Where are the geniuses?

The geniuses existed because there were no Universities to strangle them in the first place? No grants. No “institutions”. No bureaucracy. If you look at the Westen model, it was the “lone tinkerer” and some history polishing. If you look at the US model, especially after 1935 (and the recession), it was mostly stolen technology, and scientists from Germany ably sustained by the progressive policies of the then administration. The institutional-policy linkage is fascinating until the current bureaucracy destroyed it inexplicably.

The declining trend is here:

Of course, anyone can see the declining graph.

Why we stopped making Einsteins – by Erik Hoel

One might, of course, reply that there are still many Einsteins, they just don’t come off as Einsteins because ideas are so much harder to find now. This “ideas are getting harder to find” argument does indeed have some data to support it, although not everyone agrees. Yet, even if ideas are getting harder to find (to some degree), does it actually fully explain our dearth of geniuses? Surely, ideas didn’t get harder to find in the last twenty-five years to exactly such a degree it completely nullified the explosion of free information to pretty much everyone on Earth? And “ideas are getting harder to find” seems especially unconvincing outside the hard sciences in domains like music or fiction.

The ideas (and innovation) are particularly important to be nurtured, especially in the area of “application”. There’s no point in having mindless duplication of research. The author blames the “education system” (as it is most obvious), but it has to do with the risk averse nature. The VC’s of today are the ones taking the most risk, albeit in pushing through sectors where they can establish “monopolies” and then make money through rent extraction. You have differentiated VC models like “angels” and those coming in “late-stage” funding or even pension-funds trying to maximise their value. How can pension funds understand value of fintech or pushing through monopolisation? No one asks that question from their money managers. Unless, it is their complicit governments wary of increasing budgetary support.

Coming back to the linked article on geniuses, the author suggests another interesting theory:

However, despite its well-known effectiveness, tutoring’s modern incarnation almost universally concerns specific tests: in America the Advanced Placements (AP) tests, the SATs, and the GREs form the holy trinity of private tutoring. Meaning that contemporary tutoring, the most effective method of education, is overwhelmingly targeted at a small set of measurables that look good on a college resume.

The solution to the problem is:

Let us call this past form aristocratic tutoring, to distinguish it from a tutor you meet in a coffeeshop to go over SAT math problems while the clock ticks down. It’s also different than “tiger parenting,” which is specifically focused around the resume padding that’s needed for kids to meet the impossible requirements for high-tier colleges. Aristocratic tutoring was not focused on measurables. Historically, it usually involved a paid adult tutor, who was an expert in the field, spending significant time with a young child or teenager, instructing them but also engaging them in discussions, often in a live-in capacity, fostering both knowledge but also engagement with intellectual subjects and fields. As the name suggests it was something reserved mostly for aristocrats, which means, no way around it, it was deeply inequitable.

I am not sure if this theory holds water. Success depends on opportunities, signalling and “being there at the right time” – if you go by the above logic. Am I successful in writing this blog? No, if you go by the traditional metric of page views or “subscribers”. Has this blog been personally successful? Yes! By an overwhelming, yes!

A slightly different take on the current dispensation (and not gazing at the history):

Re: Why we stopped making Einsteins? No we did not. – Rukshan’s Blog

Now we need multidisciplinary teams working on novel ideas and coming up with breakthroughs. It’s not that we don’t have geniuses, almost everyone who works on these teams is geniuses. We have come to a point where science is not just about a single person.

Not only that, in order to make these inventions, it takes lots of capital. And these teams need the backing up of big organizations or have to work under a big organization that can sponsor these innovations. 

I have just covered some ground writing about interdisciplinary research and done a submission. Breakthroughs are more expensive but science progresses incrementally. The “explosion” of knowledge is mostly duplicative efforts and replicative journals pushing through the same narrative. This is stupid, so as to say. Academic publishing can never be the sole benchmark.

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