You didn’t build that!

Charles Darwin and other pioneering thinkers were not “heroic geniuses”, according to a new study saying we can all take credit for science’s greatest discoveries
Innovations from the likes of Darwin, Albert Einstein or Steve Jobs arise through societies and social networks acting as “collective brains”, scientists claim.

Cue Mazzucato insisting that it’s government that enables this therefore we must all pay further tithes to government. Except:

Dr Muthukrishna explains: “To be an innovator, it’s better to be social rather than smart. There’s no doubt that there are variations in people’s raw skills, but what predicts the difference between a Steve Jobs and a Joe Bloggs is actually their exposure to new ideas that are wonderful and different.
“If you want to be more creative the best thing you can do is to talk to people who disagree with you.”

Where’s the one place you won’t hear different ideas? Inside the groupthink of government of course.

And of course Mazzucato herself is interesting on this point. She’s tried well hard to get me fired simply because I disagreed with her…..

52 comments on “You didn’t build that!

  1. Dr Muthukrishna explains: “To be an innovator, it’s better to be social rather than smart.

    There is not a lot of evidence that Steve Jobs was smart. That he was a sociopath with dreams of perfection? Sure. But the technical work was done by others. The getting on with others was not his strong suit either – and it is lucky he worked with tech geeks who have almost as poor social skills. He could never have made it as a stock broker or a real estate agent.

    But there must be hundreds of geniuses just like him. We have discussed Tesla before. Not very social. Nor was Newton. Darwin on the other hand was. Which is why all his friends got together to defend him against Wallace’s prior publication.

  2. Pretty much everything is based on the discovery of the wheel, which was fairly private sector I think. So we can go full circle if they like (Ho Ho).

  3. “Larger, more interconnected societies, where individuals are able to mix with people with diverse backgrounds, mean that more ideas are likely to emerge and interact with other ideas”

    MOAR Diversity!

  4. Jonathan – “MOAR Diversity!”

    Whereas, historically speaking, more racial and ethnically diverse societies are not that interesting. Except in the bad sense that civil war is always fun. Humanities greatest and most interesting periods have been based on small, ethnically homogeneous societies – ancient Athens, Jerusalem. Not large ethnically diverse empires.

    It appears the same for companies too. Whatever the literature says, the more innovative a sector is, the less ethnically diverse it is. Look at Silicon Valley. Compare with today’s car industry or even Pepsi.

  5. Jonathan, I’m actually ok with that mixing and diversity, I think it makes sense as long as it happens on my country’s terms (in my country) and we can (and do) kick people out who turn out to be bad eggs. I actually do like curry (which I know is a small matter as well as a cliche); happy to have US tech people, German engineers, French bankers, Aussie soldiers, and (post the weekend) Nigerian Harrovians over here.

  6. Ideas exist in their own right and are often very unfortunate in the people who believe in them. Abraham
    Lincoln decided to issue government created money to fight Civil War and not pay the banks to create it at interest; Hitler (or rather Hjalmar Schacht) issued his own currency to alleviate German unemployment in the same manner.
    Meanwhile here on Planet We Know Everything, everybody knows that money is not created by the banks but honestly lent on from deposits honest savers don’t happen to be using it at the time !

  7. Ugh, Newton acknowledged he was ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’, this is hardly revolutionary thinking. And of course, landed gentry with lots of free time and disposable income are *more likely* to spend enough time soaking up and discussing the data to make a novel observation.
    That doesn’t mean it’s automatically easy, something anyone could do. I know plenty of people who don’t ‘get’ consumer electronics, I can muddle my way through calculus (or I could, once) but I’ll never really get theoretical physics. I’m as artistic as a rock.

    Exposure helps, a lot, but I think you have to have a brain wired in a certain way to have a shot at a major breakthrough.

    What I would like to know is whether today’s relatively easy access to information (and clever people) makes it easier to become an expert, or whether the firehose of sounds-good-but-junk science and the amount of material to master makes it harder to get there before senility kicks in.

  8. Dr Muthukrishna, and his co-author, Professor Joseph Henrich from Harvard University

    In other words, not just “Give me a job” but “Let us bring every single second cousin to the West”.

  9. So, we stick Joe Bloggs in the physics labs at Caltec for five years and we’ll get Fusion sorted then, yes?

    What a total load of balls. Scientific geniuses often have insights that are directly contradictory to established science, you know, that “social network” of scientists who have often fought tooth and nail to discredit them.

    As for ‘diversity’, the only diversity that matters is that of ideas, yet the Left, true to form, has hoovered out this good bit and ensured that what’s left marches lockstep in one direction, only with different coloured faces.

  10. All of these ideas are now, and have been for at least fifteen years, all over the Internet. So come on Joe Bloggs, why haven’t you delivered?

  11. I’m surprised nobody’s noticed the ludicrous bias here; Wozniak can reasonably be described as possessed of genius. His design of the Apple ][ was a masterpiece. Yet they credit Jobs, the marketing wonk.

    Jobs was the one whose obsession with limiting the user experience to his “vision” led to the lack of development of proper successors to the Apple ][ in favour of first Lisa and then the Mac, which condemned Apple to niche status until they were able to move into selling phones and music players.

  12. Working in IT for an American company I can tell you that they are already incredibly diverse organisations. A lot of companies are also outsourcing their software development, with Nanjing and Bangalore being particular hotspots. But even in Silicon Valley itself the number of nationalities is huge.

    What matters is culture. Many Africans are incredible natural musicians, but how many orchestras are there in Africa?

    Or perhaps in the case of IT, it’s markets in their rawest form. Screw up like Nokia, and to a lesser extent Blackberry did, and you’re gone. Older readers will also remember DEC for instance, and the BUNCH, now all footnotes in the history of IT. You ain’t going to get that in a Government. Screw up, and you just keep doing more of the same, because you’re right and it’ll work in the end. Real world outcomes don’t count.

    Actually in IT, in my experience there aren’t many great innovations, just a series of iterative improvements.

  13. “Or perhaps in the case of IT, it’s markets in their rawest form. Screw up like Nokia, and to a lesser extent Blackberry did, and you’re gone”

    You don’t even have to make particularly egregious errors. Sometimes not evolving fast enough is sufficient for extinction. Or you might have a very good product, and then a good, free open source version appears and you are fucked.

  14. Now that Twitter is becoming less of a small-l liberal/lefty echo chamber, it’s taken to redefining “abuse” as “disagreeing with my opinions” (yes, really). So all of those creative types will never have to be faced with anyone who has the temerity to point out that they’re talking hypocritical balls

  15. “… I’m actually ok with that mixing and diversity, I think it makes sense as long as it happens on my country’s terms …”

    I like a small amount of diversity too. But who gets to decide the terms? State Employees who are, as often as not, left-of-centre and who seem to dislike the West in general.
    As they say quite frequently over at Chateau Heartiste, Diversity + Proximity= War.

  16. DBC Reed

    Willis you say an LVT is the key to life, the universe and everything or possibly a cure for cancer?

  17. I have some sympathy with this view. The list of simultaneous discoveries on Wikipedia is prodigious, which leads me to believe most steps forward are about being in the right place at the right time, and willing to do the work.

    Einstein, maybe not so much.

  18. ‘Actually in IT, in my experience there aren’t many great innovations, just a series of iterative improvements.’ – Ian Reid

    10-4. In my 30+ years as a computer scientist, the only general development I saw was miniaturization. The boxes got smaller and smaller. Same tech, smaller box.

  19. Ah, yes, we are all cells of a greater organism. As such, the Greater Organism can direct us to do things that are in the interest of the Greater Organism, and not in our own personal best interest.

    ‘Innovations from the likes of Darwin, Albert Einstein or Steve Jobs arise through societies and social networks acting as “collective brains”, scientists claim.’

    SOMEONE thought of it. The group didn’t. A group is not capable of coherent thought. Maybe it was Einstein’s wife who had the revelations, and not dear old Albert, but that still doesn’t give credit to people who built the roads.

    “We made the roads, therefore, your company belongs to us.” – Elizabeth Warren (paraphrase)

  20. Re: Rob

    “As for ‘diversity’, the only diversity that matters is that of ideas, yet the Left, true to form, has hoovered out this good bit and ensured that what’s left marches lockstep in one direction, only with different coloured faces.”

    Ben Shapiro gave a talk on exactly this last week called “has diversity gone too far” and true to form the chimps in BLM tried to cause a riot outside and people had to be smuggled into his talk by the police.

    http://livestream.com/YAF/events/4870270

  21. “As they say quite frequently over at Chateau Heartiste, Diversity + Proximity= War.”

    I think more importantly, Roissy links to a hell of a lot of academic studies that say “Diversity + Proximity= War.”

    You know the studies that have an unfortunate habit of ending your career.

  22. Einstein’s first great achievement, the one that enabled all the others, was to realise that he was made to be a mathematical physicist. He’d have been no use as a mathematician (he said so himself) and there’s no sign that he’d have been any use as an experimental physicist or engineer. He found the perfect niche for himself. Under what conceivable system of government tyranny could that have been possible?

  23. It’s true that the independent contributions of great scientists tend to be exaggerated in popular accounts.

    For example, the equations of length contraction and (special) relativistic time dilation were worked out by Lorenz. Poincaré proposed the principle of relativity. Einstein wrote, much later, “There is no doubt that the special theory of relativity, if we regard its development in retrospect, was ripe for discovery in 1905”.

    Einstein’s insight into the physics was outstanding. But he wouldn’t have made his discoveries without the work of his fellow-physicists, and they would not have taken many years to arrive at the same insights without him.

  24. On this analysis Richard Murphy will have to give up the invention of country by country reporting, peoples quantitative easing, the Tax Gap, green quantitative easing, and presumably much more.

  25. ‘But he wouldn’t have made his discoveries without the work of his fellow-physicists, and they would not have taken many years to arrive at the same insights without him.’ – SJW

    What’s your point – collectivism is justified?

  26. SJW: the Lorenz contraction was known in my day as the Fitzgerald contraction, on the utterly boring grounds that he proposed it three years before Lorenz. Who first proposed it I have no idea.

  27. “Standing on the shoulders of giants”

    I think the research as done a long time ago by one of the Great Men.

  28. …oh, and sorry for not reading all the comments before commenting. Bad me. And the typo.

    But yes, Wikipedia should show you many instances of Stuff being ‘discovered’ by several to many people at about the same time. It’s pretty offing obvious that (given reasonable communications) things of interest get worried away at by more than one person, and the group produces results in some order – so someone is always first, but lotsa people worked on it (possibly without knowing about the others).

    Which, in a leap in another direction, is why one element of the patent system is ludicrous. You’ll often find that there’s a bunch of applications on more or less the same thing within the span of a year or so. To the reasoning mind, this suggests strongly that the idea was ‘obvious’ to one ‘skilled in the art’, and therefore absolutely not patentable.

    But that’s not how it works…

    Sigh

  29. @ SJW
    OF COURSE the individual contributions tend to be exaggerated – what else do journalists and biographers do?
    BUT they are non-zero.
    Also there are advances which are made more or less simultaneously by a few individuals. Again the advance is non-zero even if you cannot identify with any certainty the first person to make it. In one minor case I am credited by my colleagues in the UK while on the other side of the Atlantic an MIT professor is credited, in some others, even more minor, nobody except my immediate ex-colleagues credits me while some decent stockbrokers who, I am fairly sure, developed the idea independently but later are credited by the few who noticed the developments.
    What I deduce is that when “Dr Muthukrishna explains: “To be an innovator, it’s better to be social rather than smart.” he is talking utter bullshit. We, the innovators,are smart but not social.

  30. In every project I managed, I used the word “the.” So credit for my massive accomplishments isn’t mine, but rather the person in antiquity who created the word “the.” And the people who created “kiss” and “my” and “ass.”

  31. @gamecock

    “‘Actually in IT, in my experience there aren’t many great innovations, just a series of iterative improvements.’ – Ian Reid

    10-4. In my 30+ years as a computer scientist, the only general development I saw was miniaturization. The boxes got smaller and smaller. Same tech, smaller box.”

    Surely power requirements shrinking too? That’s a biggie, and worth mentioning. I do a talk about long term trends in tech, and the example I use to illustrate shrinking power requirements is a clock. You can buy a novelty digital clock powered by a pair of spuds, but 200 years ago, you needed a bloody huge pendulum to drive big Ben. 2000 years ago, you needed a whole star to power yer sundial.

  32. SJW:

    There was a young man named Fisk
    Whose fencing was exceedingly brisk.
    So swift was his action, the Fitzgerald Contraction
    Reduced his rapier to a disk!

    Seen (1959) in ONE, TWO, THREE…INFINITY! by Gamow
    (1956, I think).

  33. You read the bio on that lad, and weep….
    you can see where he’s coming from, and what he’s aiming for though…

    “He is interested in the application of research in cultural evolution to public policy.”

    Aiming for the Comfy Couch..

  34. I simply must disagree that the one place you won’t find new ideas is in government. I therefore break from the hive mind and refute your claim.

    Surely recent studies on the echo chambers in social media are enough to prove that it isn’t just government that fall victim to group think. The stereotypical yes man in a business is another non-governmental example of this basic human flaw.

  35. Even RJMurphy could not claim that his original ideas are funded by the public purse. I think a 19th century confectionery maker has funded a few of them.

  36. Social Justice Warrior – “Einstein’s insight into the physics was outstanding. But he wouldn’t have made his discoveries without the work of his fellow-physicists, and they would not have taken many years to arrive at the same insights without him.”

    That is questionable. What is clear is that they did not make those insights. Dozens of people might have come close, but they did not do it. When Einstein did do it, he was not working as part of a team. He was in effective exile from the physics community – his great year was when he was working as a patent clerk. Likewise Darwin was not exactly cut off from other scientists but he was not part of the scientific Establishment. Alfred Russell Wallace, who technically should have been given credit as he was first to print, or would have been if Darwin’s friends didn’t hold it up, was in Indonesia and not remotely connected.

    Science does not work in teams. It works through great men. Young White men usually.

  37. Social Justice Warrior – “Is there no limit to your obsession with skin colour? Get this: no matter how intelligent some people have been who shared your complexion, it doesn’t stop you being thick.”

    Indeed. By the same token, no matter how much you wish it not to be so, modern civilisation is almost entirely the work of young White males.

    And there is not the slightest sign that is going to change soon.

  38. Social Justice Warrior – “Is there no limit to your obsession with skin colour? Get this: no matter how intelligent some people have been who shared your complexion, it doesn’t stop you being thick.”

    Oh. I forgot the main point – even if science is the work of a community, it is a White, male community. With virtually no diversity of any sort whatsoever.

    I may be obsessed with rubbing your nose into the facts, but in this case it is relevant. Somewhere, someone of African origin may have made some minor contribution to science, but the original posting cited someone spouting nonsense. Science does not work like Sesame Street. It is not some multicultural Leftist wet dream. The evidence is actually rather racist.

  39. Your obsessed with ‘facts’ you’ve made up. Look at the winners of Nobel prizes in Physics or Medicine in the last couple of years. Or Fields medallists.

    But that’s not really the point. The interesting thing about these people is emphatically not their complexions.

  40. Social Justice Warrior – “Your obsessed with ‘facts’ you’ve made up. Look at the winners of Nobel prizes in Physics or Medicine in the last couple of years. Or Fields medallists.”

    So the Fields people came under such pressure they finally awarded one to a woman. Good for them. They also got in a two-fer by giving one to a Latino. Even better for them. In fact they gave one to an Indian as well. A three-fer.

    Apart from that it is wall to wall White guys with the odd East Asian tossed in. You know, what you would expect.

    “But that’s not really the point. The interesting thing about these people is emphatically not their complexions.”

    Indeed. But it is the way to bet.

  41. “Apart from that it is wall to wall White guys with the odd East Asian tossed in. You know, what you would expect.”

    And of the whites, a disproportionate number are Jewish. Make of that what you will.

  42. dcardno – “And of the whites, a disproportionate number are Jewish. Make of that what you will.”

    It is perfectly socially acceptable to argue that Jews have been breeding for intelligence for the past 2000 years. Selecting bright boys and making them Rabbis and hence rewarding them with more than average numbers of children. No one will be fired or denied tenure for saying so.

    It looks as if it is perfectly socially acceptable to argue that people of West African descent are better runners. At least Obama put one such book on his reading list a while back and no one seemed to mind.

    If anyone can explain the Social Justice Warrior position on human genetics I would be interested.

  43. SJW – the concepts of special relativity were around before Einstein tied them together and it is fair to say that someone would have worked it out 2 -5 years later if he hadnt. General relativity otoh was so unique it would have taken 20-30 years to get to.

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