In economics, some have asserted the efficient market hypothesis. The idea is that market prices take into account all the information currently available. If the efficient market hypothesis holds, an investor couldn’t consistently beat the market because his knowledge about the markets is no better than anyone else’s. An accompanying “joke” is that an economist would never bend over to pick up a $20 bill on the street. If there was really $20 to be taken, someone would have taken it already.
As I’m moving towards research and away from classes in my PhD program, I sometimes find myself believing the efficient research hypothesis: if an idea I have is good and correct, someone must have had it already. I have the same temptation outside of school. On occasion, I consider an idea for a website or computer program, but then decide that if it were really a good idea someone would have had it already. This can’t always be right. I don’t know if markets are efficient or not; I’m neither an economist nor an investor. But the progression of knowledge certainly is not efficient. New things are always available to be learned and studied, and these things aren’t always obvious from the information currently available. Research (and other projects) requires more than just thinking of a good idea; it requires some sweat and elbow grease.