Culture

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
computers, culture, innovation, invention, remix

Companies:
apple, xerox



Everything Is A Remix: The Invention Edition

from the innovation-is-a-process dept

We've discussed in the past Kirby Ferguson's excellent project Everything is a Remix, which tries to highlight how creativity is almost always derived from elsewhere. We wrote about the first two videos, which covered copyright issues, starting with music and then movies. His latest may be the best yet, as it focuses on inventions, in large part by retelling the Apple story, concerning how it built off the work at Xerox PARC (which in turn built off work at SRC and other places). We actually just talked about this story a few weeks ago, and this video definitely adds to that conversation:
The key point, which critics will undoubtedly skip or gloss over, is that he's not just saying that copying is good. He's saying that copying is one part of the very important process of innovation. Copying is a component, but the important part is then taking that copy and doing more with it.
At issue is that some people believe that it's better to do everything from scratch. But that's incredibly wasteful, inefficient and too often, limiting. Being able to build on the works of others, to transform them and combine them with other good ideas, that's where innovation comes from. We've pointed this out many times before. The iPhone was a wonderful innovation, but almost all of its technologies could be found elsewhere. It's just that Apple put them together in a brilliant and user-friendly package. The video shows that the same thing was true of the original Macintosh, which took ideas from elsewhere and put them together in a useful manner. And, as you look back through history you find that it's true of all sorts of revolutionary and transformative advances in progress, such as the Gutenberg printing press or Henry Ford's Model-T mass production setup:

Innovation is almost always about remixing. It's about taking ideas that are already out there, and transforming them and adding to them. And yet, our social and legal policies seem to deny this. They seem to be focused on the myth of "flash of genius," -- of an invention that is brand new and unique. And so we create a system like the patent system, which doesn't recognize the importance and value of building on the ideas of others in order to continue that process of innovation. And that's a shame, because it's holding back progress in dangerous ways. It's certainly not stopping progress, but what we lose from progress not going as fast as it could is tremendous.

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  1. icon
    Michael Long (profile), 24 Jun 2011 @ 1:29pm

    Re: Re:

    "It is *impossible* to create something without inspiration. ...anything you create is a remix"

    One doesn't follow the other, and to attempt to do so belittles creativity.

    I can mechanically "create" a remix by simply copying stuff from here and there and pasting it together. Doesn't mean it's good nor useful nor particularly creative, for that matter.

    Take the Gutenberg press. Yes, the pieces needed to create it existed for years. But where did the inspiration to combine them together come from? To create a new FUNCTION (automated printing) that previously didn't exist?

    The remix video implies that all Edison did was follow a mechanical process to create his light bulb. But where did his vision of his light bulb come from? Swan? Fine. Where did THAT vision come from?

    Yes, we often build on the work of others. But Everything is a Remix implies that creativity is little more than a simple mechanical process that anyone can do, and as such supports a meme that's typical of the "everyone is special" generation.

    No one is smarter than you. No one is a genius. No one can see farther, or more. You'e safe in your mediocrity.

    It's all "just" copying. It's all just a remix...

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