ejz

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We Should Break Up Elite Colleges

One interesting thing: when you look at the “best” colleges for specific subjects say 80 years ago it seems like there was more heterogeneity and small colleges with some specialty. Today the best colleges are all “the best” at every subject.

Is Innovation in Human Nature?

Funny, growing up in the US we’re tsight a version of human history that centralizes technology. We’re taught that what makes Australopithecus special was walking and inventing stone tools, homo erectus is inventing fire, and so on. Invention is almost framed as what makes us human!

Draft for comment: Ideas getting harder to find does not imply stagnation

Good point, though I don't find looking at a selection of areas as too convincing. I could just as easily choose areas with consistent exponential growth that I would guess don't look like this, like solar panels or genome sequencing. Even if things were getting better on average you would expect some things to get less efficient over time too. (for example, think about that inflation components chart people share all the time)

One last thing: we would probably want to look at output and not inputs. Robert Gordon's sort-of nemesis, Chad Syverson, has done work on how some big super-trends take a long time to develop and even have an impact on the world, like steam rail and electricity. Might be worth looking into as a counterpoint to the Gordon thesis.

Draft for comment: Ideas getting harder to find does not imply stagnation

One thing I'd like to see is a discussion of the potential for measurement error. For example, software is notably deflationary yet we don't see that in the statistics due to how we count. (We still don't really know how to value the contribution of software to GDP.) Bloom (2020) may just be measuring the wrong outputs for the current type of progress. For example, if publications or patents are a weaker signal for ideas than in the past, the methodology breaks down.

Why doesn't progress seem to propagate?

I know it but it’s still pretty specific to the technologies and products the author is interested in. I’m more interested in a general question of: there are a number of technologies where the implementation barriers seem nontechnical, and it seems like it’s getting worse. Curious why.

Why is there no equivalent of the VC industry, but for patentable inventions instead of startups?
Answer by ejzMay 11, 20225

The premise isn't exactly right here. There are venture backed companies that primarily develop and license IP, like Qualcomm, ARM, and RAMBUS. Plus, like, the entire biopharma industry. Sometimes companies make spinoffs that just hold IP for joint ventures with other companies. So this does happen; there just needs to be infrastructure to use the IP, like people to manage the licensing process and a corporation to actually hold the IP, since it always needs to be assigned to someone (IP cannot legally exist in the ether). Investors do also sometimes take royalties in exchange for funding, which is like taking a stake in a patent.

What is true is that this isn't quite institutionalized in the sense that there aren't patent funds that just invest in patents. The closest is companies that acquire patents, like Intellectual Ventures. Note that in all of these instances there is a lot of diversification; you probably will attract investment in an ongoing R&D effort that monetizes through patents more so than just a patent itself, even in the above examples.

I think the reason for this is that the risk/reward profile isn't there. Inventions have the same risk regardless of monetization method, but you have less control in the outcome if you just get an interest in a patent since so much of the commercial success has to do with other things which require people. Plus your margins will be higher but your revenue will be lower.