Friday, December 23, 2005


"Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration." Edison

Working with our staff and customers on problems we often find that Edison was correct. What has puzzled us for quite a while is why it seems that in Benjamin Franklin's time, inventors were younger than they seem today. But here is an article which I have linked to that seems to explain why this may be. I suggest reading the complete article, it is not very long.

Innovative thinkers are innovating later than they used to. While conventional wisdom holds that creative thinkers do their best work when they are young, a study by NBER researcher Benjamin Jones shows that over the past century the average age at which individuals produce notable inventions and ideas has increased steadily.

Jones notes that, unlike athletes, who do not require increased training demands over time, innovators appear to spend increasingly significant portions of their early years in education - a kind of human capital acquisition that might well explain the age trends in his study. Because the rules and requirements of their fields of endeavor remain fixed, athletes are not obliged to increase their human capital; accordingly, the data show no distributional shift in the ages of top athletes over the years. But thinkers must increasingly invest in acquiring intellectual capital, and the accumulation of knowledge - the rising distance to the frontier - can explain increased educational attainment.

Jones notes that economists have not focused much on the human capital investments of innovators. Because innovators customarily devote their youngest and perhaps brightest years to acquiring their education, understanding the tradeoffs at the beginning of the life-cycle may be of primary importance for understanding the ultimate output of these individuals - and for understanding why great innovation is steadily declining among younger thinkers.

Have a great holiday!

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