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为什么你家孩子成不了发明家?环境决定的

Grace Donnelly 2018年01月09日

人生早期的限制就能决定这个人能否为社会贡献出具有变革性的思想。

那些有潜力成为美国下一个爱因斯坦的学生,在小学期间就能看出端倪,然而他们当中大多数人长大后没有成为发明家。问题出在哪里?均等机会项目(Equality of Opportunity Project)的研究人员根据对专利、税收记录和考试分数的调查,来判断哪些学生长大后成为了美国的发明家,哪些学生没有。结果显示,人生早期的限制就能决定这个美国人能否为社会贡献出具有变革性的思想。

哈佛大学博士生、这次研究的第一作者亚力克斯·贝尔表示:“我有点震惊,在某人小学三年级的时候,根据其科学和数学的考试成绩,你就能很大程度上判定这个人能否成为发明家。”

不过,即使是分数最高的学生,长大后成为发明家的概率也不高,除非他们是白种人,有着上流社会的背景。收入位列前1%的家庭中孩子成为发明家的概率,是中低收入家庭中孩子的10倍。白人小孩成为发明家的概率,是黑人小孩的3倍。而女性持有的专利数,在美国只占总专利数的18%。

要缩减这些差异,重点在于改变学生的环境,解决缺乏创新氛围的问题。与发明家亲密接触,会增加孩子们长大后成为专利所有人的概率,尤其是在他们父母或社群其他成年人所处的领域。贝尔表示:“你无法成为你没见过的那种人。拥有一位某种程度上与你相似的导师或行为榜样,这很重要。”

例如,假设在一个世界里,女孩看见女发明家的频率和男孩看见男发明家的频率类似。意识到了这个问题,就相当于在挽留这些流失的爱因斯坦上迈出了第一步。贝尔表示:“这不只是一些人的生活脱离了我们所讨论的轨迹。这件事对全社会而言都很重要。”(财富中文网)

本文的另一个版本登载于《财富》2018年1月1日刊,标题为“创造发明家”。

译者:严匡正

Students with the potential to be America’s next Einstein can be identified in elementary school, yet most won’t grow up to be innovators. So where’s the disconnect? Researchers from the Equality of Opportunity Project examined patents, tax records, and test scores to determine which kids grow up to become inventors in the United States—and which ones do not. According to the findings, limitations that begin early in life help dictate whether a given American will contribute transformational ideas to society.

“I was a little shocked that you could know so much just by third grade about who’s going to become an inventor based on science and math test scores,” says Alex Bell, a doctoral student at Harvard and lead author of the study.

But even top-scoring students weren’t much more likely to grow up to be innovators unless they were boys from white, upper-class backgrounds. Children from the top 1% of household incomes were 10 times as likely to become inventors when they grew up as their middle- and low-income peers. White children were three times as likely as black children, and girls go on to hold just 18% of patents in the U.S.

Decreasing these disparities hinges on changing a student’s environment and correcting a lack of exposure to innovation. Proximity to inventors made children more likely to grow up to become patent holders, specifically in the same fields as their parents or other adults in their communities. “You can’t be what you can’t see,” Bell says. “Having a mentor or a role model that’s in some sense similar to you is important.”

Imagine a world where, for example, girls saw women inventors as often as boys see men inventors. Recognizing the problem, then, is the first step to retaining these lost Einsteins. “This is not just the lives of the people who fall out of the pipeline that we’re talking about,” Bell says. “This is something very important to all of society.”

A version of this article appears in the Jan. 1, 2018 issue of Fortune with the headline “Inventing the Inventors.”

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