I'm kind of suspicious of placing "academia" and "startup" as the main players where new ideas evolve. They are certainly both the main drivers of funding. But consider:

- Linux Kernel

- Bitcoin


These are all projects that define the modern world in ways that are impossible to grasp, like, cut out one of them and you might notice 5-10% ripples in global GDP kinda thing.

<there's an argument to be made that they would have arisen anyway. But Riemann had all observations and mathematical tools and framing to propose general relativity, yet it took another century>

There's also a huge amount of projects that "feed off" academia or corporations, as the side projects of employees, or as a tool for something else.

CUDA was envisioned primarily as a tool making animated tits and bullets bounce more realistically and it's a matter of chance that it ended up being the fundamental technology for solving half-century long problems in particles physics, macro-molecular biology and arguably psychology (if you view advertising models as modeling human behavior).

I think there's a non-zero chance of there being a process that's something like: Many worthwhile inventions are created by half-insane people working on what they are interested in. Then whatever institution happens to be close to the inventor[s] gets the credit as its meta-generator, because by definition such investors are driven by neither status nor money they don't care to protest. The three examples above are exceptions where this didn't happen.

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Read Fortune's Formula recently, and marvelled again at Bell Labs. I have always wondered what made Bell Labs successful. So many geniuses and important inventions came out of that place that it doesn't seem like mere coincidence. I don't know which category you would place it in, but do you think a digital version of that is possible/already exists?

Another thought I had was about how the nature of work has changed quite a bit. Do you think it's more difficult to do focused work in this hyper-distracting era? Because I see the means for collaboration and the ability to find information has grown, but can't say the same about that obsessive hobbyist kind of involvement in work that seems to be missing now. Could just be me being nostalgic for a time I never knew :p.

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