Recently I came across a post, called “Why we stopped making Einsteins“. The main argument is that we are not producing “geniuses” as we used to and it’s the fault of the current education system. It’s a very interesting post and I suggest everyone go read it.
However, the thing I can’t agree with is that we have stopped making Einsteins, and we are not producing “geniuses” as we used to do. And here’s what I feel,
The bar is now too high.
I believe there are Einsteins, and there are “geniuses” (genius is the word that the author uses in his original post) today. I’d even argue that there are more genius people in the world than we had in the early 1900s.
Today, science is moving at a breakneeck speed, and making groundbreaking discoveries every year.
Humans make so many groundbreaking discoveries every year that the bar is at a level unlike ever before. The bar is so high that we don’t even appreciate the discoveries that are happening around us all the time.
Now that the bar is so high, it is virtually impossible even for a genius to come out of the blue and propose a quantum leap in science decades ahead of its time.
The invention of the world wide web, the mapping of the human genome, the advancement of smartphones and computers, our current attempts to colonize mars, electric vehicles, quantum computing, and development in artificial intelligence can all be considered groundbreaking discoveries that are no less than the theory of relativity. And they are all being done by highly smart people.
Discoveries happen incrementally.
Today, discoveries happen incrementally and not as quantum leaps. Today no one can come out from a lockdown and propose a new groundbreaking theory like Newton did.
It took us several decades, from the invention of the mobile phone to the unveiling of the first iPhone in 2007.
Each year we are making advances in artificial intelligence. And it will take decades of incremental inventions from an AI beating humans in the game of “Go” to general artificial intelligence. And by the time we reach that point in time, we won’t appreciate the complexity since we reached that point in time in multiple small discoveries that we have all seen. Dall-3, Gato AI.
The same can be said about the human genome project. Since the discovery of DNA, it took decades to begin the human genome project. And another 20 years to completely map the human genome. And it will take another decade or two for us to see the use of cures for genetic conditions.
Science is not about one person anymore.
Unlike, in the 1800-1900s science is not about a single person anymore. And science has gotten so advanced, that it’s impossible for just a single entity to come out with a new theory by himself.
Now we need multidisciplinary teams working on novel ideas and coming up with breakthroughs. It’s not that we don’t have geniuses, almost everyone who works on these teams is geniuses. We have come to a point where science is not just about a single person.
Not only that, in order to make these inventions, it takes lots of capital. And these teams need the backing up of big organizations or have to work under a big organization that can sponsor these innovations.
Either that instituon or team has to raise capital or make a profit to continue their work, or the team has to work under a parent organization such as a university or an individual who can keep funding the research. Then again, the point I’m emphasizing is: science is not about a single person anymore. The probability of someone making a ground breaking discovery from their homes by themselves is unbelivably small.
This is not to say that our education system is perfect. And that will evolve with time. However, I don’t believe that we are short of genius people.