Science is the engine of society, and the decline of truly disruptive research is a warning sign for all of us.
There might be more science now, but it feels like it adds up to little that compares to the 20th century in terms of discoveries that actually change the world. It feels like we’re doing more research and getting less out of it.
That’s the thesis explored in a new Nature paper, “Papers and patents are becoming less disruptive over time,” which attempts to systematically explore what I said above: more science, but less world-changing science.
The Nature paper looks at patents and papers, and attempts to measure how much future research was built on a given publication, or how much a given piece of work served to “push science and technology in new directions.”
The finding: Yeah, it does seem that there are fewer radical innovations than there used to be.
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