Progress in two vital areas had slowed, AI could change that
You write, "Innovation has been slowing alarmingly."
In the spirit of open minded intellectual inquiry, perhaps we could look at the other side of the coin for a moment, and ask if slowing innovation is actually a bad thing. Here's a question we might consider...
Do we believe that human beings can successfully manage ever more, ever larger powers, delivered at an ever accelerating rate? Isn't this what a belief in never ending innovation entails?
What I see is that the knowledge explosion is generating threats faster than we can figure out how to overcome them. After 75 years we still don't have a clue how to get rid of nuclear weapons, and while we've been pondering that the knowledge explosion has handed us AI and genetic engineering, which we also don't know how to make safe. And the 21st century is still young, more such threats are coming.
What I see is that a "more is better" relationship with knowledge made perfect sense in the long era of knowledge scarcity. What even intellectual elites seem to have difficulty grasping is that we no longer live in that old era, but in a revolutionary new era characterized by knowledge exploding in every direction. We're trying to navigate the 21st century with what is essentially a simplistic, outdated and increasingly dangerous 19th century "more is better" philosophy.
"More is better" only works if we can handle the more. We currently have thousands of massive hydrogen bombs aimed down our own throats, an ever present existential threat which largely bores us. Is that evidence of a species ready for more and more power without limit?
There's more such reflection in the philosophy section of my substack for those willing to consider that just maybe the "more is better" group consensus of our culture is dangerously misguided. I'm happy to discuss this here as well, or anywhere else.
Interesting read. I've just started thinking about this, so the thoughts may be a bit simplistic. I agree that there is so very much to learn in many fields. I once had a student who asked, "What's the least I have to do to earn an 'A'?" She had five classes and wanted an A in each. Time prevented her from learning deeply about each. That caused me to rethink what I was teaching, focus on key topics, and allow time for creative thinking and curiosity. The more content one tries to absorb, the less time they have to ponder possibilities, connections, similarities/differences, and "what if?"
I find that a lot of younger people (I'm 78 so nearly everyone at work is a younger person), are more interested in getting a job done than they are in why they are doing the job and if there is a better way to do it, or how to make the product better. They want to be told how to do something. So, training departments create manuals, job aids, and workshops to teach them "best practices." That works fine but doesn't foster original thinking or creativity. And it seems, that's okay, maybe all that's wanted.
Everybody is in such a rush. I would venture to say that more than 90% of the people reading this will say they have more work than they can handle or complete in a 40-hour workweek. And since productivity is a measure of units/time, our mentality is to do more in less time. And, Ta Da, overwork and stress.
One last thought, I read in your article that more and more scientific articles cite older or previous research (meta-analyses) which could uncover new ways to combine older ideas but more often are used to substantiate existing theories or concepts. As AI has proven, data mining is an idea-rich, innovation-rich process. But what about original research? The old, time-consuming way of learning and exploring? You know, original thinking?
I'll end with thoughts on video games... Video games are amazing! Wonderful graphics, captivating game mechanics, and incredible hardware. Wonderfully creative. But where does the creativity lie, with the gamer or the person(s) who design and create the game? Gamers play and get really good at it. They learn the nuances and subtleties built into the game. If I were to hire one or the other, I'd hire the designer. They are the thinkers, the creators, and the innovators. We have too many gamers and not enough designers.
I apologize for the simplistic nature of this response, but the article got me thinking and this is top-of-the-head stuff. I'd love to read your thoughts.
Great post. The way I put it is that the cost to creativity has declined to nearly zero. One thing that we'll see with the advent of all this generative AI output is new tools that help us curate the deluge of information. Summarization tools are one possibility. https://davefriedman.substack.com/p/chatgpt-enables-costless-creativity