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Historical Continuity of Progress

Discontinuity in altitude records

Rockets may have caused a discontinuity in altitude of human projectiles. This investigation is not complete. Details We have collected some altitude records, shown in Figure 1. It looks as though rockets may have represented

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Returns to scale in research

When universities or university departments produce research outputs—such as published papers—they sometimes experience increasing returns to scale, sometimes constant returns to scale, and sometimes decreasing returns to scale. At the level of nations however, R&D

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Is the Range of Human Intelligence Small?

The range of human intelligence

The range of human intelligence seems large relative to the space below it, as measured by performance on tasks we care about—despite the fact that human brains are extremely similar to each other.  Without knowing

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Cases of Discontinuous Technological Progress

We have verified three technological trends which underwent a discontinuous jump in improvement equivalent to more than several decades at previous rates. These are relative effectiveness of explosives, temperature of superconductivity and building height. We have verified two more

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Discontinuity from Nuclear Weapons

Nuclear weapons were a radical improvement over previous weapons in terms of energy released per weight of explosive (relative effectiveness). They do not appear to represent a substantial discontinuity in terms of cost-effectiveness of explosives, though the evidence there is weak.