Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Is modern "open systems" programming much more easily learned when "young"? Probably!

What’s the best age to learn programming skills? Judging from hearsay, the younger the better. It sounds a bit like chess, or even music, doesn’t it: if you become very good at something before puberty, you may grow up to become a star at it. Why? Some of it is biology. As you mature into young adulthood, your brain prunes away unnecessary connections in order to let you focus on what you can do best. That’s why we sometimes see some unbelievable levels of talent in late teenagers in some areas.

Shawn Fanning was 19 when he wrote Naptster, and I believe that Mark Zuckerberg was 20 when he launched Facebook from his dorm room at Harvard.

This development helps explain some of the issues in the job market. It is, for biological reasons, harder for older people to pick up totally new ways of thinking (object orient programming) that they didn’t grow up with. That may account for some tacky comments we used to read about learning curves a few years ago.

Add to this the incredible level of specialization required in some of today’s open systems. This caught a lot of people by surprise during the 2001 recession.

The unfortunate thing is that a lot of the world’s talent goes for destructive purposes, especially overseas. Is it that teens sometimes don’t have the social or moral judgment that comes with skills? Or is it bigger global and social and political problems?

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