Arnold Kling  

The Market For Scientific Superstars

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Good Dictators... Preferring Ignorance...

Austan Goolsbee writes,


Landing the best scientists in the world can start a place on the way to economic superstardom. The catch is, there are not many superstars and they mainly want to be near one another.

The study covered 1981-2004 but identified only 1,838 scientific superstars. That is about the same number of people who played in Major League Baseball over that period.


The study to which he refers is by Lynne G. Zucker and Michael R. Darby.

My take from this is that sheer numbers of trained scientists will not produce a major burst of innovation. This would be another reason not to fear the ability of China to produce large numbers of scientists or engineers.


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COMMENTS (5 to date)
Bill Conerly writes:
sheer numbers of trained scientists will not produce a major burst of innovation

Most innovations will come from a small number of scientists, but it may still be a numbers game. If a country graduates 10,000 science undergrads, and another country graduates only 1,000, I think it's likely that the first country will have more scientific superstars.

Here's an analogy: many of America's top athletes are playing basketball, football or baseball. If soccer were the game of choice for most athletes, then we would have more superstars on our soccer team. As it is, we're selecting from a fairly small pool of athletes.

If science were held in higher esteem, and supported more, I think more of our top minds would gravitate into science, rather than, say, economics or law. That, in turn, would generate more innovative breakthroughs.

dearieme writes:

Except literally, it can be hard to distinguish a superstar from an extinct volcano.

Steve Sailer writes:

But China has 1/5th of the world's population and maybe 2/5ths of all the people in the world with an IQ above 100, so China is quite capable of assembling critical masses of Chinese superstars within China.

Horatio writes:

Culture and creativity are just as important as intelligence. China has both of these working against it in the quest for scientific innovation.

Dezakin writes:

Culture and creativity are just as important as intelligence. China has both of these working against it in the quest for scientific innovation.

You're talking about what China? Imperial, Maoist, or prehistoric, because it sure isn't modern.

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