13 April 2012

Science and the Wealth of Nations II: Where Science Gets Done

Most people think that science and math and engineering are found everywhere, like soccer, but actually, they are regional practices, more like hurling or tossing the caber. In the map, countries are resized according to the number of scientific papers they produce. Population size plays a role, but average productivity matters more. Note that Singapore, with a population of 5 million, looks bigger than Indonesia, with 240 million people. _West Hunter
Spend a little time with the map below, to receive the full impact of the global situation.
Greg Cochran's West Hunter

Generally the pattern is about what you would expect from the world distribution of IQ (note the correlation with latitude), coupled with the notion that science is generated by people out in the tail of the intelligence distribution. About 2% of a population with an average IQ of 100 scores above IQ above 130, about 0.1% above 145. For a population with an average of 85, only 0.1% will score above 130 – 20 times fewer. _West Hunter
The lower the average IQ of a nation, the fewer the prospects for successful training in science, math, computer science, or engineering. And the less science, math, computer science, and engineering being done in a nation, the more impoverished the nation will be, on average.
Innovation and the Scientific Wealth of Nations

Of course, even in nations of relatively high average IQ, political and cultural forces can suppress science and technology. And when a particular nation gains a large head-start -- as did the US before, during, and after World War II -- it can be hard for other regions to catch up again.
An EU initiative to increase effective R&D spending in 2000 (the "Lisbon Agenda") to gain parity with the US has had limited success, to put it most diplomatically. In a report published Friday (Jan 20), an independent Expert Group commissioned by the EU "urges Europe’s leaders to take radical action on research and innovation “before it is too late” " ... UK Telegraph article. The authors "propose a 4-pronged strategy focusing on the creation of innovation friendly markets, on strengthening R&D resources, on increasing structural mobility as well as fostering a culture which celebrates innovation."

The reported, effective abandonment of Europe by pharmaceutical companies, for example, is occurring at the very moment that the synergy of computation, biotechnology, and medicine is just getting underway (cf. earlier posts on Ray Kurweil's book The Singularity is Near). Europe's world-class scientists and corporations tend to focus on important, profitable but well-established fields. Meanwhile, the international ties associated with "frontier" research create wealth and productivity gains that pass much of Europe by. _Anglosphere
Of course, under the Obama administration, the US may be well on the way to squandering its earlier advantages.
Worldwide R&D by Nation (PDF)

Funding drives R&D, but if the talent isn't there, the funding is largely wasted. That is why research universities in countries such as Saudi Arabia -- where the average IQ is only about 85 points -- must import must of their high powered scientists and engineers from the outside.

H/T Steve Sailer

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