Stanford University


Are Ideas Getting Harder to Find?

Nicholas Bloom
Chad Jones
John van Reenen
Michael Webb

American Economic Review
April 2020

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Long-run growth in many models is the product of two terms: the effective number of researchers and their research productivity. We present evidence from various industries, products, and firms showing that research effort is rising substantially while research productivity is declining sharply. A good example is Moore’s Law. The number of researchers required today to achieve the famous doubling of computer chip density is more than 18 times larger than the number required in the early 1970s. More generally, everywhere we look we find that ideas, and the exponential growth they imply, are getting harder to find.

Stanford University