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Kids of the 1% are 10 times more likely to become inventors
A new study warns of millions of "lost Einsteins."
- A new study reveals the economic class from which most U.S. inventors come.
- Wealth, race, and gender are all factors in innovation.
- Exposure to innovators and inventions in childhood can bridge the gap.
A just-released comparison of patent records and tax and school-district records has produced a stunning picture of a critical form of inequality in the U.S. The Equality of Opportunity project, led by the Stanford economist Raj Chetty, has found that children of families in the well-off 1% are 10 times more likely to file a patent application during their lifetimes than children of less affluent families. In addition, white kids are three times as likely to patent, and a whopping 82% of young inventors are male.
Together, these figures represent a loss of potentially millions of young "lost Einsteins." The authors estimate the U.S. would have four times as many innovators if this disparity could be addressed. Fortunately, according to the same data, they see a fix: Regular exposure to innovation and innovators during childhood.
The 1% advantage
The researchers analyzed a new de-identified database of 1.2 million inventors in which patent records are linked to tax and school-district records. This allows the tracing of inventors' lives from birth onward. The relationship to patenting and family wealth is stark.
Patent rates vs. family income
(Chetty, et al)
It’s not an issue of talent
The benefits of coming from wealth also show up in what happens to students from different economic classes with equally exceptional math talent over time. Kids who do well at math in 3rd grade are far more likely to become inventors, but only if they come from affluent families. "Put differently," says the study, "becoming an inventor relies upon two things in America: excelling in math and science and having a rich family." By high school the students' scores dramatically diverge.
Patent rates vs. 3rd grade math test scores for children of low- vs. high-income parents
(Chetty, et al)
Exposure by location
One way to promote exposure to innovation during childhood is to live in the right area. The study identifies a correlation between geography and an innovative future. "Children who grow up in areas with more inventors — and are thereby more exposed to innovation while growing up — are much more likely to become inventors themselves." More specifically, "Exposure influences not just whether a child grows up to become an inventor but also the type of inventions he or she produces." People raised in Silicon Valley, though now living in, say, Boston are more likely to be inventors in computing-related fields. (Of course, family wealth is a prerequisite to living in the pricey Bay area.) Likewise, "those who grew up in Minneapolis — which has many medical device manufacturers — are especially likely to patent in medical devices."
Patent rates by area where children grow up
(Chetty, et al)
Exposure to innovator role models
The data also show a strong influence of parents' own innovative work on a child's future patents. Especially striking, and demonstrating the connection, is that if a parent holds one or more patents, their child is likely to apply for patents in exactly the same field.
The benefits of role models also align with gender: "Women are more likely to invent in a given technology class if they grew up in an area with many female inventors in that technology class," says the study. The presence of male inventors has no such effect on girls. Likewise, boys are more likely to be innovators when they've known male inventors.
Encouragingly, while there are still many more male inventors than women, the gap is already shrinking. In a separate article in The Conversation, the authors of the study write that this disparity gets smaller every year. So looking forward, girls should have an ever-stronger likelihood of female inventors being around.
"If girls were exposed to female inventors during childhood at the same rate that boys are to male inventors, the gender gap in innovation would fall by half," write the study authors.
Leveling the playing field
In The Conversation article, the authors conclude: "Together, our findings call for greater focus on policies and programs to tap into our country's underutilized talents by increasing exposure to innovation for girls and kids from underprivileged backgrounds. It may be particularly beneficial to focus on children who do well in math and science at early ages." They single out mentorship programs and guidance counselors who consider kids' long-term futures.
Certainly, the report makes clear that any parent who wants to foster a child's innovative side should see if there are innovators nearby who can share their process with a curious young mind.
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Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
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Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
- From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
- "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
- Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.
A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.
- The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
- The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
- Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
Brain images of a patient with acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.
COVID-19 and the brain<p>A growing body of research reveals alarming neurological complications among COVID-19 patients. On Wednesday, for example, researchers from University College London published a <a href="https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/doi/10.1093/brain/awaa240/5868408" target="_blank">study</a> in the journal Brain that describes how some patients have suffered temporary brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage, and other neurological problems concurrent with COVID-19.</p><p>Some patients suffered brain inflammation as a result of a rare disease called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which can cause numbness, seizures, and confusion. One patient in the study even hallucinated monkeys and lions in her home.</p>
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images<p>A separate study published in the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7198407/" target="_blank">Journal of Clinical Neuroscience</a> notes that some COVID-19 patients have also suffered neurological complications like impaired consciousness and acute cerebrovascular disease. The study notes that past viruses like MERS and SARS also seemed to cause neurological problems.</p><p>A troubling finding among this growing body of research is that some patients seem to suffer neurological damage even when respiratory symptoms aren't obvious. Additionally, scientists aren't sure whether damage from the disease will be permanent.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause," Dr. Ross Paterson, joint first author of the University College London study, said in a <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-07/ucl-iid070620.php" target="_blank">press release</a>. "Doctors needs to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes."</p><p>If you've been diagnosed with COVID-19 and want to enroll in the study, visit <a href="https://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study" target="_blank">cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study</a>.</p>
Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.