(Excuse me in advance if I've hereby launched a duplicate question, but so far I didn't came across any opinions.)

In other words, I was wondering: Will scientific progress finally stall, because it will take too long for a researcher to reach the level of previous research? (Improved health care will definitely provide some boost here, although I would judge this would be a minor effect?)

Maybe one would need to distinct between research in a broad sense vs. in a deep sense. In the latter case, research couldn't be continued without understanding the previously discovered concepts. And maybe there's also a limit on how much you can split a scientific area into a subfield. In the end you're working on a phenomenon that is a subsubsub.... field.

Therefore, is the portion of all knowledge that humankind can ever get a grip on, limited? So AI-powered robot scientists like 'Adam' and 'Eve' will take it from there?


1 Answer 1


It seems to me that what you're grasping at is the cost of reproduction of scientific knowledge.

This must impose a limit in theory, but there are a few things that occur to me offhand.

Firstly, economic technologies that arise from science often reduce the amount of labour we must perform merely to survive on a daily basis, and this creates slack for people to engage in additional education and study.

Secondly, scientific progress is often also measured by the amount of knowledge that we stop reproducing because it was wrong. In other words, scientific progress does not relentlessly accrete additional knowledge, instead there are often periods in which huge simplifications occur and much thought is jettisoned.

Thirdly, once scientific knowledge is recorded, it is often far easier to reproduce thereafter - it can be remarkably easy to climb up onto the shoulders of giants.

Fourthly, very few of the population are actually engaged in producing scientific knowledge, and are only modestly engaged in reproducing it, with much intellectual labour inefficiently deployed, so there is still far more untapped potential remaining than is presently consumed.


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