Generation “gap?”

21 Jan

The blog by Saumya on nourish-n-cherish got me thinking. Instead of expressing my thoughts as a mozha-neelam comment, I thought I will blog about it. It is a topic that has been in my mind for a while. The questions are simple and is centered around the current generation of people in comparison with our previous generation. By previous generation, I mean people who were born in 1940s-1950s. Are we, as a community more social and friendly? Are we more selfless in our deeds than them? Are we smarter? Are we flexible and adjusting?

Call me old fashioned. But, in my opinion, our previous generation (I will restrict this to Indians) seem genuinely friendlier and sociable than the current generation. While I can’t miss the touch of hypocrisy and sarcasm sprayed all over in the previous generation, there is a special sense of caring, that is unequaled. I have seen numerous examples of cases where a relative of some kind would be taken care of through their college till they get to work. As I grew up, I’ve never found anyone considering the act of cooking for others to be a chore. Even when an uninvited guest shows up, people used to go crazy about cooking them good food…

My question is not whether the current generation will or will not do what the older generation did? But, I don’t see that as commonly as I used to, before. There could obviously be more reasons… Is it because we are more independent (esp., financially)? Is it because, our importance to just our family has grown exponentially? Is it because, we are wrapped up in a more competitive and expensive world where everyone needs to work to take care of their own family that there is no time for “others”? We do adore Darwin’s theory and tout ourselves as being smarter than the previous generation. Does it mean that, smartness is inversely proportional to being sociable? Is it because, the community has overgrown from being limited to villages or townships to global? Should there be a dilution factor applied as the community size increases? Or, is it just being rational? Can I say that, courteousness superseded rationality in our previous generation… Is it just that the more closer we get to rationality, certain “random acts of kindness” disappeared? All said and done, everyone likes to be treated with kindness and be considered special, at least by a few… If rationality or being smart is what stands in the way, I don’t know if it is a good idea to be rational…. Oops, I have gotten into an infinite loop in analyzing rationality now…;)


Posted by on January 21, 2009 in From AM-KICKING blog


19 responses to “Generation “gap?”

  1. Manohar

    January 21, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    On a side sentence: I don’t think one generation is really smarter than the next generation. Even if it is, it can’t be explained by Darwin’s theory. Since the time frame is too short.

  2. Mindframes

    January 22, 2009 at 1:32 am

    Agreed. I was just talking about perception…In fact, I am reading a book written with 12th century backdrop and I somehow couldn’t assimilate the fact that they were equally smart…;)

  3. Mindframes

    January 22, 2009 at 4:11 am

    Mano: Out of curiosity, I googled around for research pointers on the area of smartness. Apparently, it is a much debated area in the academic community…

    Conclusion is this, if we use IQ tests as a factor to determine smartness, kids of today are supposedly way smarter than kids, say, 100 years back… And, yes, kids of today are smarter than us…Read up on “Flynn Effect”…

  4. Manohar

    January 22, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    mindframes: Ok, you have given me some food for thought. I’m sure the information you pose is indisputable… but I have some questions about the inference and perhaps how IQ tests people (which in itself is contentious).

    Here is the deal:
    1. n*100 years back, galileo theorised that a pendulum’s oscilation will be of the same time for the give string length, irrespective of how much it is pulled and let go.

    2. approx 100 years back, einstein let loose the special theory of relativity.

    Now there is very little chance, actually almost no chance that galileo could have theorised the special theory of relativity. The reason being that science leverages upon discoveries already made.

    But can it be argued that Einstein is smarter than Galileo– given the context and the breakthroughs… perhaps not. Its this innate smartness that I’m referring to.

    Now about IQ, my personal experience with IQ tests… the more familiar I’m with particular patterns of question that a test gives– the better I do. The score one gets in the analytical test of GRE is supposed to have a direct correlation to your IQ. My first attempt at GRE, I got 580 or something equally abysmal. I spent 2 weeks studying the pattern of questions and in my retake- I got 790 on 800.

    If you do google around, you will find this a common observation, since IQ tests are not completely neutral, they fail to really measure the innate intelligence of a person.

  5. Mindframes

    January 23, 2009 at 1:31 am

    While I agree that a given IQ test by itself may not be an indicator of a person’s intelligence, the average scores out of a random sample of students between 2 generations should be comparable… I think, the random sample should smoothen out the effects like length of preparation/family background/country/culture etc., The research states that, all things being normalized, the IQ for someone 100 yrs back and now would be considerably different…

  6. Meera Manohar

    January 23, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    Which is why the IQ is not a real test of intelligence 🙂

  7. Manohar

    January 24, 2009 at 6:27 am

    ooops that was manohar not meera manohar

  8. Mindframes

    January 24, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Well, I think the real question is, if intelligence can be improved from time to time OR is it fixed? For example, 3 years back, I couldn’t run for more than a mile or two. Now, I run marathons.. That doesn’t mean that running is not a good measure of physical fitness. At the same time, the past improvements in timing doesnt necessarily mean that I can do a 2:30 marathon… There, I might be restricted by genes… Though IQ test scores can be improved, it doesn’t mean that everyone can get a score of a genius… And, the overall distribution of genius in a random group of people will be constant.

  9. Manohar

    January 26, 2009 at 2:20 am

    True, that is an excellent point and I agree.

  10. Mindframes

    January 26, 2009 at 5:02 am

    thanks da machi…;)

  11. Mad Max

    January 28, 2009 at 3:20 am

    @ Mano: I’m not sure I agree with you on the linear flow of scientific discoveries. At any given point in time there are several states of nature and we choose to follow one state which leads us down a particular path. However, it is not necessary that we need to keep following that path forever. Somebody might decide to break away and come with a totally new idea which did not depend on prior discoveries (I’m not saying this has occurred but we cannot preclude the possibility of such an event happening in future)

    I agree with you on the GRE. The analytical part especially (it is not longer part of the test) is just pure logic. The bigger question is does IQ matter? Look at the state of the US economy! You can see the real effect of what people with high IQ (supposedly) can achieve hehehehe.

    @ Mindframes: I disagree with the research which finds such a change. The main issue is one cannot control for the environment. Today kids can handle computers at a very young age. I did not have access to a computer at 8 and hence did not know how to use it. Does it mean that I’m not capable of using one if I did have access? We don’t know. We suffer from the lack of counterfactuals.

    Can we improve on IQ? I dunno if the answer lies in genes! I mean the highest scale is 130 plus (if i’m not mistaken). It is not too hard to get there. So I think it is just practice that counts (again this is just my personal opinion)

  12. Manohar

    January 29, 2009 at 12:35 am

    madmax, I agree, in theory, discoveries need not levarge on existing ones. But in practise show me one counter example 🙂
    Of course since I dont’ have a proof, until you provide a counter-example, this shall be Manohar’s conjecture 🙂

  13. Mad Max

    January 29, 2009 at 5:36 am

    @ Manohar: hmm…i dunno if you will agree whether game theory falls under science…but the introduction of game theory (which did not depend on existing discoveries to the best of my knowledge) led to a fundamental change in thinking about economic behavior…is that a valid counter example?

  14. Manohar

    January 29, 2009 at 6:57 am

    Not really, game theory relies on known mathematical concepts like simple fundamental assumptions. N/0 is infinity, 0/0 is indeterminate.

    Show me something where nothing relies on any preinvented/discovered facts.

  15. BrainWaves

    January 31, 2009 at 12:49 am

    Regarding previous gen being more helpful to each other,
    I think it has something to do with what is valued by the society.
    In this generation, being successful is valued more (it depends on where we live also) and hence we strive towards that.

    One point came to mind is, the people around me (my parents and neighbors) did not spend so much time as me (and my friends) in thinking about their career. It is mostly a job for them.

  16. Manohar

    February 1, 2009 at 9:08 am

    >>One point came to mind is, the people around me (my parents and neighbors) did not spend so much time as me (and my friends) in thinking about their career. It is mostly a job for them.

    Hmm- I don't think I would agree there. I grew up in an environment where everyone (almost everyone- engineers, lawyers, patent officers, doctors (ofcourse)) gave a lot of importance to their careers. It was to the point where i though this career thing was overblown… and I still don't take it too seriously.

  17. Mindframes

    February 1, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    @brainwaves: I have to agree with Mano on that one… In my opinion, our previous generation spent most of their time working hard and had very little time dedicated to their family… Compared to the previous generation, how many of us place importance in where someone works or their position in the company or how much money someone makes or how much money someone possesses?

  18. Mindframes

    February 1, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    @mad-max: Yes, it is proved that IQ score depends on genes… The highest score is not 130, it is ~200 and till date, there are very few who have approached it… Einstein, apparently had an IQ of 160. My point is that, there is probably certain potential dictated by our genes. But, most people don’t try hard enough to capitalize on that. Just because your genes have the potential of you scoring, say 140, doesn’t mean that you will score one without even knowing what to expect out of an IQ test… With preparation, you could reach 140.. But, beyond that would be exponentially harder… Personally, I like to believe that our potentials are infinite since I don’t want to characterized as a statistical sample… Infact, given that our potentials are unknown, atleast, not measurable, it makes more sense to think that we are better…:)

  19. Mad Max

    February 3, 2009 at 5:45 am

    @ Mindframes: I agree about the max score(note that i had mentioned 130 plus :-))…hmm well the argument that genes dictates the score is kind of problematic because the reason why we do not try hard enough could also be related to specific genes in our body…therefore the two are intricately connected in the sense that since we are wired not to think hard enough, the “notional” IQ that we can achieve is no longer valid and what matters is the “real” IQ. In this backdrop, all that matters is preparation because by preparing we can marginalize everything else and measure IQ on even terms.

    Potential is again “potential”, “what can be” and not necessarily “what is”. Theoretically it is infinite and yes it can give us psychological support. However, in a repeated interaction situation, I think true potential will reveal itself and internally we will kind of at the very least understand our limitations


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