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In some companies management do not care about code quality, they care about the feedback from the business users. The business users will not know that they bought a kludge until it takes way to long to fix issues with it or add functionality to it. By then the contractor is off on something else. I think we have all seen that clear line where marketing and management deadlines completely ignore estimates or what the people that designed the system are telling them it will actually take to do something. They simply don't care unless the business user notices. So to them it doesn't matter what piece of crap gets put in. I've been in similar performance issues you described and we simply don't trust fixing such issues to contractors unless we detail every last line that needs to get changed...which in many cases I have to do with a lot of them.
I have never seen a college grad as a contractor where I work, yet many of the H1-B visa holders are about that age with just as little experience. Go figure they managed to get enough experience in zero years that would take a college grad 5-7 years to get...which of course doesn't add up.
Simply put business have put their money into short term H1-B and Offshore workers.
Which is a symptom of a problem that started many years before 2000. The race to the bottom line really has no limits.
With a college hire the employee can change jobs at will. You as the employer are expected to put money into employee development.
What I've found impressive with the H1-B visa holders I've worked with is the network they have to train them. Some of their resumes are fluff, but you'd never know it because what they don't know they don't just have google there for them but a network of other H1-B visa holders to answer questions and basically provide that "on the job" training they supposedly don't need. That's what college kids also have to compete with, not just low pay and the inability to hop jobs...but a training network.
They can't compete so they will not get hired. The only way to win this (yes, I have a side because I too used to be a fresh out of college kid and it took me a decade doing odd free jobs to gain the experience you need to get a job now. Today I spend my days teaching H1-B visa holders how to write clean code and solve basically everything they can't figure out.) is to give H1-B visa holders more rights just as any employee would have. Give them the right to play the market just as US employees can. It might seem ass backwards, but fighting change that large corporations profit from almost never works in an oligarchy owned by them. I'll give them that I've yet to meet one that isn't a hard worker (granted they got here for a reason), but in terms of technical ability they are no better or worse than a college grad...and I think we can at least agree there are plenty of them without a job?
Of the college interns I've worked with I was very impressed and they were far far more independent than any H1-B visa holder I've ever met. Granted the interns at my company would have already been at the top of their class though.
This isn't exactly a new concept, just used in a new way.
If you have no sig other to help you through the tough times, no family to depend on, and no friends to turn to...there is still that horrible horrible government thing. You will not die without a job, but you certainly need to be confident enough in who you are to not blow your own brains out for fear of the "no job and die" beliefs.
we don't have to know WHY it works better, just that it does and how to build a working copy
But the fact that it does work better means we're either missing a part of the picture that is obviously important or the AI version is leveraging quirks with the system that no current model we have represents. I'm shocked to read that anyone would be comfortable just ignoring the why of something just so we can progress beyond our understanding. If we don't understand the why then we're missing something very important that could lead to breakthroughs in many other areas. Do not let go of the curiosity that got us here to begin with.
"Productive != creative"
Repeat: "When in reality, it tends to be the people with experience who see new, better ways to do things. (Which makes a lot of sense, if you think about it.) "
Repeating something over and over again doesn't make it true either. You said a study showed workers with more experience are more productive. Being productive has nothing to do with being creative. I completely agree with you that someone that knows a problem area best are the most likely to solve a problem...this doesn't mean the person has to live with the problem for 40 years before they decide to fix it though. However someone that is just being introduced to a new area are also more likely to identify the problems better because all the old folks have learned to just live with the same problems. Again, being productive has nothing to do with being creative.
Your assumptions are not in line with what the statistics actually say.
My assumption that you quoted was "When you consider that the hot new thing all the startups want to write in changes every 5-6 years it's no surprise that older workers don't hold as much value. " This is not an assumption. It's basically a stated fact. Older workers do not hold as much value and when you're comparing resumes between older workers and new workers with newer technology the newer workers are actually more likely to have the correct skillset. To someone in HR they are not going to see a guy with a decade plus of experience in J2EE as something better than a guy with 2 years experience in the language the job is actually for..when you're looking for coding grunts or a group of guys that might spit out a few good ideas once or twice in their career. I don't see why you're failing to connect those same dots. You basically seem to hold no value to a younger developer. Kids in grade school can code...kids in high school can come up with better ideas than some of us will in our entire careers. The truth is someone that has been doing the same thing for 40 years honest truly probably...isn't going to be the next best thing since sliced bread. Their ideas are spent, they've had a thousand chances to shine through the ranks. Their value to most in HR is in stability, training, and high level system design. Not in coming up with the next best thing since sliced bread. To be honest if they had such a great idea they're probably making enough money and have enough experience under their belt to market and sell it themselves instead of working for another asshat boss.
So please explain to me again why older workers are just perfect and exactly what every company should be hiring instead of a young whipper snapper? They aren't going to work late nights, they aren't going to try and impress the boss, and they are more likely to want to stick with what they know works than to try new things. Show me anyone over 35 that works 12 hour days coding non stop and I'll probably shoot the guy myself for not having an self respect by that age.
At least the places I've worked older workers are more interested in keeping the status quo. When you consider that the hot new thing all the startups want to write in changes every 5-6 years it's no surprise that older workers don't hold as much value. They certainly have value in system design and higher level work. Throwing them at coding in a language that has only been around for a few years doesn't make lot of sense. Certainly language of choice is the only reason for the age difference. Those with a family and mortgage simply by definintion are less likely to take risks or are even at an income level where they are pushed to impress the boss / start their own company. Their motivation went out the door a while ago. Studies have been done on this (citation needed). So I fail to see why it's a surprise that startups focus on cheaper labor (younger) that are more likely to be motivated in ways someone with a family and mortgage simply are not. Ask a man with 3 kids, a demanding wife, and a mortgage to stay working a 14 hour shift to meet that next agile milestone...see how long he sticks around before changing jobs.