Experiences need time. Hence, in all cultures and all societies old people were respected and honored for their wisdom. This is one meaning of wisdom, which has become absolutely out of use and out of date.
In the past it was necessarily so: the older person knew more than the younger person, because there was only one way of knowing and that was from actual experience. If your father was a carpenter he certainly knew more than you. You would have to learn from your elders. Knowledge was transferred from generation to generation. The older person was always more knowledgeable than the younger; that’s why in the past there was no generation gap.
But today the situation has become different. As education has become more and more universal, it is possible to know more than your elders. In fact, it is not only possible, it is always the case. A father who is a doctor sends his son to the university to become a doctor. When the son comes back…the father is experienced in his profession, but the son knows more than the father, because he knows the latest research, the newest developments of which the father is absolutely unaware. The father had become a graduate of medical science perhaps thirty years before. In thirty years almost everything has changed. What was relevant thirty years ago is no more relevant; what was thought to be scientific has become absurd and unscientific.
This is a new situation which humanity is facing – that the younger person knows more than the older person. It is not accidental that respect for the older people has been disappearing. The older people are tremendously concerned about why it is happening – but they don’t see that the situation has changed.
Once it was impossible for the younger person to know more than the older person; now it is impossible for the older person to keep pace with the younger person. The younger person will know the latest developments and the gap between the two will be at least twenty or thirty years. Progress in science is going with such speed that scientists say they cannot write a big volume on any subject because by the time their volume will be ready for publication it will be out of date – it will not be publishable at all.
So now in science instead of writing big volumes, people write papers. They immediately either read those papers in conferences or they publish them in periodicals. They cannot wait long, because if they do, somebody else, somewhere else, is going to find something better.
When Albert Einstein was asked, “If you had not discovered the theory of relativity” – upon which the whole of atomic energy and all the development of nuclear weapons depends – “do you think there is a possibility that somebody else may have discovered it? And if somebody else may have discovered it, how long would it have taken?”