There is an article today in Yahoo! News speculating on: “Is Einstein the Last Great Genius?” The Yahoo! article quotes from its Live Science source an earlier article that asks: “Will there Ever be another Einstein?” The conclusion to the Live Science article is quoted below in this post; what it says is quickly becoming outdated.
The speculation in these articles about the emergence of genius misses a HUGE factor. In his book Jump Point, Tom Hayes explains (page 11) that by 2015 five billion people will have their own Web-enabled devices. Almost every adolescent on earth — thus virtually every potential Einstein — will have access to what is known and a way to publish his or her ideas.
Maybe by 2030 we will have dozens of Einsteins — by tapping the entire world population instead of only the privileged children in prosperous countries. Intellectual collaboration and fervor are moving online, and so are the ability to publish your eurekas, and for the value of those ideas to be sorted out naturally by network laws.
The description that follows here is very 20th century because it leaves out new billions of young people, and the inevitable percentage of potential Einsteins among them. Already, the power of the priests of science to put new ideas “in the crank file” is seriously diminished:
Those who stay in science don’t work alone. At labs like CERN, the world’s largest particle physics center in Switzerland, 100 researchers collaborate on a single atom-smashing experiment. Publishing the results takes years.
It’s hard to imagine a renegade like Einstein tolerating it.
“Maybe there is an Einstein out there today,” said Columbia University physicist Brian Greene, “but it would be a lot harder for him to be heard.”
Especially considering what Einstein was proposing.
“The actual fabric of space and time curving? My God, what an idea!” Greene said at a recent gathering at the Aspen Institute. “It takes a certain type of person who will bang his head against the wall because you believe you’ll find the solution.”
Perhaps the best examples are the five scientific papers Einstein wrote in his “miracle year” of 1905. These “thought experiments” were pages of calculations signed and submitted to the prestigious journal Annalen der Physik by a virtual unknown. There were no footnotes or citations.
What might happen to such a submission today?
“We all get papers like those in the mail,” Green said, “We put them in the crank file.”