The Myth of Basic Science

Does scientific research drive innovation? Not very often, argues Matt Ridley: Technological evolution has a momentum of its own, and it has little to do with the abstractions of the lab.

Innovation is a mysteriously difficult thing to dictate. Technology seems to change by a sort of inexorable, evolutionary progress, which we probably cannot stop—or speed up much either. And it’s not much the product of science. Most technological breakthroughs come from technologists tinkering, not from researchers chasing hypotheses. Heretical as it may sound, “basic science” isn’t nearly as productive of new inventions as we tend to think.

The Myth of Basic Science

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