Posted by: devinmoore | January 28, 2006

There are infinitely more original ideas

I have heard the statement “anything original has already been done” many different times in my life so far. The first time I remember hearing it was in the 6th grade, talking about the widespread release of portable CD players with my friends. They claimed that anything innovative was already being created, and I had no hope of thinking of a new item like a CD player. Of course, this was before mp3 players, mp3’s, and even the commercial internet. In fact, I went on to be a part of many completely original ideas in Computer Science as well as in Fine Art.

To address the Fine Art arguments, The field of painting has been declared “dead” by many people, both famous and infamous. However, there is no proof that an arbitrarily selected idea must have been copied from somewhere else. For this to be true, you’d have to be able to identify the “last original idea” ever created, which is completely ridiculous and impossible. Because of the internet, it’s easier to see what everyone else is doing, and then to do something different from that.

What people are doing when they are saying that X looks like Y is to make a comparison. Our brains are immense pattern recognition machines, and we are able to see likenesses between works that look similar, but which in fact are unique. Even if you try to produce a painting that looks exactly like the mona lisa, you physically can’t do it. For one thing, the Mona Lisa is ~500 years old and yours is brand new.

Lesson: Please don’t tell people that all original ideas are exhausted. It merely discourages children and stifles creativity, and you’ll inevitably be proven 100% wrong.


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