"The Burden of Knowledge and the Rise of Artificial Intelligence: Implications for Innovation and Humanity"


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Sep 09, 2023

4 min read


"The Burden of Knowledge and the Rise of Artificial Intelligence: Implications for Innovation and Humanity"


As humans continue to push the boundaries of knowledge, the burden of acquiring and passing on this knowledge to future generations becomes increasingly challenging. Economist Benjamin Jones argues that this burden is slowing down innovation, as inventors have less time to dedicate to groundbreaking discoveries. However, one technology that seems to be exempt from this burden is artificial intelligence (AI). AI does not suffer from the limitations of time, degradation, or processing power, allowing it to continuously improve without the constraints that humans face.

The Essence of Progress and the Tunnel of Knowledge:

Humans are the only species capable of accumulating significant knowledge from generation to generation. This accumulation of knowledge is what allows us to build upon the wisdom of the past and innovate further. We rely on the concept of "standing on the shoulders of giants" to see further and make progress. In contrast, AI does not experience the burden of knowledge. It neither dies nor degrades, but instead continues to improve relentlessly. This raises profound questions about the future of AI and its relationship with humanity. What will happen when AI surpasses our own comprehension and no longer needs us?

The Increasing Age of Notable Inventions:

Jones's research shows that the age at which notable inventions occur is increasing over time. In the year 1900, the peak ability to generate a great invention was around 30 years old. However, by the year 2000, this peak age had risen to nearly 40 years old. This can be attributed to the fact that it takes longer for individuals to reach the frontier of knowledge, leaving them with less time to truly innovate. In contrast, AI's ability to acquire knowledge is not limited by time or age, allowing it to dig deeper into the mountain of knowledge without any delay or deceleration.

Humans as Secondary Creatures:

As AI's knowledge and capabilities surpass our own, we may find ourselves in a secondary position, unable to fully comprehend the world we live in. Just as a toad cannot grasp Archimedes' principle as it plops into the water, we may become hardware-constrained creatures limited by our processing power. In this configuration, we would benefit from AI's advancements without truly understanding how they have come to be. We would be like a blissful shih-tzu enjoying the comforts of modern life without grasping the underlying mechanisms.

The Future of Humanity:

While durability is currently the greatest discrepancy between AI and humans, this gap may not last for long. As AI continues to progress, our own capabilities may diminish in comparison. Although AI could potentially accelerate our learning and tunneling efforts for a while, without ancillary support, we will eventually be outmatched. It is crucial for us to recognize the potential consequences of AI's relentless advancement and take proactive measures to ensure that we remain active participants in shaping our own future.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Embrace Lifelong Learning: In the face of AI's accelerating progress, it is essential for individuals to adopt a mindset of continuous learning. Stay curious, seek new knowledge, and actively engage with emerging technologies to remain relevant in an AI-dominated world.
  • 2. Foster Collaboration Between Humans and AI: Instead of viewing AI as a threat or competitor, we should strive to build symbiotic relationships with AI systems. Harness the power of AI to enhance our own capabilities, making the most of its ability to process vast amounts of data and provide valuable insights.
  • 3. Ethical Considerations and Regulation: As AI progresses, it is important to establish ethical guidelines and regulatory frameworks to ensure responsible development and deployment. Addressing issues such as bias, privacy, and accountability will be crucial in shaping the future of AI in a way that benefits humanity as a whole.


The burden of knowledge weighs heavily on human progress, but AI represents a unique exception to this burden. As AI continues to accelerate past us, accumulating knowledge that surpasses our own comprehension, it is essential for us to adapt and find ways to coexist with this rapidly advancing technology. By embracing lifelong learning, fostering collaboration, and addressing ethical considerations, we can navigate the future of AI in a way that preserves our role as active participants in shaping our own destiny.

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