Getting Old in the Age of AI? Yeah, Too Bad

March 25, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

I read an interesting essay called “’Gen X Has Had to Learn or Die: Mid-Career Workers Are Facing Ageism in the Job Market.” The title assumes that the reader knows the difference between Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z, and whatever other demographic slices marketers and “social” scientists cook up. I recognize one time slice: Dinobabies like me and a category I have labeled “Other.”


Two Gen X dinobabies find themselves out of sync with the younger reptiles’ version of Burning Man. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. Close enough.

The write up, which I think is a work product of a person who realizes that the stranger in a photograph is the younger version of today’s self. “How can that be?” the author of the essay asks. “In my Gen X, Y, or Z mind I am the same. I am exactly the way I was when I was younger.” The write up states:

Gen Xers, largely defined as people in the 44-to-59 age group, are struggling to get jobs.

The write up quotes an expert, Christina Matz, associate professor at the Boston College School of Social Work, and director of the Center on Aging and Work. I believe this individual has a job for now. The essay quotes her observation:

older workers are sometimes perceived as “doddering but dear”. Matz says, “They’re labelled as slower and set in their ways, well-meaning on one hand and incompetent on the other. People of a certain age are considered out-of-touch, and not seen as progressive and innovative.”

I like to think of myself as doddering. I am not sure anyone, regardless of age, will label me “dear.”

But back to the BBC’s essay. I read:

We’re all getting older.

Now that’s an insight!

I noted that the acronym “AI” appears once in the essay. One source is quoted as offering:

… we had to learn the internet, then Web 2.0, and now AI. Gen X has had to learn or die,

Hmmm. Learn of die.

Several observations:

  1. The write up does not tackle the characteristic of work that strikes me as important; namely, if one is in the Top Tier of people in a particular discipline, jobs will be hard to find. Artificial intelligence will elevate those just below the “must hire” level and allow organizations to replace what once was called “the organization man” with software.
  2. The discovery that just because a person can use a mobile phone does not give them intellectual super powers. The kryptonite to those hunting for a “job” is that their “package” does not have “value” to an organization seeking full time equivalents. People slap a price tag on themselves and, like people running a yard sale, realize that no one will pay very much for that stack of old time post cards grandma collected.
  3. The notion of entitlement does not appear in the write up. In my experience, a number of people believe that a company or other type of entity “owes them a living.” Those accustomed to receiving “Also Participated” trophies and “easy” A’s have found themselves on the wrong side of paradise.

My hunch is that these “ageism” write ups are reactions to the gradual adoption of ever more capable “smart” software. I am not sure if the author agrees with me. I am asserting that the examples and comments in the write up are a reaction to the existential threat AI, bots, and embedded machine intelligence finding their way into “systems” today. Probably not.

Now let’s think about the “learn” plank of the essay. A person can learn, adapt, and thrive, right? My personal view is that this is a shibboleth. Oh, oh.

Stephen E Arnold, March 25, 2024


One Response to “Getting Old in the Age of AI? Yeah, Too Bad”

  1. RIFed by AI? Do Not Give Hope Who Enter There : Stephen E. Arnold @ Beyond Search on April 18th, 2024 5:08 am

    […] Ouch. It is unclear what, if anything, can be done about this specificity bias in hiring. It seems all one can do is keep trying. But, not that way. […]

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