New Research Shows That Copycats Lead To More Innovation
from the that's-how-it-works dept
We’ve been arguing this for many years, but a new research report (sent in by a bunch of you!) has provided some empirical support to the argument that you get more innovation from having copycats rather than just a bunch of folks inventing from scratch.
“We thought at first it would be better to have innovators around you,” said IU cognitive scientist Robert Goldstone, professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington. “But in our experiments, if people are surrounded by imitators, they actually do better.”
The reasons that the research found, also agree with what we’ve been saying for many, many years: innovation is an ongoing process of improvements, and it’s the “copycats” who usually make the surprising, but necessary changes to make innovations really valuable.
The reason, said co-author Thomas Wisdom, is that “imitators often make their own improvements to the original solution, and these can, in turn, be adopted and improved upon by the originator and others.”
The report’s authors note that it appears that having a lot of imitators around is often most useful in areas such as medicine and software development — which are two areas where such copycat innovation is least allowed thanks to overaggressive patenting. The researchers point out that part of the reason why imitators and copycats are so important is because it’s basically impossible for one person (or a small team) to think through all the possibilities. Opening things up so lots of others can add their input or (better yet) try their own variation, leads to much greater diversity in finding innovations that are truly useful. And that’s actually better for everyone.
“You can’t possibly explore an entire problem search space on your own, but if you recruit other people, it’s to your advantage. They help you survey that area. You benefit when other people imitate you because they help you explore multiple variations around your solution that you couldn’t possibly pursue on your own.”
This has been true for years in the tech field, where many people realized that if the “big challenges” were achieved, it would open up vast new markets, and everyone could compete in those markets. But the way to get over those hurdles is to have lots of different people with different viewpoints working on those challenges.
Filed Under: copycats, follow on innovation, innovation, innovation as process
Comments on “New Research Shows That Copycats Lead To More Innovation”
Just one look on the internet for LOLCats can back this theory’s foundation.
More LOLCats. Better LOLCats.
The RIAA and MPAA (et al) want to kill the LOLCats.
That’s not LOL.
Well, it’s not like the cats care – they’re illiterate!
Makes sense if you are in a competitive market where you will be copied you will want to come first with new ideas (ie innovate) and keep evolving to stay ahead. If many industries had to compete de facto we’d have much better stuff at a variety of areas.
A more likely scenario is that thing is nice, but would suite me better if …..
See List of Arduino boards and compatible systems an example of this in action.
It's also useful in movies
Movie makers also find it useful to take from the public domain and make a new work.
Now if they could just get the idea out of their tiny brain that the original public domain work is now under copyright. Others are also free to innovate from the original work. Not just the first one to do so.
New Research Shows That Copycats Lead To More Innovation
Copied and then modified research shows that Copycats lead to less innovation
basically anything and everything that can lead to innovation will be stopped by the legacy players in whatever industry you want because they fear their loss of control and enormous profits. to achieve this, they pay politicians to destroy any new policy and/or law who are only too willing to help them while helping themselves. this removes so much progress in so many fields, but what do you expect when you have such corruption in governments?
I have wondered for a while about the “long wave” cycle of innovation. There have been a number of such cycles observed, where there are furious burst of technological innovation, leading eventual consolidation in a few very large companies and something like stagnation. These have lasted some 70 to 50 years (the pace has been increasing and the wavelength decreasing). One explanation I have seen was that a trigger releases a burst of innovation that drives the first, explosive round of new innovations and associated companies/institutions/organizations, followed by a slowing of innovation as all avenues are explored, followed by consolidation. Having seen the computer revolution from the inside, I think this explanation is backwards: The initial trigger release everyone to innovate but after a while the new organizations grow to a size where they can suppress smaller, newer organizations, which lets them consolidate, giving them more power to stifle innovative competition, and so on in a vicious circle that kills innovation and the resultant economic growth…
Re: Re: Re:
That sounds very plausible. But are there any measurements suggesting that? Something like size of internet companies relative to number over time and a sufficiently narrow defined growth-sector that has had its rise and consolidation? It would be a new way to understand the relation between innovation and economy.
Re: Re: Re: Re:
The best indicator of an entrenched industry is the amount of regulation, testing, certification and other red tape required to make products legal for sale. The red tape can have the effect of multiplying start up costs and making small run production prohibitively expensive.
Re: Re: Re:2 Re:
Sure, but regulation is likely a small externality to work around in the beginning of a technological boom. It catches up later and help the mentioned suppression. But if the trigger event cause several companies to innovate simultaneously and the most successful will be able to quelch their competitors 1) They have to grow more to be able to suppress the rest, 2) They have to be able to compete initially without the legislation and 3) They need a trigger for shifting from innovation to suppression.
Usually legislation is 5+ years late to a boom in technology. That results in an initial period where the dynamics are different. Maybe IP is part of the suppression: As soon as you get sufficient economy you can buy up patents and copyrighted work instead of innovate yourself, to expand the company economy to buy new work etc. I don’t know what cause the economic snowballing, but legislation is not likely to be the catalyst for that development. It is a massive attenuating factor later on, as you describe it, but it is not what cause the innovation market to collapse!
Umm, "Microsoft" refutes this entirely. Biggest copier yet least innovative.
And to prove the point that copying isn’t necessarily innovative, just cherry-picked “proof”, here’s some more copy-paste:
REPENT! TEH END OF TEH INTERNETS IS NIGH!
“There I Fixed It will not be publishing new content after this Friday, January 24th. Starting Saturday the 25th, all of the site’s content will be reset entirely randomly each day.”
“In order to focus our efforts on the sites you all enjoy the most, we will no longer be updating Picture is Unrelated with new content.”
So much for teh free internets! NOT a sustainable model even for a few silly user-generated images!
Continuing to see trend next day: Not even 1.4m users can save 4Chan founder Chris Poole’s startup If Moot can’t turn a quid from an app, what chance do you have?
Actually, knew was the end of civilization when “Twin Peaks” arrived. Stupidest character ever: the Log Lady.
Any damn fool can copy. Copyright was put in statute to prevent greedy damn fools from profiting off what others made.
Re: Umm, "Microsoft" refutes this entirely. Biggest copier yet least innovative.
You’re right blue. Completely right.
Your copy-pasted (wait a minute…) points never lead to innovation.
Re: Re: Umm, "Microsoft" refutes this entirely. Biggest copier yet least innovative.
Is Blue really worth the time you give him to make a reply?
Re: Re: Re: Umm, "Microsoft" refutes this entirely. Biggest copier yet least innovative.
No. I do it for the lulz.
Re: Re: Re:2 Umm, "Microsoft" refutes this entirely. Biggest copier yet least innovative.
I like blue better when he’s just a single line of greyed out text.
Open Source encourages copycats and innovation
Closed source software tends to get a huge money-driven rush of progress, at first. But at soon stagnates. The money driven motive is to eventually get to a state where you sit back and relax and watch the dollars roll in for the almost zero cost of selling duplicated disks or downloads of software.
Open source software, driven by volunteer effort, gets progress for the long term. It is a bazaar of activity and innovation. And it is accelerating.
The early focus of trying to stop it was for Microsoft to bad-mouth Linux, and SCO to sue IBM over alleged (but never proven) copyright infringement.
Once the monopolists figured out copyright didn’t work. They realized that Patents were the right weapon to use.
So here we are. Patent lawsuits between mega corporations are everywhere — and clogging the courts. There are the once innovators, now content to just copy the innovators while suing them. (Hello iPhone 6) A variation on this is to quietly enter into patent extortion agreements with the innovators for a low enough price to make signing attractive (Android makers signing Microsoft patent licenses). Then there are also the PTE’s (patent trolling entities) who have never innovated but want to leech off those who do.
Re: Open Source encourages copycats and innovation
Yeah, but if open source is also free, closed source will always be able to stay a step ahead since they can innovate in areas the open source doesn’t and add the open source innovations! Since they are closed source the open source people will not be able to use these particular innovations in their development.
The reason Microsoft is getting run over today is their old code being way too complicated and nobody understanding the basic interactions anymore (withering). Linux and Libre Office are examples of programs being far easier to understand because their basic knowledge is widespread (less withering due to programmers leaving the project and more voluntary coders to act as an already educated supply for the core coders.).
Re: Re: Open Source encourages copycats and innovation
I’m not a programmer…but I do have to ask just how can closed source stay ahead of open source? What areas do you mean?
Being open source means that anyone can tinker with the code, versus the limited number of people who tinker with closed source. How many people work on Linux code, and how many innovations has that spawned, versus the number of people working on Windows code and the number of innovations that has spawned?
If I’ve suddenly gotten lost somewhere in this reasoning, please tell me.
Re: Re: Re: Open Source encourages copycats and innovation
I partially agree with it. Closed source can stay ahead . . . for awhile, in the short term, by throwing money at it. But not forever. Throwing the kind of money it takes to stay ahead is not sustainable.
Open source just keeps improving. Sometimes slowly. But relentlessly. (Unless nobody is interested in it anymore.)
Re: Re: Re:2 Open Source encourages copycats and innovation
But in the real world, closed sourced software has never been able to stay ahead except in a few very specialized areas. The best closed course can do is stay at parity. Open source has been where nearly all the innovation has been happening for at least a decade.
Re: Re: Open Source encourages copycats and innovation
Yeah… not so much. Whether or not something is open source doesn’t really affect the ability to add the innovations of the other.
Closed source software can’t just copy/paste open source code into their product.
So the question is, do we want to evolve fast and naturally, or slow and unnaturally. One of these selections benefits the vast majority of people, the other benefits a select few at the expense of everyone else.
I know which one I’m rooting for!
So researchers are finally starting to formally understand what Linus Torvalds has been saying for decades: “With enough eyes, all bugs are shallow.”
It deeply saddens me that crony capitalism has managed to seemingly remove this concept from common sense…
No point made in this article is anything more than what should be able to be quickly deduced by the average thinker.
I wonder how much change we would truly see if money was taken out of the public election equation. You know, making our elected officials primary job what it always should have been: representing the people who elected them. Instead of their primary function being to campaign for re-election…
I copy from – in no particular order and to varying degrees – R. Crumb, Jack
Davis, Ileana Grimm, M. K. Browne, Don Martin, Gahan Wilson, Gary Larson,
Ed Roth and Rick Griffin for my enormously popular Art Humor Blog.
Without the tricks, techniques and attitude I’ve gotten from their work, I would
not be the author of an enormously popular Art Humor Blog.
Did I mention that I am the author of an enormously popular Art Humor Blog?
more dissembling by Masnick
Figure it out. If infringers are allowed to squeeze inventors out of the markets they create, inventors will stop creating and infringers will have nothing to copy. All you know about patents is…you don’t have any.
Can you say ?dissemble??
Property rights and jobs in America are now hanging from a frayed thread. Congress and the White House continue to follow the lead of their multinational campaign donors like lambs…pulling America along to the slaughter.
Just because they call it patent “reform” doesn’t mean it is.
All this patent ?reform? talk is mere dissembling by China, huge multinational thieves and their paid puppets -some in Congress, the White House and elsewhere in the federal government, and some masquerading as reporters. They have already damaged the American patent system so that property rights are teetering on lawlessness. Simply put, their intent is to legalize theft -to twist and weaken the patent system so it can only be used by them and no one else. Then they can steal at will and destroy their small competitors AND WITH THEM THE JOBS THEY WOULD HAVE CREATED. Meanwhile, the huge multinationals ship more and more American jobs to China and elsewhere overseas.
Do you know how to make a Stradivarius violin? Neither does anyone else. Why? There was no protection for creations in his day so he like everyone else protected their creations by keeping them secret. Civilization has lost countless creations and discoveries over the ages for the same reason. Think we should get rid of or weaken patent rights? Think again.
Most important for America is what the patent system does for America?s economy. Our founders: Jefferson, Franklin, Madison and others felt so strongly about the rights of inventors that they included inventors rights to their creations and discoveries in the Constitution. They understood the trade off. Inventors are given a limited monopoly and in turn society gets the benefits of their inventions (telephone, computer, airplane, automobile, lighting, etc) into perpetuity and the jobs the commercialization of those inventions bring. For 200 years the patent system has not only fueled the American economy, but the world?s. If we weaken the patent system, we force inventors underground like Stradivarius and in turn weaken our economy and job creation. For a robust economy America depends on a strong patent system accessible to all -large and small, not the watered down weak system the large multinationals and China are foisting on America.
For the truth, please see http://www.truereform.piausa.org/
Ronald J. Riley just hates it when due process is enforced.
Re: more dissembling by Masnick
We’ve already debunked that argument over and over again. In any case, Stradivarius never patented the violin. He couldn’t, it was obvious and already in existence. Learn a little history, will you?!
BTW Stradivarius may have kept his METHOD secret but the violins he made were not.
Civilization has lost countless creations and discoveries over the ages because of over-protection. Hence the Renaissance. Try again.
For a robust economy America depends on a patent system where rounded corners and prior art (slide to unlock, anyone?) can’t be patented and patent trolls are quickly shut down. As it is, the patent system puts the brakes on creations and discoveries by putting a tollbooth on innovation. FYI the Open Source movement is not only thriving, it’s proven to be profitable.
Re: more dissembling by Masnick
Reported for calling people liars just because they disagree with you.
Inventors seed, copycats fertilize-all harvest
The seed ideas are necessary else there wouldn’t be a beginning for the copycats to improve on.
The patent system has always worked this way with initial core patents being copied and improved by follow on patents.
Masnick usually looks for ways to denigrate the entire patent system. Perhaps he does not realize he has given it a boost with this piece on copycats.
Re: Inventors seed, copycats fertilize-all harvest
The whole point of patents is to prevent or control copying. Therefore they inhibit building on other peoples patents. In anew industry it is possible for patent thickets to arise because different people patent different bits of a practical solution to a problem, and these result in cartels controlling a technology. Patents are guaranteed to slow down development of an industry by limiting the copying needed for rapid development.
Re: Re: Inventors seed, copycats fertilize-all harvest
Dear Annonymous — your quote which you’ll find at the end of this rant came as a shock to me. I had, until now, thought that you were involved in Masnick’s discussion group because you knew SOMETHING about patents or had an professional interest in them.
Whatyou wrote , Jan 25th, 2014 @ 11:49am
Re: Inventors seed, copycats fertilize-all harvest
“The whole point of patents is to prevent or control copying. Therefore they inhibit building on other peoples patents. In anew industry it is possible for patent thickets to arise because different people patent different bits of a practical solution to a problem, and these result in cartels controlling a technology. Patents are guaranteed to slow down development of an industry by limiting the copying needed for rapid developmen”
This statement is so off the mark that you should stay out of a field where people — who understand the stated and CLEAR intentions of our founding fathers – to PROMOTE THE PROGRDESS OF SCIENCE AND THE USEFUL ARTS ==== PROTECTING before Publishing. With this design — they allowed progressive learning and IMPROVING both science and the useful arts. It means that by learning what others have done before you — you are permitted to — WITHOUT INFRINGING — producing new and better forms.
If it means that the prior art is necessary for your new disclosure — you might be able to deal with that as a licensee, partner or other relationship.
So Anonymous — it would behoove you and the readers and perhaps even Mr. Masnick — to avoid making a fool of yourself by not understanding the first thing about the whys and wherefores of the marvelous American Patent system.
Re: Re: Re: Inventors seed, copycats fertilize-all harvest
Very, very few people here think that the idea of patents is a bad one. However, lots of people here (and I’m one of them) think that the patent system as currently implemented is pretty broken: it actively suppresses innovation in some fields, and makes it extremely risky for someone without a large legal budget to produce anything new.
I’m talking about the field I know: software development. There are so many bogus patents, most of them of the submarine variety, that it is quite literally impossible to produce any nontrivial program without someone being able to sue you. It’s even impossible to know in advance what patents, bogus or not, you might be at risk of “infringing.”
That’s a broken system.
OUR PATENT SYSTEM IS MEANT TO GROW TECHNOLOGY
Mike ? I would be untruthful if I told you that I was an admirerer of your Columns called TechDirt. Which I have, for many years, renamed in my mind as ?TechDreck.? Same concept but perhaps a bit pejorative, because though I think you?re a bright fellow ? I don?t think you?re anywhere near the same side in the patent issues as we inventors and what Americans should do to help our country. But that aside ? I?m seriously surprised at the tone and what I feel is the lack of knowledge about the ?academic? with the interesting name of Robert Goldstone. I assume that since you call him Professor in this article, he holds a Doctorate. But Clearly he is not a Doctor of Invention. And I?m always brought back to the famous statement ?Those that can DO! Those that can?t TEACH!? Besides all that ? In the wonderful film GYPSE, (about Gypse Rose Lee the famous stripper, of long years ago — Rosalind Russell had a very funny song called Mr. Goldstone who could be a Goodstone or a Badstone or a Happy Stone or a Sadstone. Though I don?t mean to be unkind since my own baby name was Grndlvrrf (note no vowels) ? it coincides with my feelings about Mr. Goldstone?s ?academic? conclusions.
Now while I?m neither Thomas Edison nor Tesla his nemesis? I, along with both of them, have been honored as one of MIT?s Inventors of the Week. See http://web.mit.edu/invent/iow/margolin.html
And I?ve conferred with a number of Patent Office Directors at the USPTO on a number of occasions representing American Inventors. And I do have 27 patents, one issued last July and other pending, so I do consider myself a life-long Professional Inventor.
But with all this background of many decades ? by reading this issue of your TechWhatever — it seems that I have No IDEA of what the patent system is all about and what it was intended to do. Nor do I appreciate Mr. Goldstone?s and perhaps Mr. Masnick?s term ?COPYCATS? when referring to inventors. Because it means that he/they are calling ALL inventors COPYCATS!
That is partly because I have found and I believe THAT ALL INVENTIONS ARE IMPROVEMENTS ON OTHER INVENTIONS! Which means that the FIRST one was likely NOT an invention but a DISCOVERY!
Let?s take the ?invention? of the ?Wheel,? one of my earlier and less important inventions. Actually it was DISCOVERED by one of my predecessors. I believe his name was UUUUUUUGH, though I?m not certain of the pronunciation. He actually didn?t INVENT the wheel, he just noted that when a fallen tree was oriented in a certain direction on a hill, if given a small push ? it would ROLL DOWN THE HILL! ?Eureka,? he said, which predated Archimedes by a few millions years which would probably be considered prior art.
Then UUUUUUUGH?s son, GHUUUUUUU, decided that rolling a whole tree with branches on it down a hill was inefficient, even if it did the job of getting the tree down the hill. So he cut off the branches. THAT was an INVENTION. Later cutting the tree into smaller sized disks and on ? and we have COMPOSITE INVENTIONS.
FINALLY CAME THE REAL INVENTION. This would have been the AXLE ? which allowed the wheels to turn without turning the platform (call it chasis) to remain stationary. WOW ? this was not just an Improvement ? But a real and useful INVENTION. And don?t forget Michelin tires.
So now that I?ve demeaned Mr. Goldstone for having no idea of what an Inventor is or what an invention is or that we, me, you or any inventor ? is not a Copycat but we use PREVIOUS inventions and information to GROW and IMPROVE American Technology.
In concluding, Professor Goldstone seems not to know that our fabulous founding fathers wanted to protect AND publish patents of American inventions to Grow American technology ? which they do and have done since 1790 or 224 YEARS!
I will now close this rant.
Re: OUR PATENT SYSTEM IS MEANT TO GROW TECHNOLOGY
Inventors are hardly in agreement on these issues. I’ve heard just as many (maybe more) bemoaning the patent system as it exists today as celebrating it. You don’t speak for the entire group.
nice article ,and good news
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