Furthest Right

Is the age of genius over?

Major breakthroughs in science have historically been the province of individuals, not institutes.

But in recent decades – especially since the Soviet success in launching the Sputnik satellite in 1957 – the trend has been to create massive institutions that foster more collaboration and garner big chunks of funding.

And it is harder now to achieve scientific greatness. A study of Nobel Prize winners in 2005 found that the accumulation of knowledge over time has forced great minds to toil longer before they can make breakthroughs. The age at which thinkers produce significant innovations increased about six years during the 20th century.

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“Successful research groups are those that grow and evolve on their own over time,” he says. “For example, an individual comes up with a good idea, gets funding, and new group begins to form around that good idea. This creates a framework where many smaller groups contribute to the whole.”


Yes, doofus, but that means that the others in the group must understand the founder’s vision — when most individual thinkers succeeded despite everyone around them thinking they were cracked. This means the crowd dominates research and anyone with a truly unique idea is shouted down. So expect more variations of Twitter instead of true genius.

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