Research comes in a variety of modes.

Some of it is pure discovery. You have brand-new territory and no idea where you're going.

After you map out a space, you can search more deliberately: you can see the gaps and explore within them.

Later-stage research is polish and refinement: hunting for exceptions to rules, optimizing processes, contextualizing the work into the rest of the world.

I think the reason everybody everywhere thinks that "progress is dead" is that the early stages are only visible in retrospect.

It can take years (or generations) for ideas to propagate and mature enough to be legible to the outside world and they often seem inevitable by then.

The later stages of work can be labor intensive, and once a field is proven, it forms a crowd that makes incremental progress.

Research and ideas exist in an ecosystem and compete for attentional resources. Charismatic ideas attract disproportionate talent. A good idea might suffer simply by virtue of being too similar to something everyone is tired of.


This is all part of why in our practice we tend to avoid crowded research areas.

If there's already a lot of folks working in an area, the big ideas are probably already established... and the idea will probably succeed with or without us. To reap the rewards, we can simply wait.

On the other hand, when we invest into ideas we think are ignored or have been forgotten, we can have disproportionate impact relative to our investment.

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Ah, apologies. I thought replying would condense. I'll set my default to unlisted.

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