Dec. 9 (Bloomberg View) — Could the innovation that has helped drive human prosperity for centuries finally be petering out? Some worry that the easy discoveries in science and technology have been made, and it will only get harder from here. Is this believable?

The idea seems counterintuitive given the frantic pace of innovation in Silicon Valley, or the steady flow of discoveries in science. Researchers in California, for example, recently discovered a solid material that, even when sitting in direct sunlight, naturally cools itself to about 9 degrees Fahrenheit below the ambient temperature. It might point the way to a new wave of technology for cooling.

That said, the nature of innovation does appear to be changing. An analysis of more than 200 years of U.S. patent data, for example, suggests that although it's not necessarily slowing down, it has become less fundamental and radical.

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