It's his 2006 novel Next - in which there is a page describing an article I wrote as an editorial for the journal I then edited: Medical Hypotheses.
(A couple of my friends were shocked by this when lying on the beach absorbed in their holiday reading...)
As a result, the idea was picked up and featured by the New York Times as one of their big ideas of that year. And, presumably, because of that - it has been featured in Wikipedia ever since.
I don't think much of the idea, myself. Not one of my best...
This is the text:
British Researcher Blames Formal Education - Professors, Scientists "Strikingly Immature"
If you believe the adults around you are acting like children, you're probably right. In technical
terms, it is called "psychological neoteny," the persistence of childhood behavior into adulthood.
And it's on the rise.
According to Dr. Bruce Charlton, evolutionary psychiatrist at Newcastle upon Tyne, human
beings now take longer to reach mental maturity — and many never do so at all.
Charlton believes this is an accidental by-product of formal education that lasts well into the
twenties. "Formal education requires a child-like stance of receptivity," which "counteracts the
attainment of psychological maturity" that would normally occur in the late teens or early
He notes that "academics, teachers, scientists and many other professionals are often strikingly
immature." He calls them "unpredictable, unbalanced in priorities, and tending to overreact."
Earlier human societies, such as hunter-gatherers, were more stable and thus adulthood was
attained in the teen years. Now, however, with rapid social change and less reliance on physical
strength, maturity is more often postponed. He notes that markers of maturity such as graduation
from college, marriage, and first child formerly occurred at fixed ages, but now may happen over
a span of decades.
Thus, he says, "in an important psychological sense, some modern people never actually
Charlton thinks this may be adaptive. "A child-like flexibility of attitudes, behaviors and
knowledge" may be useful in navigating the increased instability of the modern world, he says,
where people are more likely to change jobs, learn new skills, move to new places. But this
comes at the cost of "short attention span, frenetic novelty- seeking, ever shorter cycles of
arbitrary fashion, and... a pervasive emotional and spiritual shallowness." He added that modern
people "lack a profundity of character which seemed commoner in the past."