Interesting debate/conversation. I worked the last 26 years of my career at Los Alamos Labs, which is a concentration of science and engineering PhDs, and out of which significant innovation has come, despite extensive rules and regulations which also serve to stifle innovation. I would suggest that most innovation comes when the following conditions exist:

- Innovative and creative people gather in a common community.

- The culture of the community is open to innovation. This has not been common historically.

- Travel to that community is feasible, such that people who feel stifled in their home town are able to move to join the innovative community.

I don't see any argument against the position that a larger population will tend to have more creative and innovative people, but if the above conditions do not exist, they will make little if any progress.

I will also note that people who seek employment in government almost exclusively fall outside of the innovative and creative group, but they also tend to have control issues. They will go to great lengths to prevent change or innovation that might upset their position or power. Thus, the more "mature" a government becomes, the less innovative its population will be, regardless of size.

Based on these conditions, I would expect to see far more innovation out of India in the coming decades than out of China, despite similar populations. And assuming no major changes in the governments of either.

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I agree. Innovation comes about in networks or communities. As the network becomes larger, has more energy and wealth available, becomes better interconnected (inside and out), is more knowledgeable, has better incentives for innovation, and fewer incentives and road blocks against stopping innovation. Some of these factors can interfere with others.

The extreme positions for (such as Hanson) and against population as a driver of innovation oversimplify.

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Nice dialog. I would challenge Matt a bit on the "mutations are innovations" idea. Mutations are accidents, innovations are intentional. Genes don't have ideas or intuitions. It is knowledge that human beings are trying to discover and create. The process is economic, not biologic. Great respect for both of you for demonstrating how to dialog.

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worth mentioning that may innovations fall on deaf ears or are not valued at the time - glass in china, Don Carlo Gesualdo's music in his own time etc. the larger system plays a role in deciding that, however temporarily. great conversation!

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Ridley's position seems odd to me because Simon did not argue that the conditions in which a population live do not matter for innovation. On the contrary, he thought that stable rules and markets promoted innovation. Population size increases tend to boost innovation but are also affected by laws and culture.

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I can see making the argument that larger populations, in the short history of their being any, create more consumers than creatives. Granted, you are more likely to find another Bach, or Stradivarius in a large population, but in large groups consumers drive creative activity, and such a genius would likely be overlooked in our world at this time.

There is an Estonian composer named Arvo Part, a truly brilliant and unique artist, and yet Taylor Swift sells millions of recordings. That's not taking away from either person but making the point that population be damned, the fickle consumer, and money which drives innovation now.

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