"Originality" is just filing the serial numbers off of others' contributions to your ideas

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/06/04/murder-your-darlings.html


“Don’t shade your eyes, but plagiarize” (only be sure always to call it “research”)




So, I didn’t write three novels and the fourth one is also an illusion? I had better tell myself pronto.


You wrote 'em, it’s just that you read them first.

(Or saw them or lived them or whatever, or most likely, bits of all of those, which you turned into brilliant (I assume) unique works.)


Copyright law says ideas are so special, they need all kinds of incredible protection.

Copyright does not protect ideas. It only protects expressions of ideas.


This is interesting. I have invented one original thing, which wasn’t quite original - the oscilloscope clock http://www.cathodecorner.com/sc100.html It definitely went through many months of refining before becoming a thing in the year 2000. The final result was rather different from the original idea, which was pretty much handed to me by someone else.

Most of the people who copied it completely ignored its one salient feature, that I used circles instead of vectors to draw the digits. Perhaps they were exercising their creativity by ignoring mine.


That clock is certainly cool, but the webpage is so dated it hurts my eyes.

(eta) I checked out the rest of the site as well. Very interesting work you’re doing.

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Impressive project, love the look of the display. I’ve added it to my list of things I want to make.


Of course not. That’s what patent law is for.

So Apple can sue you for millions for using their “brilliant invention” of the rounded rectangle.


You’re just saying that because you got to the arXiv Data-Science–DMZ-Cocaine-LSD-Emulation section first. Then started having visions from whatever MacWorld is called now. Did they launch iFate yet?

I really like the last bit, where they mention that talented people spend the same amount of hours practicing as people with less perceived talent to reach the same level of skill.

I recently had a discussion on this very board and most people did not agree with this. Their opinion was that if you lack the talent you are better off just giving up. It seems this video confirms the “if you put your mind to it, you can achieve it” mindset.

Or at least it debunks the damaging and self-reinforcing idea that if something doesn’t come naturally to you, you may as well not even try it, since without any talent you will never become good at it.


Eh, pretty cool video. Good production values, but I feel like I’ve heard all this before :wink:


Is that a bad thing? :slight_smile:

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A point of view for an extremely narrow definition of “original”.

Myself, I’m not falling for that ancient sinkhole of reason and dismissal of logic. You eventually find yourself going down the rabbit hole until you start trying to tell people that the big bang was the first and last act of originality and everything that came after was simply another way to arrange the same matter/energy matrix that has been here all along.

I’m just not down with the Ecclesiastical idea that there is “nothing new under the sun” because as with that teacher, the despair that “everything is meaningless” tends to win out in that view and I’m not going to turn to a magic man in the sky to find meaning.

In fact, it’s simply a logical fallacy and a corruption of the argument from logos where anything new or novel is judged a priori and hand waved away as derivation.


Everything is a remix, and that’s ok.
Every creative work builds on the the body of existing work and uses it to say something. Sometimes something new, and sometimes not. And that’s ok.
All human creativity is inspired by what came before, and that’s not just ok, that’s great.

Because, simply by being human, you are the inheritor of the entire range of human culture, and you are free to play, to create and remix to your heart’s content, with the potential to produce something truly original out of it. And today is probably the best time to be alive and be creative, because modern technology has enabled the world’s range of culture and creativity to be accessible from the palm of your hand. You have the potential to put together cultural elements in ways which would be impossible 20 years ago, and to create, inspired by anything you like.

Of course, as the article gets into, there are people who want to put a stop to all that. They demand the enclosure of parts of this cultural commons, so that they alone can profit from it. And they are only able to do so as far as we let them.


“Bernard of Chartres used to compare us to dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature.”

– John of Salisbury (1159)

“What Des-Cartes [sic] did was a good step. You have added much several ways, & especially in taking the colours of thin plates into philosophical consideration. If I have seen further it is by standing on the sholders [sic] of Giants.”

– Isaac Newton (1676)


Yeah, I don’t think muddying the waters between truly lazy copypasta and works that creatively build on and comment on their predecessors is the ultimate answer to copyright woes. The people pushing for tighter and more persistent copyright aren’t making good-faith philosophical arguments that their ideas are completely original, they’re just swinging their size and corruption like a cudgel to stay on top of the heap. Answering that with a philosophical rumination on originality seems like a part of a losing strategy…

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I guess you are free to play, you just aren’t always free to profit. And you’re only free to play if the rights holders either are unaware that you are playing, or allow you to play.

… annnnd I should have finished reading your comment before tossing in my two cents.

Or, more specifically, as far as our elected officials – who have proven again and again to be for sale to the highest bidder – make laws that allow them to have control. For as long as we are willing to obey they laws they place upon us.

Unfortunately, in no version of reality that I can detect, am I a highest bidder. But that’s what I get for not spending the first 50 years of my life schmoozing for connections and chasing dollars. As the end approaches, I can see how – in this current reality and this country – choosing to not follow the money brick road was a mistake.