Miranda N. points us to this short NY Times story about a study into the genetic history of two popular subspecies of rice
, in which new research shows that the two are actually quite closely related. What the study showed was that, through cross-breeding the two subspecies, each was able to take on the best characteristics of the other, while tossing off less desirable features (survival of the fittest at work). But, what makes it interesting is the quote at the end from one of the researchers:
The story of rice is really a story of how human civilization has progressed through borrowing, Dr. Wu said, adding:
"Intellectual property infringement has occurred since the beginning of civilization. Thatís why we have this rice to eat today."
Now, obviously, before anyone goes nuts in the comments, this has nothing to do with intellectual property laws
, which quite clearly did not exist when all of this was happening. And, certainly, Dr. Wu appears to have been just making a little joke, which made its way into the final line of a short human interest piece. However the point is actually one worth repeating, which is that the history of innovation is
the history of borrowing from others, adding it to something else, building on what works, and discarding what doesn't work. The really troubling part is how we seek to limit such efforts today, in the name of "intellectual property."