And we know that NMDA receptor function changes with aging.
It would be pretty awkward if everything we thought was “gaining wisdom with age” was just “brain receptors consistently functioning differently with age”.
If we were to find that were true – and furthermore, that the young version was intact and the older version was just the result of some kind of decay or oxidation or something – could I trust those results?
Intuitively, going back to earlier habits of mind would feel inherently regressive, like going back to drawing on the wall with crayons.
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Wisdom seems like the accumulation of those, or changes in higher-level heuristics you get once you’ve had enough of those. ten years ago and notice I’ve become more cynical, more mellow, and more prone to believing things are complicated. Less excitement about radical utopian plans to fix everything in society at once 2. More concern that I’m wrong about everything, even the things I’m right about, on the grounds that I’m missing important other paradigms that think about things completely differently. Less hope that everyone would just get along if they understood each other a little better. Less hope that anybody cares about truth (even though ten years ago I would have admitted that nobody cares about truth). But most of them are in the direction of elite opinion.There’s one more possibility that bothers me even worse than the socialization or traumatization theory.I’m going to use science-y sounding terms just as an example, but I don’t actually think it’s this in particular – we know that the genes for liberal-conservative differences are mostly NMDA receptors in the brain.I remember when I was twenty, I thought the only reason adults were less utopian than I was, was because of their hidebound rose-colored self-serving biases.Pretty big coincidence that I was wrong then, but I’m right about everyone older than me now.
If I imagine myself entering that debate today, I’d be more likely to take the opposite side. Ask me what changed my mind, and I’ll shrug, tell you that I guess my priorities shifted.