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"If you're over 30, you're a slow old man" – Zuckerberg. He turns 30 tomorrow. (thedailywyatt.wordpress.com)
108 points by tfang17 on May 13, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 134 comments

Seeing this on the front page makes me ashamed of Hacker News. I would have killed the post hours ago, but I was on a plane.

The alleged quote that the submitter put in the title appears to be completely bogus. Is that so? Googling it [1] brings up nothing but this HN page and a few other web pages from today.

If the quote was just made up, then this post manages not only to be asinine linkbait, but fraudulent as well. You don't put made-up horseshit in quotation marks and attribute it to someone.

Apart from that, what an unredeemably stupid thread. This is a shining (or should I say a steaming) example of what we don't want on Hacker News. That ought to be obvious! If it isn't obvious to you, please pay closer attention, and kindly don't post anything until it is.

Now off to bed without any supper, all of you.

1. https://www.google.com/search?q=zuckerberg+"slow+old+man"

This guys says he was there:


You're confusing two things: whether Zuckerberg spoke at Startup School (he did, of course), and whether he said "slow old man" (which someone seems to have just made up). It's bad enough to stir up dumb indignation about something someone said years ago. But to rewrite their words to make them even more offensive? Eesh.

The larger issue, though, is that these discussions are so lame. Young people think they're smarter? You don't say!

It's also lame that we live in a world where interesting people can't speak their minds. (Most thoughts are wrong. Some are interesting anyway.) In a position like that, make one slip and a thousand cackling magpies instantly descend and start pecking at you. How many such experiences before you're trained to dumb down and sanitize everything you say—two? three? After which, of course, people will criticize you instead for spouting vetted corpspeak. Talk about a lose-lose. We're all poorer for it, because it makes discourse much more tedious.

flagged - the title is bullshit anyway and the problem is not so much that somebody fakes linkbaity titles - the problem is that HN audience is apparently interested in it

There isn't a single HN audience.

I came to realize that Zuckerberg didn't program computers: he programmed people. His skill was in understanding how people thought and how to manipulate them.

So it doesn't surprise me that he said that to a room full of young wantrepreneurs ready to kill themselves working 100-hour weeks in hopes of an acquihire (probably by Facebook). It also doesn't surprise me that he blew $100 million on the good cause of helping his home school district -- looked great in the press and continued the narrative he wanted for himself. It manipulates large numbers of people in a way he wants them manipulated. This is his medium.

I wish him the best -- and that maybe he learns a little bit. I know that probably sounds condescending, but Zuck is at a huge disadvantage compared to the rest of us, similar to that disadvantage faced by rockstars: he's at the top of his game. The job has to be a killer, but as far as social feedback goes, he's unlikely to screw it up. When I was 25, if I went in and told my boss he was an idiot, I would lose my job. People would ask me what my problem was, and I'd have a good chance to do some introspection. He has no similar natural social limitations. So he can keep on saying and doing things like this without the opportunity for introspection most of us would have.

That sucks.

EDIT: Removed the first clause, which seemed to be giving some people problems.

the social network was a movie.

Good grief. It was a shortcut. I absolutely don't make such broad generalizations based just on films. If you would like me to support my premise, just ask. Happy to provide it.

Irrespective of your reply to the person above, I think the default position for making claims should always be supporting them and your premise.

You just made a claim without supporting it.

Which is perfectly understandable, because that's how humans normally converse, particularly on topics that are not known to be very controversial.

I think I was quicker and smarter when I was younger. Now I have experience and a broad skill set with which my younger self would not be able to compete. And in ten years from now I plan to be saying that again about my current self. The stuff I produce now is rock solid and well architected. I don't need to work 12-15 hour days because I know how to get things done right, I know the appropriate solutions for a wide variety of problems. I know what works and what doesn't.

That's what I tell myself, too. ;)

Seriously, what I've found I'm better at:

1. Seeing the big picture. It used to be about the technology; now, it's about people. Technology is the means to an end, not an end in itself (usually; sometimes playing is just fun).

2. Predicting pain points. School of hard knocks and all that. I've also seen a lot of technological change from my first BASIC programs on a TRS-80 and Atari 600, which informs that.

3. Knowing when to be passionate. Some things really matter; others, not so much. Those things that matter need the time and energy they deserve; the things that don't matter, well, don't. I'm much better at letting unimportant things go under the bridge, freeing time, energy and mental capacity for more important things.

This does mean it doesn't come without a cost. Here are the tradeoffs (for me, not speaking generally):

1. Much less time available. Life competes, kids have plays and soccer games, yard work has to happen, etc.

2. The desire to beat my head against a problem for 96 hours straight has waned significantly. I'm much more likely to go off and do something else and come back to it later.

3. Learning is different. It's not slower, but the process is different. For things that have a positive pattern match from the past, learning is very fast; but if there is no pattern match, it takes more repetitions to make it stick long term.

Over all, I think I'm a much better software developer today than I was 15 years ago. My code is better, stronger, faster, and I'm not running in circles as often.

In my case, I thought I was smarter when I was younger. In hindsight it turns out I was just better at academic problem solving due to proximity of practice and my solutions/plans were rather shallow.

We were all young once. We all made hilariously incorrect assertions.

Yeah, and this is the place to read them all!

Every time one finds themselves there, it is cause for a smile and a moment of reflection.

freaking hilarious!


This should be comment of the month.

Is it an incorrect assertion?


Taken literally, it seems to be true. Your reaction time slows down after 24, as the data shows.

Reaction doesn't matter so much if your reactions aren't correct.

That's the whole story of HFT.

Good thing that the fetchobject action was performed by a computer then, eh? :)

Except we all know this isn't what he meant.

Though I guess we always need the "technically corrrct" comment ;)

Of course he wasn't talking about reaction time, but it shows an interesting trend. If reaction time slows down, then what else slows down with it? The only reason we accept the reaction time slowdown is because it's easy to measure. What about other attributes which are harder to measure, like general intelligence?

It just seems strange that everyone is saying his assertion is unquestionably false when, if anything, the evidence seems to suggest the opposite.

It's well accepted that the perception of time changes with age.

intelligence does drop as you age, up to around 10pts by the time you're 40.

knowledge however, increases.

Yeah, that's true. Knowledge is more important than raw intelligence, and you can do more with it.

And don't forget experience, skill, wisdom. You could call those all "knowledge" if you want, but they have more specific connotations than just "knowin' stuff".

I don't disagree that being young confers special advantages and powers. Young people can more easily blunder up a wonderful mistake because they have less to lose. That's important. But that's not the only way!

FWIW, that particular study was pure absurdity: The only demonstrated facet of the analysis was that when you compared players of equal standings, younger players relied more upon speed. As reasonable of a conclusion was that "older" players simply made smarter moves rather than faster moves. Absolutely nothing was demonstrated about reaction time.

I look back at things I said and thought a couple years ago and am amazed at how little I knew then. Then whenever I think I really understand something I remember that this has been a pattern for more than a decade.

Now I just admit that I am probably clueless and just try to make the best decision with what I know now. It's helped me to be a lot less cocky.

I'm on the same boat. I tell myself that I will always be smarter five years from now than I am today.

“Why are most chess masters under 30? I don’t know. Young people just have simpler lives. We may not own a car. We may not have family. Simplicity in life allows you to focus on what’s important.” ---Mark Zuckerberg

Because chess is more important than family.

I love this place, but will not deny that the Bay Area tech community's hubris is at astronomical levels.

...I'm just glad we're done talking about splitting California into smaller states.

Good point. The counter-quote could easily be something like "Why do most Nobel Prize winners do their prize winning work in their mid/late 30s? I don't know. Older people have more experience. They prioritize. They have families. Having more responsibilities forces you to be more efficient."

But I won't knock Zuckerberg for being young and naive once. I was too. Hopefully he's growing up a bit and realizing that there is a lot more to success than founder age.

Fluid intelligence (basically ability to process new things quickly) falls with age while crystallized intelligence (basically knowledge/experience) continues to improve, eg:


Depending on what your problem is you may want a younger person or an older one, or both.

The youth think they know everything, but the old know they don't know everything.

Honestly though, 30 isn't that old. Perhaps it was growing up with older parents (they had me when they were over 40) but I've never viewed even 40 as "old". Getting there, sure. But not old. Old is like 70 -- retirement home.

I have to agree completely with you there...

My parents were in their 40s while I was starting elementary school, and can't help but see that as 'old'.

The youth thought they would know everything, but the old know they haven't yet and would not likely to.

Zuck invented FB as a 20-something. Bradeen, Brattain, and Shockley were 37-45 when they invented the transistor. See: http://m.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/02/big-breakthr... (breakthroughs happen in late 30's).

I'd be interested to know the number or ratio of startup created by under 30 and have failed vs number of startups created by over 30 and failed. My guess is there'd be less failure by over 30 founders.

Data/results from it would be near useless unless you were able to question only people with zero-responsibility (ie no family, commitments) and equal risk.

Not necessarily - depends on your goal in such a study. If you were looking to see the impact of age and age alone, sure that'd be tough to control for with all the added factors. However, startups don't occur in a vacuum and I think it'd be interesting to see some comparisons without worrying about age as the only factor.

Most research points to mid/late 30's as the peak of technological breakthroughs (largely determined by age of Nobel winning work). I'd actually be somewhat surprised if successful company founders weren't largely distributed around that same range.

You'd probably want to fix an n, and only compare the nth attempted startup for each person.

Only if you're interested in age as a strictly biological factor. Most of these discussions focus on age as a proxy for experience, in which case a larger n is entirely the point.

If you're looking for experience, then just look at experience (e.g. number of startup attempts).

So what are some technological feats that people under 30 have achieved? The only one I can think of is Linux, I think that Linus was like 22 when he started it. That being said, I don't know how l33t were first versions of Linux.

My understanding/recollection of the early history of Linux is that it owed a significant debt to Minix [1] which was developed by Andrew S. Tanenbaum [2] at age (wait for it) 43...

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MINIX 2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_S._Tanenbaum

It owed a significant debt to MINIX mostly in that Linus did his work under MINIX while he was getting the kernel to something usable. Code wasn't copied and architecture was quite different (Tanenbaum had mostly bad things to say about the design of Linux).

The original EMACS was written by Richard Stallman and Guy L. Steele, Jr. when they were 23 and 22 respectively. Fortran was proposed by John Backus when he was 29. The first lisp implementation was created by Steve Russell before he was 30.

Those are just three of four things that I checked (John McCarthy was in his early 30s). The idea that once you're over 30 you can no longer hack it is absurd, but that doesn't mean that the opposite has any truth to it.

Edit: Ada Lovelace wrote the first computer programs when she was 27-28.

That's nothing. L Peter Deutsch was between 12 and 15 when he wrote PDP-1 Lisp at MIT. 1958 onwards.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L_Peter_Deutsch http://www.codersatwork.com/l-peter-deutsch.html

So when EMACS came out in '76, it was considered something groundbreaking?

When it came out? Not particularly. Linux wasn't exactly groundbreaking when it went public either though. Typically "big deals" take a few years to get rolling. Much of what was invented by people in their 20s throughout history did not make it to the public until years, or even decades, later.

Throwing out some more: Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, Brian Kernighan, and Johannes Kepler.

The Apple I was a pretty cool feat. Woz was a youngin'.

http://www.technologyreview.com/lists/innovators-under-35/20... (7 on the list are under 30)

http://www.forbes.com/special-report/2014/30-under-30/techno... Another 30

Seymour Cray was just over 30 when the Cray-1 came out.

Off the top of my head:

* John Karmack's game engines for Commander Keen, Doom, Quake * Palmer Luckey's original Rift design * Feynman's "parallel" computer at Los Alamos

And many many more if you include mathematical / physical discoveries although these are not strictly speaking "technological feats". I would add that I do not agree with Zuck's statement, no matter how many examples I can come up with (and despite the fact that I'm myself under 30)

Feynman worked on parallelism with a team of other scientists ranging in ages, he just happened to be put as head of the 'IBM Group' which had been tasked with yield calculations at that time. It's unfair to say he alone invented parallelism, which is sadly becoming the popular opinion.

I don't know enough about the other feats to comment on them.

It's way impressive how young Feynman was when he was apart of the whole project, though. He was the youngest member.

Let me quote an excerpt from Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman (p. 127 from my edition): "... I had a very good group [..] clever boys from high school who had an engineering ability". So yes, it was a team of people, but those working on this specific problem seem to have been high schoolers or recently graduated kids :)

Carmack, sir or madam. Carmack.

Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina with Mosaic / Netscape

Larry Page & Sergey Brin with Google

Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston, VisiCalc

Pierre Omidyar, eBay (some may say it's not an impressive technical feat, I disagree)

Bill Joy did plenty of amazing work before 30 (including co-founding Sun)

Sandy Lerner founded Cisco and did some amazing technical work pre 30

Bob Metcalfe was around 27 when he created ethernet

Can the theory of relativity be considered a technological feat?

Bill Gates was ~25 when they founded Microsoft

The Microsoft trademark was registered when he was 21, which is when they got the Altair BASIC deal.


Independently before they were 30 by both Newton and Leibniz. Good example!

That's irrelevant for two reasons. First, the life expactancy for someone who is x years old was higher than 38, which is the life expectancy at birth. Second, there's no obvious rule of nature that people will accomplish amazing feats at an earlier age if their life expectancy is lower.

Third: That was the life expectancy at birth across society in general at the time, not the life expectancy of somebody fortunate enough to be able to go into academia.

Most of the people mentioned in this thread from that era in fact lived into their 70s or 80s (70 for Leibniz, 84 for Newton, etc). That might be a coincidence, but I suspect that reduced occupational hazards played a significant role.

Did you read the whole thing that you posted?

Yes, and I recommend the article: it confirms that life expectancy was 38 and only 8% of people reaching adulthood lived to be 60.

The article is trying to say that life expectancy is reduced by high child mortality, but that's a pretty harsh adult life expectancy too. Surely almost everybody alive was under 30.

Actually, that's still true: a majority of people in the world are under 30.

Newton himself lived to be 84. He published Principia Mathematica aged 45. As the article explains, life expectancy is just an average.

But it is relevant here: if most people alive are under 30, most stuff gets done by under 30s.

Apple I?

Sure, but was that because Wozniak was < 30 or because he just was a beast when it came to these things?

That wasn't the question. You just asked for things people under 30 had accomplished. Not things only someone under 30 could accomplish.


I doubt that first version of Facebook should be considered some pinnacle of engineering.

Zuckerberg is still under 30, so the current version should still count.

TIL he's been writing it all by himself until now

Cooperation doesn't make a feat less impressive.

AFAIK, Facebook is the most used software in the world. That is some achievement. Even technically - serving so many people is kinda mind blowing

> Facebook is the most used software in the world.

This is very obviously not true. For example, more people use PHP than use Facebook (supposing that there is at least one user of PHP who does not use Facebook, such as e.g. myself). I'll let you construct additional examples for yourself.

And if, btw, you argue that the users of Facebook don't "use" PHP, then I'll argue that they don't "use" Facebook in exactly the same way, since their web browser (or mobile client) is an intermediary.

So was Windows 3.1 at the time...

You are missing the point.

>technological feats

Facebook doesn't really fit into that category. It was MySpace 2.0

I don't think younger people are smarter. Some people younger than I am are smarter than I will ever be, simple as that, especially when it comes to niche topics. But that's true for people older than me, too.

That being said, I feel like silicon valley gives preference to younger people in large part due to ingrained social expectations. A young 20-24 year old that pitches gets a lot of lee-way.

They have a passion and fire in them, so anything they say seems more impressive especially because you might not expect it of them. It's like a 5 year old regurgitating some obscure or advanced factoid...wow you say, what a smart young man! Objectively the kid isn't smart, but relatively speaking he appears very smart, especially compared to other 5 year olds.

The standards increase as you get older. You can't just walk in and pitch like you're an idealistic 20-something. You have to project complete confidence...essentially you need to act like the boss society expects you to already be. In contrast, younger entrepreneurs benefit from a sort of stereotype: younger people are "fresher" ideas, aren't held back by convention, etc. Older people are expected to know how to run shit and aren't allowed to just skate by on vision alone.

I was there at that YC startup school where Mark said younger people are smarter. The atmosphere in the air was part humor and part insight, not some seriousness to mean that older people are stupid in anyways.

The most important thing he said that day I can remember was that his company was, no matter what, a "software" company, and even his chief legal team lawyer codes as well, and stressed the importance of understanding and doing coding.

Now, I'm 32, and made a lot of money in my late 20's, and also in my early 20's, but lost everything right before I turned 30 in some legal grow op investments in California. I've never had a successful startup, even though I had a successful affiliate program in college, and am beginning to feel old.

When I was 22, in college and making more than a plastic surgeon because I figured out how to generate oodles of mortgage leads online during the mortgage bubble, I not only felt different, the world itself was different. Everybody seemed to be happier, friendlier. The world is just simply a different place when you're making lots of money and building things, whether its in internet marketing or in the startup world. The world is a very shitty place when you're stagnant, barely making any money, and just rotting away some like dead animal.

Its hard to even think straight any more. It's like a part of me is just not there that once was. I exercise and eat healthily, but its just not the same. Maybe I need to start getting on some HGH treatment, but that's nearly 30k a year. Its probably more mental than hormones.

So yeah, if you're over 30, you're a slow old man, only if you let it get to you deep down.

Interesting. I felt like you at age 25, when I was hit by poverty, uncertain direction, and health problems.

I'm 28 now, and feel like I'm getting younger as I age. But not quite as young as when I was 21. There's definitely aging there, I think.

The three things that have produced the biggest impact for me have been:

  1. Barbells 
  2. Mindfulness + stoicism (Seneca)
  3. Finally earning a good amount of money
The first one was the easiest to implement. Have you tried barbells?

Mindfulness I only really managed after a health crisis forced me to deal with the stress constructively. Money I can't advise on.

But barbells are very easy to implement. Takes me about 30 minutes, three times per week + a $40 gym membership.

Barbells I've got down solid. I was on Stronglift's 5x5 for quite a while. Now I've been getting more gains from a hybrid zyzz's workout, with enough compound lifts mixed in. My diet could use some work though, as that's what accounts for most lifting gains.

I'll look into #2. Maybe that can help with #3. When I can think straight and focus, I can stomp my foot on the ground and money seems to spring up around it. Thanks for the advice.

Good luck! Money's still out there for entrepreneurs.

The Miracle of Mindfulness was a good read. Actually, the first ten pages was enough for me. It got me to try being totally mindful for a morning as I went about my affairs, and that stuck with me. I am solidly in the present most of the time.

Letters from a stoic is what I read for Seneca. He taught me that we will lose everything eventually, but accepting this lets us enjoy what we have without fear. And he taught me to rehearse any scenarios I fear and write them down, to see that they're ultimately not so bad, or the common fate of us all.

part of it is the time. money is harder to get now then it was in 2004.

except for a small slice of silicon valley it seems.

28-32 are great years.

you are mature enough to be a bit more in control, yet young enough to still be... well.... young!

I not only feel more mature in my reactions and my thinking but also feel I am a much better coder and creative thinker. You don't need to be 20 to code or start a company. Age discrimination in Silicon Valley is real though. It has nothing to do with intelligence. It has to do with trying to hire people like yourself. Of course a 20-year old would not want to hang out with a 50 year old dad. Asking silly quizes in interviews to a professional engineer to judge decades of experience is beyond idiotic. The reason older people are not good at solving quizes is because that's not what we do in the real world so you don't develop that skill. That's what you do in school. The best ideas come after hitting the wall a few times. A good workplace needs diversity of skills, experience, cultural background, gender, etc. Startups who ignore this are not only breaking the law but are also missing out on great people. I would love to hear suggestions on how we can change this culture. Is it possible to prove age discrimination? Should companies adopt a standardized and open protocol for hiring?

Yes, this is Mark Zuckerberg. He went on to say:

"Why are most chess masters under 30? I don’t know. Young people just have simpler lives. We may not own a car. We may not have family. Simplicity in life allows you to focus on what’s important."

Then, have a look at this list:


Zuckerberg was wrong about the age of chess masters. Chess players peak in Elo rating, on average, at age 35.

Former world champion Anand hit his peak rating at age 41.


I don't know where he got that idea from. Look at the recent candidates chess tournament, there were only two players in their twenties and the winner was 44. Yeah, the world champion is young but Carlsen is a special talent.

Lee Chang-ho was the best player in the world by the time he was a teenager. And he hasn't been the best for the past 5 years. Lee Sedol is probably the top player right now.

In every craft you get better with age, as long as your keep you mind and body active.

Zuckerberg will learn this as he gets older.

He's the original Buzzfeed. Start out talking a lot of crap, then try to earn goodwill by improving.

116 comments and exploding: I commented a few points on the blog and I will say it quickly here. I know what he said and why he said it because I said the same thing at the same time when I was only two years younger than him and I believe the same thing now.

He said this: Do not avoid hiring young people. They are great and terrific and amazing and full of ideas and energy. Give them more power and more responsibility. Just baby sit them periodically and gently guide them when they need it. Value them and utilize them.

Every other interpretation of that quote is just bizarre. Btw, when you are that young and have taken such a deep ownership of life and world, you see things other people just don't see, and one of them is the power of the twenty-somethings. And you might remember the power of 18-20 crowd.

Does ageism have as much of a perceived presence in tech culture in regions other than the valley?

I do not see it much in the southeast US. .Net and Java dominate the programming language culture here, and you do not just jump in and learn all of .Net or Java in a year or two. For all of its many shortcomings, the south does seem to have a reverence for age and experience (which might contribute heavily to aforementioned shortcomings).

Even at startups, I would guess that the average programmer is over 30 in my area (Charleston, SC). An older programmer here can pretty much live like a king/queen on their salary with nearly limitless employment, assuming they keep somewhat up to date ("up to date" being more like "knows how to use OOP and a standard ORM", not "has a prolific Github profile and uses TDD"). In fact, many of the top programmers you see here are people who left SF or NYC for more stable employment in finance, cushy consulting, and better real estate prospects.

[Disclaimer: I am neither an older programmer nor a .Net/Java dev, but this has been my anecdotal experience]

I'm understanding and doing stuff now in my mid-thirties that my young self only wished he could do. To boot, I'm more excited and passionate about my craft than ever; certainly more excited than I was in my mid-twenties. I don't see this trend changing anytime soon.

Then again, I'm probably an old engineer at heart :) I love talking to those guys in their 50s that were programming COBOL or assembler before I was born. I was sitting in a career course thing recently and some of the older guys were sharing their experiences applying for jobs; all I could think was that I'd love to hire these guys if I had the means. Give me a wise engineer any day.

I had my 40th on Sunday. I had an interview on the Friday and I had the distinct impression that I did match the interviewers picture of the team member he wanted. This was as Security Engineer working on a relatively large Security team within a large company that hosts a lot of domains. Point of this comment is that this is the first time I walked away thinking 'does he think I'm too old for that role'. Maybe I shouldn't be saying how much I want to work around people who know things I don't.. how much I want to learn. Perhaps I'm expected to be a manager now :(

As a forty something manager - I want to work around people who know things I don't - I want to learn from them. And I do every day :) But ageism is real and you most likely felt it. You might want to focus on team leadership, but certainly never lose your enthusiasm.

Tech innovation is accelerating.

The old guys vastly underestimate the productivity difference between old tech and hip new tech.

The young guys vastly overestimate how much of their productivity is due to their own smarts rather than using hip tech, and don't sufficiently appreciate that when they get older, the experience they've accumulated won't be worth much, either. Re-learning everything every 5 years is only fun the first and second times.

But certainly, years of experience with some tech is becoming less and less valuable, as the tech is changing faster and faster.

The old guys are watching the "hip new tech" with amusement because they've seen it all before and know why it didn't work last time around.

Your comment represents a particularly distasteful type of arrogance. Despite being too young to have actually studied serious topics to any great depth, you feel that you know more than everyone else. This toxic attitude is holding back our industry more than anything else.

geezer here - You don't really have to relearn everything every 5 years, but yeah, part of what I love about tech is that I'm always learning and ready to adopt cool new technology when it is truly a better solution to a problem. Experience allows me to see through the hype and know when something new is actually better, something that younger guys lack. I feel really young at heart because I'm always learning. One thing 20-30 year olds should remember, time speeds up as you get older. You will be forty before you know it. Better start creating an industry that can support you when you are older or else you will be the next dinosaur who can't get a job.

Most of the time what changes is cosmetics, not paradigms. And also being productive is just not about code, it's about time management, human interaction, strategic thinking... All stuff that gets better with experience.

Indeed, one of my major complaints about the computer field is that whereas Newton could say, "If I have seen a little farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants," I am forced to say, "Today we stand on each other's feet." Perhaps the central problem we face in all of computer science is how we are to get to the situation where we build on top of the work of others rather than redoing so much of it in a trivially different way. - Richard Hamming

You have no idea what you're talking about.

I'm 54 and learning node.js recently was a snap. Why? Because I know 10 other languages and have written production code for 30 years.

I have interviewed a lot of young programmers and they talk about all this new cool stuff yet their skills to write core SQL and true production-level code is lacking. If you want to generalise, I can too.

There's no reason to be insulted by this quote. Either Mark is wrong, and someday he'll learn, or he's right.

When kids say mistaken things about stuff they don't understand, adults usually just ignore them because they're confident they know better. They don't (ordinarily) get upset. I think people denounce a quote like this for being naive and get upset about it because they worry it might be true.

I doubt they would care if they weren't worried it could actually disadvantage their employment prospects. The tech community is full of fads and it's hard to know which will catch on (regardless of whether they reflect reality or not).

I'm over 40 and I happen to agree with Zuckerberg. Young people do think faster.

But on the flipside, there is probably a good reason the US doesn't allow people to run for president before age 35. And most powerful leaders in the modern world are considerably older than that.

You lose something with age I have found. But, you gain something just as valuable. Thinking fast doesn't necessarily mean thinking better.

I guess the one thing I wish I had realized when I was younger is that I wouldn't stay young forever. I probably would have made better use of my efforts.

Let's be honest. The only reason anyone thinks Zuckerberg is "all that" is because he made a shitload of money. You know who else made a shitload of money? Edison. How many HN readers would put Edison over Tesla?

How much money a person makes is a very poor indicator of .. well, anything, except how much money got made.

I have no clue whether or how much being over 30 matters, but I find this article to be full of poor arguments.

> I would guess that a fair majority of the human race has, at one time or another, been young.

This supports Mark's point more than counters it.

> Most chess masters, he tells us, are under 30, and he explains why. Oops, sorry, no he doesn’t. Turns out he doesn’t know why, so he asks us. This seems something of a failure on two counts. First on his knowledge of the subject itself, and second, on the wisdom of bringing up your own lack of knowledge in a speech about the superiority of your mental abilities.

Not really; the statement is more in the spirit of "here is theory; here is data; data matches theory; I don't know why the data is, though." What matters here is whether most chess masters are under 30; if that's false, he should just say that.

> I have to give credit to Mr. Zuckerberg here. He has made me think, and I am a house divided; 50% laugh, 50% throw up.

What values do these sentences add?

> Jesus, if you so believe, was a simple man, who saved the world. Ghandi simplified his life in order to lead people to freedom. Buddha decamped to the wilderness, as did Moses. Mandela lived an enforced simple life for 27 years in prison because of the importance of his ideas. That is Importance. Those are concepts, beliefs, visions, that require a life of simplicity. Pulling an all-nighter to run a debugger in your cubicle just doesn’t seem the same somehow.

Here he acknowledges that simplicity matters, but says it doesn't matter the way Mark claims it does because it's less admirable or heroic than in the cases of Jesus and co. That's not the point. Mark's argument is simply that young people are smarter because they lead simpler lives, which lets them focus on things that matter, presumably to them. (Not things that are heroic.) And pulling all-nighters to run debuggers in a cubicle is something he says, not Mark.

> The difference is, all those 40 year olds have been through that 21 year old stage and know it well. They have learned how to be more focused, more efficient, more productive in less time so they can actually devote time to the things that really are important, like those kids. These are the people who can teach you how to build a happy, sustainable, productive, and satisfying life while still getting a job done.

He is probably agreeing with Mark here, but they are certainly not disagreeing.

> Take a stroll through the nearest cemetery some day. Look at the gravestones. Read the inscriptions. These are whole lives pared down to one phrase. Search for the ones that say CEO, or Chairman, or Acting Vice President, or President’s Club for Sales. Go ahead I’ll wait. Oh really? Well what do they say? Hmm, Loving Father, Devoted Mother, yes, that sounds about right. They all speak of love, family, the home, the heart.

When Mark made the remark about being younger and smarter, he was at a YC startup event. He was most likely stressing the importance of being younger and smarter in starting a startup. What this man's saying is irrelevant.

Overall, I personally feel this was upvoted to the front page more because of the controversiality of the topic than because of the quality of the article. All it does is throw a bunch of objects at random at something Mark Zuckerberg said at a startup event, and then reiterate a couple (old) irrelevant arguments about wisdom and experience.

One thing I can agree with you on is that it sounds like Zuck was taken out of context as a blanket statement about working in tech, when maybe he didn't mean it that way.

However, what does your comment really add other than attacks? Everything you wrote is practically calling the author an idiot, when does it really matter that part of his blog post may be in agreement with Zuck? The author makes excellent points, although indirectly, about how a person's value as a founder/engineer/whatever can't be decided based on age. That sort of prejudice discourages valid innovations and inventions that come from people with experience on two fronts: 1) You're telling older people that they can't contribute. 2) You're telling VCs that older people can't contribute, and VCs often make judgements in far too little time. When you're Mark Zuckerberg, you tend to be listened to.

>That's not the point. Mark's argument is simply that young people are smarter because they lead simpler lives, which lets them focus on things that matter, presumably to them.

The author understands that and he's directly arguing that point. Young people may understand what is important to them, but they don't understand what is important in life. That sort of understanding is important in more areas than you seem to think.

I might have expressed myself poorly, but this was really my main point: Overall, I personally feel this was upvoted to the front page more because of the controversiality of the topic than because of the quality of the article.

I wasn't trying to attack the author. I was just trying to point out where his arguments were flawed. If any part of my comment was unnecessarily mean-spirited, please tell me.

I pointed out the parts where he is agreeing with Mark as a way of pointing out the flaws in his argument, since his intent was to disagree.

You're right that people are rightly indignant that someone as highly regarded by VCs as Mark is saying such disparaging things about older people.

> That sort of understanding is important in more areas than you seem to think.

I disagree that having an appreciation for love and family is related to being a successful startup founder in the way Mark meant his statement, except perhaps in the vague sense of, say, being happier and therefore more productive. I agree it matters in life.

If I'm agreeing with the author here, if that was his real point, then I believe the title of this submission is linkbait.

I think what bothered me is that your comment was entirely negative about someone else's work without any sort of balance. The author of the blog post you're responding to was able to demonstrate that you can disagree with one thing someone says while agreeing with other things. If you're concerned about controversy, pure negativity can only add to it.

>I disagree that having an appreciation for love and family is related to being a successful startup founder in the way Mark meant his statement, except perhaps in the vague sense of, say, being happier and therefore more productive.

I took "the importance of love and family" as examples of things that, along with other undeniable benefits, come with experience. To deny the importance of those things excludes people who can contribute more than simple boundless energy.

"Von Neumann used to say that a mathematician is finished by the age of thirty. As he got older, he increased the age to thirty-five, then to forty, to forty-five, and soon to fifty." .- Indiscrete thoughts, ch. XX. / by Gian-Carlo Rota.

Particularly on the topic of having children, buying cars or homes, being loyal to a company or the concept of risk taking, the current 30 - 40 year old would have a complete different mindset than the 30 - 40 year old from 10 - 20 years ago.

"Is he still a member of the smarter set? Or has he aged out? If not, what is the cut off?"

Also, can we please raise the cut off if it's really young? Please?

"...unless you have truckloads of money paying under 30 slaves" -- slow old man Zuckerberg.

I think there can be a certain inquisitiveness that those under 30 have which dwindles as one ages. I wouldn't say 30 is the point where that all breaks, but certainly he has a point. That inquisitiveness, I think, leads youngsters to try new things and come at problems from a new angle.

I stopped reading went the author brought up religious figures.

You regard that as your cue to stop listening? That's rather narrow-minded of you. (You also missed a fairly important point that the author was trying to make.)

We'd be lost without the nuclear reactor of young hubris.

By that logic I'm old, but I'm also wiser.

To be fair, he's a slow old billionaire man.

Older people are better at creative things (think writing, art, etc). Younger people are better at math, programming, etc.

That is actually a striking thought if it's true. Can you please tell us why you think it is?

Hmmm :-) :-) This is a GREAT opportunity to dispel myths & confirm truths

What Zucka said, I'm presuming he did, but haven't checked, has truths & flaws all at the same time. Actually it matters little who said it. This is a great discourse potential. Indeed, I've said similar things in the past,probably way more stupid. What this demonstrates is your IQ to the world, albeit at a singular point in time. But the world is an unforgiving place, & the bigger they are the harder they fall. Reasonable we can assume that the numbers wanting to have a dig at you increases in a power-law-like manner, the `bigger´ you are and the more you say; if he'd thrown the word `women´ in there somewhere, it would have gone-up so much he could have been literally toasted, maybe even contract kill from some nutter. Still, it doesn't demean my respect of him, we all have stupid off-days. One has to look at the (verbal + doing) batting average, but I agree if the verbal average per se is low but it's best not to speak! Question is, are you prepared to cast the first stone? I'm not, 'cause I screw-up constantly. I've tripped over so many of my biases, I'm biased that I've biases.

As for me, I'm 45. Anyhow, that's what it says on my passport, but I don't believe it 'cause I still feel 12 on the inside. Moreover, I consider myself faster, more efficient, more clued-in & way smarter than I ever was. Physically, I was a former multiple WR in deep-sea freediver, but I can still do what I did way back when. So what gives? Secretly I'm running nature's `smart pills´. Want some?

Anyhow, back to the story. Innovation is not so much about IQ (I know plenty of `box-tickers´ with IQ of +140). But it takes more than IQ & speed. BIG innovation, which is or should really be the name of the game, requires MQ (= CQ + IQ) (C, for creativity & perspective-shifting, M, moonshot). Most people under 30 still have a deluded self-centered view of the universe (even secretly) which makes this incessant sense of self-centeredness difficult to allow for any majorly significant perspective-shifts to do 0 to 1. On the other hand, the `program´ in `old dogs´ is also pretty entrenched, which makes the field fairly level.

One last thing: I actually, paradoxically, agree with him(!), i.e., if you're doing incremental or `me too´ innovation, bu not if you're looking to do or invest in real-world (i.e., physical) moonshot innovation, of the type that will magically defy steadfast & age-old laws of nature, not the 140 characters stuff. Sure 140 characters will make money, but I'm not talking about that, I'm talking altering the real fabric of reality & your existence. In this extraterrestrial landscape the brain-strain & the chasm of difference is so deep & wide (think Mars' Valles Marineris vs. Grand-Canyon) that there simply ain't no way, no how you're going to generate or process, say, condense, the broad based & deep knowledge required to go from 0 to 1 in a short time. It can happen, but then we're talking about a special type of person (another conversation for another time perhaps). I'm talking about the BIG opportunities, the stuff that exists at the intersection of fields & which require really deep, sometimes life-long domain knowledge acquisition; the stuff of Newton, Galileo, Da Vinci, Taleb, & Co.). Some evidence for this:


Peter's experiment wasn't the program per se, it was the young- & smart-guns lack of really deep & really broad basic fundamental education (self imposed or otherwise) that requires more time than going from kindy to even college, where by enlarge you're made to jump through pointless hoops over & over again, ad nauseum. No doubt, there is an education problem & a hack in the waiting. The problem with his approach was that it takes time for flowers to blossom, & to paraphrase Taleb:

“I’d rather be dumb & antifragile [i.e., old & experienced] than extremely smart & fragile [i.e., young & inexperienced], any time.” - Taleb (2012)

The bottom-line: risk saying or doing nothing & the outcome is certain: nothing. The trick is to have a willingness to alter your position if demonstrably shown to be wrong, 'cause that'll certainly boost your IQ, & most notably. All good!

Stopped reading the article when the author misspelled Gandhi as Ghandi.

Stopped reading when you misspelled गांधी as Gandhi.

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