TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, March 3, 2014

It's All Downhill After 40

GeniusBenjamin Jones (Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management), E.J. Reedy (Director, Kauffman Foundation) & Bruce A. Weinberg (Ohio State University, Department of Economics), Age and Scientific Genius:

Great scientific output typically peaks in middle age. A classic literature has emphasized comparisons across fields in the age of peak performance. More recent work highlights large underlying variation in age and creativity patterns, where the average age of great scientific contributions has risen substantially since the early 20th Century and some scientists make pioneering contributions much earlier or later in their life-cycle than others. We review these literatures and show how the nexus between age and great scientific insight can inform the nature of creativity, the mechanisms of scientific progress, and the design of institutions that support scientists, while providing further insights about the implications of aging populations, education policies, and economic growth.


(Hat Tip:  Greg Mankiw.)

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Odd, I seem to come up with more new ideas at 65 than every before. Perhaps that's because I'm constantly looking for them. Remember what Edison said about 99% perspiration v. 1% inspiration.

Posted by: Michael W. Perry | Mar 3, 2014 2:11:48 PM

I'm failing to see the surprise here. "where the average age of great scientific contributions has risen substantially since the early 20th Century".. yeah, show me at any point in the past where we knew as much about any given field due to leveraging everything from the printing press to information technology. There's a larger body of knowledge to observe, understand, and work with before any fundamental understanding occurs. The short version: the singularity approaches.

Posted by: Victor T | Mar 3, 2014 5:27:25 PM

I guess I'm an outlier. I find nearly all my pre-40 work now to be rather childish, and the post-50 work to be vastly more sophisticated. On the other hand, I didn't start until I was 30, so maybe I don't count.

Posted by: michael livingston | Mar 4, 2014 4:40:33 AM