In praise of age

  • PopPress
  • February 18, 2014
  • StopPress Team
In praise of age

The ad industry often seems like a young man's/woman's game. But there's no substitute for experience, as renowned copywriter Paul Burke wrote recently. And, if you're wondering when you'll come up with that brilliant product innovation, that revolutionary campaign idea or perhaps that long-awaited solution to the world's energy needs, turns out you might have to wait a while. 

According to a new paper from NBER, which analysed Nobel Prize winners and great inventors, the high point for wonderous discoveries and world-changing creations came when they were in their late 30s and early 40s.

As the story in The Atlantic said:  

Innovators have been peaking slightly later in life as the 20th century has progressed, in part because today's scientists have more to learn than their predecessors did. 

What's more, people who excel in abstract fields, like art or physics, tend to be younger than those who win prizes in fields that require more context, like history or medicine.

So why the late 30s? The most obvious factor is education: Scientists spend ages 5 through 18 in school, and then ages 18 through 30ish getting their academic degrees. Then a few years of learning on the job, and presto! You dig up an uncertainty principle. Meanwhile, scientific breakthroughs tend to be less common in old age because we invest less in learning as we get older, and our skills gradually become less relevant.

There's evidence from the humanities, though, that genius doesn't decline with age at all. Over 40 percent of both Robert Frost's and William Carlos Williams' best poems were written after the poets turned 50. Paul Cézanne's highest-priced paintings were made the year he died.

The NBER paper found that scientists who are theoretical (coming up with new ways of thinking) tend to peak earlier than those who are experimental (coming up with answers based on existing knowledge) by about 4.6 years.

This happens for two reasons: First, theoretical scientists don't necessarily have to wait for a bunch of experiments to get completed and published. Second, and perhaps more importantly, being relatively new to their fields allows them to see the holes and fissures that veterans might not. 

This is a community discussion forum. Comment is free but please respect our rules:

  1. Don’t be abusive or use sweary type words
  2. Don’t break the law: libel, slander and defamatory comments are forbidden
  3. Don’t resort to name-calling, mean-spiritedness, or slagging off
  4. Don’t pretend to be someone else.

If we find you doing these things, your comments will be edited without recourse and you may be asked to go away and reconsider your actions.
We respect the right to free speech and anonymous comments. Don’t abuse the privilege.

Would you like sauce with that?

  • PopPress
  • July 21, 2017
Would you like sauce with that?

In order to work around Chicagoans stubborn sense of identity and pride, Heinz has come out with a brand new product called 'Chicago Dog Sauce' which is basically—you guessed it—ketchup in disguise.

Read more
Next page
Results for
Topics
Jobs
About

StopPress provides essential industry news and intelligence, updated daily. And the digital newsletter delivers the latest news to your inbox twice a week — for free!

©2009–2015 Tangible Media. All rights reserved.
Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Privacy policy.

Advertise

Contact Vernene Medcalf at +64 21 628 200 to advertise in StopPress.

View Media Kit