exceptions (such as the generation of new neurons in a small region called the SVZ and also in the hippocampus, a region important for memory though I don't know if the role of these new neurons is known in any great detail).
Adult learning necessarily uses restricted mechanisms compared with children and adolescents. It's still a general learning machine though, though rate of learning might suffer (I'm not familiar with that part of the field).
However I suspect that everything else being equal children do have a higher skill ceiling because there are very few late achievers in chess.
An experiment would be needed, take a group of 10 year olds, 20 year olds and 30 year olds and immerse them in intensive 5 year course of study.
I would wager that the 10 year olds as a group would have progressed further.
Why do I say so? Because, it is incredibly hard as an adult to obtain the so called unconscious mastery in any field. (Ie what Gladwell alluded to in 'Blink'). It is the pattern recognition that's been alluded by many.
With kids this can happen, 'the jump' so to speak. With adults I've not seen it happen in almost 40 years of playing chess at a decent level(FM).
I remember it somehow clicking for me at 14 for chess. It is the level when you do not have to think and you can make a good move. It was the level when I realized I could keep up with IMs.
Of course you need both pattern recognition(GM-RAM) and the ability to calculate. Ability to calculate can be trained, but it is also part of talent/ability.
Among my kids and nephews only one has that ability.
Are you going to tell me that among your adult students all have the raw ability/potential to make master?
In my opinion, I think anybody (of at least 'normal' mental capacity) has the potential to make master. Will any of my adult students do so? Absolutely not. They want to improve at chess, but want to do so in a way akin to taking a pill. Like you obviously know there is an immense amount of work to improvement and chess improvement is extremely weird. For instance extensive tactics study are key for improvement, but it's not like you'll see it instantly reflected in your rating - and after some time of diligent work and effort, it's entirely possible that somebody's rating might have even decreased. Something I experienced, as well as most other stronger players I know, is the 'stair step.' You don't improve steadily and linearly, there's these weird huge jumps where it seems like somehow you wakeup one day and are just xxx points stronger.
People understandably expect proportional rewards to proportional work, but that's just not how chess improvement works. I also think this is how so many adults get trapped in opening study - there the rewards can be immediately visible, even if it's not really all that helpful to your overall improvement. Kids don't really think about these sort of things and often just enjoy learning about the game and solving the problems. But adults are generally doing it as a means to an end and have much more difficulty dealing with the nature of improving at the game. And it can also directly lead to self doubt in them as they use this as an indicator that they've plateaued, lack talent, or whatever else. And lacking confidence in chess is a great way to kill your results.
I wonder that too and do believe that it is largely about attitude. Part of it, however, is also wisdom. For example, as adults, experience has brought us to the point of realizing that a lot of what drives younger people is just buzz and bullshit. 99.9% of the things everyone claims are "THE NEXT BIG THING YOU MUST NOT MISS OUT ON!" end up being of no practical consequence whatsoever to life or society.
I can't find it, but I recall an article in Science showing that Myelin production is increased when there is a continued demand for it (so Myelin production can be trained like a muscle to some degree). The higher-level interpretation was that since Myelin production is connected to brain elasticity and learning, that once you get over a initial bump of starting to pick up the habit of learning more Myelin would be produced and it would be easier to learn going forward.
Anecdotally I found that to be very true. It was always easier for me to pick up new things during the week when I kept my brain in a "learning state" on my off-days by reading books or having a stimulating discussion with friends. But who knows, that might just as well be a Placebo effect.
(Sorry for missing reference, and the unscientific jumping to conclusions)
He wanted to be able to follow family and see everyone's pictures and whatnot.
He was always into learning tech and liked gadgets though. I remember in the early 90s he had a car phone. I thought it was the coolest thing ever, and he was the only person I knew with one.
It reminded me a quote (that I'll try to interpret/translate as best as I can): That's not you stop playing games as you get older, it is you get older when you stop playing games.
I am a young person, but I live it, feel it as I age.
So many people can be taught that a growth mindset is all you really need to continue to improve at a skill, yet the distributions are still bell curves and people still plateau where they are at.
It is observed in adults as well as children, but there is definite decay in that ability.
By 'observed', neuroplasticity has been observed at the microscopic level, as well as higher levels, such as brain remapping of function following injury.
This is where you've made a presumption using your imagination.
It's just luck whether you can still do coding at 40,50,60,70+. You WILL reach an age where you will not be mentally capable of doing all the things you want to do whether that is coding or driving a car. Maybe science and modern medicine can save us, but it's too late for my poor mother.