So I've on and off been arguing against the idea that science is not wholly, or even mainly, a matter inspired genius but organisation and will. I've justified this by reference to three cases: how Fermat's Last Theorem was proven by a team of graduate students and the lemmas compiled and organised by Andrew Wiles, how Michael Aschbacher was a mediocre abstract algebra student in his undergraduate years but became one of the top mathematicians in that field once he devoted his attention and energies to it, and finally, the recent American failed hypersonic missile development due to the failure to properly organise the testing sequence and procedures in their haste to catch up.

There was a recent article which was trying to explain why science and technological development has slowed of late. The article helpfully argues that science has developed to a point that it has simply become too complex and vast. To reach the frontiers of any field of science and technology you will have to master a vast array of subjects and topics, increasingly science will consume a staggering amount of mental bandwidth to "get the whole picture". These are no longer the days of Galileo making discoveries by peering through his telescope, these are the days of operating billion dollar Collider facilities manned by hundreds of scientists each compiling masses and masses data each within highly specialised and niche fields of science.

The ability to advance in science now is contingent upon the ability to streamline and organise scientific endeavours, and above all, the ability to efficiently process all these information. These aren't really the days of original genius or men inspired by seeing connections between disparate parts they can master by themselves, these are the days of collective endeavours, where you trust the information, premises, lemmas, etc, proven and compiled by other people, and the ability to know where to find the information, and master them as quickly as possible.

As such, it is irrelevant that China may (or may not!) have stolen hypersonic prototypes or preliminary ideas from the Americans. The development of any modern technology is so sophisticated that no one person, or even no one nation, can have a monopoly on the whole process. Why should China waste the mental bandwidth, time, and resources to invent hypersonics from scratch, when they can much more efficiently profit off the endeavours of others and then just take the work forward? As we say, there is no sense to re-inventing the wheel. If others have already discovered or advanced it, just continue from their endeavours. There's just too much to discover and learn, and too much more to advance, to waste time trying to re-invent and re-discover all these technologies or science for the affect of being an "original genius". (Indeed Newton himself said that if he had seen further that is by standing on the shoulders of giants, when did that stop being true?)

To speak from my own experience studying mathematics. When I was a lot younger I had this idea that I should try to struggle through every mathematics problem or theorem, to figure out everything from scratch by myself. In the process I would waste hours and hours just staring at a problem, trying a thousand and one different methods and hypothetical solutions and paths, until I finally "got it", as a result my learning was extremely slow and ponderous. Now, when I look at a problem, if I can't get it within 5 minutes I would just look at the solution manual. Sometimes the solution is something which would not have occurred to me simply because of the way the questions were framed, because it's just so remote from my mind there and then. If I had near infinite time to try a near infinite permutations of different hypotheses or solutions I would have gotten it, eventually. But I don't have near infinite time. I just have too much to learn, too much to master, to waste the time experimenting with so many different solutions until I "get it".

Let's take for example trying to understand how waves work. A phenomenon as basic as the mathematical equations for sound wave requires a staggering amount of mathematics. Let's assume high school mathematics. You'll first obviously have learn basic calculus, then exponentials, then first order linear differential equations, then second order linear differential equations. Then linear algebra, then Fourier Series representation of a function, then the Sturm-Louville solutions to boundary value problems, THEN finally partial differential equation solutions to waves phenomenon (and no doubt I'm missing a thousand and one other background theorems, physics, and whatnot required to learn ALL those).

I'm sorry, I don't have time to pretend that I'm another Fourier, Laplace, Euler, or Newton and figure out everything from scratch. These men have already done all the hard work of figuring out, testing, experimenting, and trying out various solutions to see which theorems work and which don't. I'm simply going to raid their insights and move forward.

Maybe I'm being very Chinese now in my attitude, but I would once more simply point out that the Chinese have developed hypersonics, even if they did it by saving the time and effort stealing off the previous work of the Americans, while the Americans are still floundering.

To the most efficient and organised goes the spoils.