Great musings Jason. Part of the reason why innovation seems to slow down after 1950 could also be changing research incentives, not just the “low hanging fruit” effect. As I wrote:

"Since the 1970s, there has been a growing expectation that researchers not only publish frequently but also publish works that are frequently cited by others (have a large impact). Together, these metrics, known as the “h-score,” are a kind of “batting average” for researchers. The more a researcher publishes and the more his work is cited, the more likely he is to obtain grants and further his career."

In other words, research that stays within well-established and understood areas is rewarded with grants while emerging areas tend not to. The former is likely to be cited more often, while the latter is not.

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Great piece on creating evolvable scientific institutions and the currated summary of links after! Thanks.

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Two big reasons for a slowdown of effective scientific and technological progress in spite of an increase of measurable inputs:

1. Low hanging fruit effects. The new discoveries have a certain tendency to be harder than the old discoveries.

2. Creativity getting swamped by imitation. If you try to scale up creative endeavors, you often get mimetic modified reruns and lose the essential insight generating capacity. Whole ages of intellectual production are sometimes, in retrospect, worthless because of this problem.

In almost any field, it's easy to contrast the greatness of the founders with the mediocrity of their successors. It might be a kind of optical illusion, sometimes, but it underscores how easy it is to slip into stagnation, decadence, and decline.

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