is this assessed? • Is this selecting for precociousness or ultimate ability? • How does precociousness correlate to ultimate ability, anyway? • And is precociousness more common in well-structured domains? • Is there a peril in telling children that they are smart? • How are these children found? And does this process not start at a much younger age?
prevailing dogma in neuroscience was that most brain development was complete by mid-childhood (!) • We know now that this is false; the prefrontal cortex continues to develop into the mid-20s – it is underdeveloped in an 18-year-old! • The limbic system – emotions and social processing – is further along… • This means that 18-year-olds are likely to exhibit developed emotions and heightened social rewards – but their judgement is still developing • 18-year-olds can seem fully adult, but they remain vulnerable
A still-developing frontal cortex means that “whatever they want” is very likely to shift over time – and this is healthy! • Applying a “decade+ of salary” is adding ﬁrepower to a weapon that can’t be reliably aimed; is this wise?!
but it just has subtler issues… • Speciﬁcally: from whom do we learn? • Do we learn from true peers, or older peers? • Are the perils of telling a child that they are smart compounded by isolating an entire group and telling them that they are smart?
This is just… gross: it is rapacious, manipulative, exploitative, cynical • What happens when (say) the prefrontal cortex develops a tad and someone wants to get out of this terrible deal? • What happens when (say) someone wants to pursue non-proﬁt work? • What happens when (say) someone wants to return to school? • This is gross because it feels predatory – it is taking advantage of the impulsivity of a still-developing prefrontal cortex
knowledge accumulation • Focus should also be on character development: honesty, integrity, decency, persistence, grit, resilience, teamwork • That limbic center is really important: adolescents care a lot about their friends – and this is healthy! • Experimentation in youth should be encouraged – adults have a responsibility for keeping this safe (easier said than done!)
not without its strengths: risk-taking is really important for technologists; it can be helpful to not know the impossible! • It is incumbent upon young technologists – especially capable and motivated ones! – to learn how little they know • The purpose of a higher education should be to bridge the ego from the narcissism of childhood to the collaboration of adulthood • Older peers are essential in this process: e.g., graduate students – humanity’s most embittered – serve a thankless but essential task
young technologists should seek out opportunities that will allow them to build foundation – but that still appeal to their risk-tasking and the sense of the possible • An internship is a great opportunity: interns should be given projects that are wildly speculative rather than menial tasks • Large companies are often a better ﬁt than a startup because they increase the odds of an older peer group to learn from • As the foundation is built and judgement develops hits a sweet spot…
are a prime for individual innovation • Innovation does not stop in one’s mid-thirties, but it does change • Solving hard problems is a team endeavor, and as technologists age into full adulthood, they will increasingly need to take leadership roles… • This does not necessarily mean management! But it does mean, e.g.: problem formulation, team formation (hiring!), conﬂict resolution • The mid-thirties (and beyond!) are a sweet spot for teamwork
sense of the possible and their desire to take risk with learning how the world works • We should be guiding our “smartest and most driven” towards big, hard, thorny problems – and to developing the character for those problems • Entrepreneurialism can wait: there is a lot to be said for starting a company in your forties! • Life is long; let children have their childhood – let students be students, and let young adults have their young adulthood!