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Archived updates for Monday, December 27, 2004

Is Innovation Getting Harder?

According to a paper by Benjamin Jones, entitled "The Burden of Knowledge and the 'Death of the Renaissance Man': Is Innovation Getting Harder?," the age at first innovation, which can serve as a proxy measure for educational attainment, is trending upwards at 0.6 years per decade. U.S. team size is also increasing at 17% per decade, and specialization is increasing by 6% per decade. There has also been a 50% drop in patents per U.S. R&D worker since 1975, which is roughly consistent in magnitude with the rise in team size over that period.

Based upon an alaysis of this and other evidence, the author concludes that
"the evidence suggests specifically that the burden of knowledge is increasing. The model delivers this inference directly through increasing specialization and teamwork, but note further that a combination of greater specialization and greater educational attainment is especially difficult to reconcile without
appealing to a greater knowledge burden. If innovators are becoming more specialized but the distance to the frontier is not increasing, then innovators should have required less education over time. . . . If a rising burden of knowledge is an inevitable by-product of technological progress, then the model
indicates pessimistic predictions for long-run growth."
So that's a yes, Mr. Jones?
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