Technical geniuses in Brazil are 60+ years old

If a major overhaul of the air traffic system in the world was needed today, the technology experts needed would certainly be 60 or more years old.

Photo: Disclosure / FG Trade

We keep repeating that the Alpha generation was born connected and knowing how to deal with all technologies. But if the world’s major technology systems, such as air traffic control, the entire country’s financial system, or cyberwarfare, were to fail today, for example, the people hired to operate the software that runs those services would likely be 60 years old or older. Who vouches for the technological experts who have been working in the field since “everything was tares”.

This is the case of Daniel Schwabe, who at the age of 68 has an enviable resume in the field of technology: he graduated in mathematics at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (1975), a master’s degree in computer science at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (1976) and a doctorate in computer science in Science from the University of California, Los Angeles (1981).

“I was a precocious boy in this area, at the age of 14 I went on vacation to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, at a time when there were no personal computers. I had the opportunity to study and work outside of Brazil and was able to closely follow the creation of what would later become the Internet,” he commented. At the time, the only units working with computers in the country were federal universities and national security. After earning his PhD abroad, Daniel returned as a professor at PUC-Rio, helping to create one of the first computer engineering courses in Brazil. “I have always worked with computer networks. We created a computer engineering course that had a greater emphasis on computing and software. PUC was a pioneer because it always had an IT department. In the 1970s, I started working with artificial intelligence, which was not as far-fetched as it is today, but aimed to solve some problems,” he said.

Daniel Schwabe, 68, was one of the creators of the computer engineering course in Brazil

Daniel Schwabe, 68, was one of the creators of the computer engineering course in Brazil

Photo: Daniel Schwabe/Personal archive

Danijel retired as a professor at PUC. He is currently working on a European research project creating a knowledge graph for fragrances with cultural heritage. “I work with a multidisciplinary team, but in the field of technology we mine texts and images from the 17th and 19th centuries, extracting references to olfactory experiences, where the perception of smell manifests itself in various aspects of culture, religion, medicine, culinary and social life.”, he points out. For him, his age and life experience bring the maturity to understand that technological decisions affect people’s lives. “I always prepared my students to bring this multidisciplinary description that they need to know technical tools, but foresee how it interferes with society. It’s a long time technology experts felt that ‘what I don’t do on the computer has no obvious consequences.'” At the age of 60 or more, this expert has had more opportunities to practice and observe these changes, and this affects their work,” he emphasizes.

For Daniel, there is still age discrimination in the field of technology, even though he has not directly suffered from this age-related exclusion. “I’m not a programmer anymore, but I know about programming. So I can read programs and identify errors, suggest improvements, better organize ideas, present arguments, and this can be done in any language. I think there is a tendency to devalue the elderly, mostly due to associating “new technologies” with “young people”. And because there is a greater natural identification of managers in that area, who are on average younger than them. And because there is a tendency in the sector to value strictly technical knowledge of current technologies, as opposed to a broader scope that takes into account all those non-technical, but equally important and relevant aspects we talked about. It is part of the “here and now” culture.

People aged 60 and older in the field of technology have a wider repertoire of tools

People aged 60 and older in the field of technology have a wider repertoire of tools

Photo: Disclosure / Viktorcvetkovic

rare knowledge

Renato Shalders, 69, is a graduate engineer. He retired as an IT specialist at Caixa Econômica Federal, at the age of 64. All his life he has been programming in COBOL, (Common Business Oriented Language, in Portuguese), a programming language oriented to the processing of commercial databases. “This was one of the first forms of programming created with the advent of computers. Today, most programmers do not know this and other primary languages ​​in detail, so a mistake in a large system such as a pension database, air traffic control throughout the world, would have to be fixed by a person 60 years old or older. . These more robust databases use other layers of newer programs in their interface, but the database still works in older languages. Unless you’re a software engineer who goes into detail, most people only work with off-the-shelf tools,” he says.

“We culturally associate age with disability, when the two things are not,” says organizational psychologist Cláudia Danienne

Photo: Cláudia Danienne/personal archive

Inclusion and the fight against ageism

According to organizational psychologist and employability expert, Cláudie Danienne, the first step in building a space for the inclusion of people 60+ is breaking with the cultural concept of longevity. “Here in Brazil, we culturally associate age with disability, while the two things are not connected. In other countries with a different mental model, such as Japan, seniors aged 85 and over actively participate in social life. “You go to a shopping center, and the person who greets you, informs you and welcomes you is always an older person,” he points out.

According to experts, the presence of older people in the team can bring immediate benefits. “These are people who, among other things, since they carry a greater baggage of experience, are better able to mediate in conflicts, be more empathetic, are able to listen more carefully and less worriedly to their colleagues”.

For the technological field, it is necessary for companies to promote actions that guarantee the durability of specialists of this profile. “The fact is that we all have to constantly recycle ourselves when it comes to technology. Updates happen very quickly. Five years ago, there were no Metaverse development experts. There is already a demand for a drone pilot, avatar creator. Therefore, only the selection process is not enough, it is necessary to give space to that person to learn new languages, to have time to improve. It is also necessary to point out that the culture of diversity within the company must be further developed”.

Some affirmative actions can be taken to contribute to this inclusion: A positive example is dialogue circles, putting age policy on the agenda, or works aimed at mentoring younger employees or a cooperation project, with older people as the central point of the implementation of activities, “he points out.

+The best content in your email for free. Choose your favorite Terra Newsletter. Click here!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *