Discoveries and inventions are considered as natural products of scientific theories and technological changes.
They enable accumulated prior knowledge to drive future development and progress.
The amount of new knowledge in science and technology has grown exponentially in recent decades, with a recent study published in Nature analyzing 45 million papers and 3.9 million patents over 60 years.
It turns out that the breakthroughs in papers and patents are declining over time, regardless of the field.
Researchers believe the reason for this is that scientists and inventors have been relying on a narrower body of existing knowledge in recent decades.
This study reminds us that there is a great need to rethink the future of our technological creation.
To study these hypotheses, the researchers used a quantitative metric called the CD index, which measures how papers and patents change the citation network of science and technology.
They divide theoretical breakthroughs in technological change into two categories.
The ameliorative and the disruptive, where the disruptive can eliminate old knowledge and lead to new directions of technological development.
They found a decline in breakthroughs in discovery and invention in all disciplines.
For papers, the CD index declined from 91.9% (social sciences) to 100% (down to 0, physics) between 1945 and 2010.
For patents, the decline from 1980 to 2010 was from 78.7% (computers and communications) to 91.5% (pharmaceuticals).
Since 1980, the breakthrough decline in papers in the life sciences, medicine and physics has slowed slightly, with the most dramatic and sustained declines in the social sciences and technology.
These findings were replicated in the analysis of other indicators, including textual diversity in the papers and the use of the breakthrough category versus the improvement category.