not losing

Irony of “The Age Discrimination in Employment Act”

I noticed there was an “Age Discrimination in Employment Act“. I was impressed.

I then read through the document and noticed this only covers age 40 or older (and other exceptions). I was no longer impressed.

Is there something special about this number 40? What if I am 39, or younger?

Please look at what I am capable of, separate from my age. I could be 2 years older or 20 years older than my current age. Would that age difference affect my ability to do this task? Some tasks may be affected by other things which correlate to age; but is this task one of them? What new information are you taking/giving when you say “well that’s how you young people do it” and clamor against technology and change? Is what I am doing good or bad? Is it better or worse than what we have done? Would I get bonus points if I did what I am doing now, but were twice my age? Or are you discounting points from me because I happen to be in a certain age group?

When you mention age, you are just categorizing / profiling / stereotyping / discriminating. I resent that.

You might not bring up my gender or my race, since these are more discouraged in our current professed culture of non-discrimination (speaking as a citizen of the United States, 2015). But the same consideration should apply to judgments based on age, if we were actually expressing a culture of non-discrimination.

Not every change is an improvement. but every improvement is necessarily a change.

My goal is to improve things. Do not assume that I am just trying to change things for the sake of change, because of a sentiment of “that’s what kids do these days”. Let’s talk and discuss about whether what I am doing is actually improving things or not.

If I were to give the benefit of the doubt, I could say that the crafters of this Act were just trying to be funny and ironic by protecting against age-discrimination only for those of a certain age group. But this is probably not the case.

In defense of what this document is trying to accomplish, I have to mention this paragraph:

SEC. 621 [Section 2], (a), item (3):  The incidence of unemployment, especially long-term unemployment with resultant deterioration of skill, morale, and employer acceptability is, relative to the younger ages, high among older workers; their numbers are great and growing; and their employment problems grave;

This seems like a fair observation. The longer someone is out of practice of a skill, the less capable they might be at that skill. And since this is a time-based measure, people who have had more time pass since they were birthed (i.e. older) will probably have more occurrences of this than those who had less time pass since they were birthed (i.e. younger).

But why do we need to write this Act specifically for people who are 40 years old or older? It would be fine to just say “no” to age-discrimination as a whole, whether people are relatively older or younger. But then I must remember to look at the purpose of this legislative Act. Its purpose is probably not to discourage against age-discrimination as a whole, but trying to help older people obtain and retain employment. This is still a noteworthy cause, but I would characterize this more as teaching how to not lose, rather than teaching how to win, and just losing in a different way. This is an example of a document trying to change the professed culture, not trying to condition an expressed culture.

I have a dream, that one day all people will be judged not based on how many years that have passed since they were birthed, but based on their ability and desire to Win. Winning should favor no age group, skin color, gender, or other similar stereotype. Winning is the final judgement; it is the only judgment that should take place. We should let Winning be more attainable for those that practice winning ways, so that they can be better equipped to win more for those that did not win, those that cannot win, and those that will not win.

“Not Losing” is not the same as “Winning”

I would consider Winning as a state of Not Losing, but I would not consider the opposite as completely true. Being in a state of Not Losing is not the same as Winning, unless you understand every possible way to Not Lose in a given situation (at which point, I would say you just know how to Win). It is more common that we only understand a few instances of how to Not Lose in a given situation; it is when in this state that I claim that knowing how to Not Lose is not the same as knowing how to Win.

Suppose that three students are asked to complete a Math test with 10 problems. These 10 problems vary in difficulty. However, the teacher has created the problems such that the solution is always 42. The teacher also tells them that the correct answers are within the set of counting numbers ranging from 1 to 50.

The first student, who is considered to be a Math Wizard by the other two students, has a firm understanding of all the Math Spells Wizards use to legitimately solve each problem individually, showing the step-by-step process until writing “The answer is 42.” for each of the solutions.

The second student is not as Wizardly as the first. What they lack in Math spells, though, they make up for with clever thinking. They decide to practice their Wisdom, and for each of the 10 problems writes “The answer is not 1”. They know for a fact that this is a true statement about any Math problem whose solution is not equal to 1. They then sit and wait, hoping that the teacher did not provide problems with 1 as their answer.

The third student who sits between the first and second students is also not very Wizardly. But what he lacks in Math Spells he makes up for with Cunning. Utilizing his great skills to the fullest, he shifts his eyes towards both the first and third students’ solutions when the teacher is faced the other way, and writes down “The answer is 42 and the answer is not 1.” for all the problems. They then sit and wait, hoping that the teacher did not notice them looking at the other students’ solutions.

How would these three students be graded? Who can we say is closer to knowing how to Win, and who can we say is closer to only knowing how to Not Lose?

In terms of letter grades, the first student may receive an A for his Intelligence, the second student may receive an A for his Wisdom, and the third student may receive an A for his Cunning. All three students may end up passing the Math test, but I would say that the first student understands more than the second and third students. The first student is aiming at Winning by getting the correct solution, regardless of the specific problem they are handed. The second student is aiming at Not Losing by providing an examples of incorrect solutions. The third student is aiming at Not Losing by using solutions created by others. All three students may happen to be Not Losing in this certain situation, but I would only rate one student as trying to Win.

If, instead, the second student were to write that “The answer is not 1 or 2… or 41 or 43 or 44…or 50”, leaving out only 42 as the correct solution, then I would have to say that they understood as much about the solution as the first student (but chose to write the solution in a “cute way”). If we have an option of 50 choices at a solution, and we can reliably narrow down and remove 49 of the 50 possible choices, then our entire knowledge of what is not correct, of how to Completely Not Lose, is equivalent to the knowledge of Winning. But this is not the common usage of when I hear of learning how to Not Lose, which often refers to only a few examples out of the entire Lose-space.

If, instead, the third student were to observe the solutions provided by the other two students, but then proceeds with trying to figure out how they would solve for the solution themselves, then I would have to say that the third student is also trying to Win (although cheating on a school Math test is questionable). This student is using others as examples, as referents of how to Not Lose, in their path to Win on their own. Outside of this Math test example, we are commonly surrounded by examples of what other people do in given situations and can observe which outcomes don’t work out. If we use these as examples of how to Not Lose, we can fill out and understand more about the Lose-space and get a better grasp of how to Win. However, sometimes we focus only on those examples of Not Losing that we end up just losing in a different way.

It is okay, and it is sometimes necessary, to first focus on learning how to Not Lose while on our path to learning how to Win. In certain problems and situations outside of this example Math test, it is sometimes easier and more effective to see examples of what not to do before figuring out what it is we need to actually do. But this focus on Not Losing should always be accompanied with an impetus towards Winning. It is not enough that we learn of 4 or 42 ways how to Not Lose, if we then proceed to accept another way which also lands in the Lose-space.

If Winning is our purpose, then we must not lose that.