I was browsing through a National Geographic Magazine while waiting for stage 4 of my yearly eye tests and I noted that the National Geographic is seeking new travel writers and you can enter a competition and maybe win some money.
Before you get too excited, like me, you may want to note that it is for people aged between 18 and 23.
Now I object to ageism as I am sure many people aged 18 to 23 object, except in a different direction! Why 18 to 23? I can just about understand 18 in that they would have more insurance problems maybe for under 18 and have to get parent permission, but why 23? If you are 24 I would send a strong objection!
OK, so maybe this is a marketing thing, they are trying to interest younger people and hope that the competition will go viral on Twitter and Facebook. But it is odd that the articles seemed much more geared to older people, like one article about ‘mature’ people taking ‘gap years’.
So in one place they are saying the more elderly are getting younger and in another they are saying that age counts!
Paying too much attention to numbers is one of the most common mistakes in any business, it comes up again and again, for small issues and large issues.
There is no direct relationship between fitness and age, many people in their 80’s are fitter than many people in their teens and twenties. Many people are more alert in their 60’s than they are in their 30’s. And vice versa of course.
Many people in their teens know more facts than people in their 50’s, including history and maths.
We segment people into age categories, they say ‘these are the years you learn things’, ‘these are the years you work’, overlapped with years in which you are allowed to have children, and then years in which you can work a bit less and then, well, maybe best you don’t work, you are doing someone out of a job.
If I were ever to be allowed to Advise The President, or maybe The Prime Minister, I would suggest a review of the cost of ageism, and then maybe look at putting a time line on the removal of all ageist policies in Government. No more pensions, no more bus passes, and no more free school for one group and not another.
This may seem very radical, and maybe having no ageist policies is not morally OK, I would not want to suggest child labour coming back. But even child labour could be not OK not by an age criteria but by an appropriate weighting of value to the individual and the value to society. Children can’t dig holes very well, and machines do it better, so the value of learning to the child is greater than the value to society of them working, on most things. But maybe not all things?
The big advantage of the policy would be that it would finally make a mark against every notion that by themselves numbers mean something – counting beans doesn’t matter a bean!
Now, take note, I am not saying that numbers don’t count, they just don’t count ‘by themselves’, it is how you weigh them in context, and the danger is your mind, and my mind, by itself, will weigh them too heavily.
Jonah Lehrer in his book How We Decide says that the ‘pre-frontal cortex’ (which is one of the bits heavily involved in that kind of thinking) is just a cheap calculator, every number means the same.
For those of you who think you are above all this kind of thing, that you get things in balance and only count numbers when they really count and so on, then maybe lock on to the writings of David McRaney. Some of it is funny, some scary!
But don’t count on it!