The Frontier of Knowledge
In my “Future of Education” article, I mentioned how education is becoming more important as the frontier of human knowledge has expanded. This trend seems to be to be inevitable. First, humans are most likely to discover the “easy to discover” stuff first. Also, specialization dramatically increases productivity, and is limited by the extent of the market. As population and wealth increase, more and more people are able to devote time and effort to advancing human knowledge.
Obviously, human knowledge is expanding. The only question is how fast, and how much does it impact the rate at which we make new discoveries and how we must change our society to adapt. The age at first discovery/invention has been increasing. Research team production has been increasing dramatically, because scientists now need to rely on many people’s information to remain productive.
Age at Major Discovery has been Increasing
Source: Jones, Benjamin F. 2010. Age and great invention. The Review of Economics and Statistics 92(1): 1-14.
International Cooperation has been Increasing
Source: Leydesdorff and Wagner, “International Collaboration in Science and the Formation of a Core Group”
The graphs are kinda hard to read, but the bars are 1980, 1986, 1992 and 1998. Even in mathematics, which is historically a fairly solo endeavor, coauthorship has been increasing.
Source: Timothy Taylor
Teamwork is becoming ever more important, as is specialization. Perhaps instead of spending so much effort on generalized education, students would start focusing on one field of study earlier. Also, culturally, people might have to become more trusting of the proclamations of specialists in their fields rather than trying to figure out things for themselves. I think it is critically important to maximize the efficiency of education rather than focusing on signalling and work on simplifying important findings so that students can become familiar with an area of study as quickly as possible. I think computer-human integration will be important in the future as computers can aggregate information far more quickly. But, as Niels Bohr said “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.”