We live in a world that is rich with accessible information of every kind. This presents a seemingly unlimited abundance of information and ideas.
It seems that most of the time our work and creative endeavor consist of assembling together parts of works from others.
A great example is the predictive keyboard I’m using to type this. The little man inside the phone is already suggesting better alternatives to the words I am typing than I can think of.
This is a small version of the bigger picture, which includes books, ted talks, YouTube tutorials, blogs and everything else.
Where does this need to imitate others come from? Let me ironically quote
Robert Prissig (from the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) who says
“Schools teach you to imitate. If you don’t imitate what the teacher wants you get a bad grade. Here, in college, it was more sophisticated, of course; you were supposed to imitate the teacher in such a way as to convince the teacher you were not imitating, but taking the essence of the instruction and going ahead with it on your own. That got you A’s. Originality on the other hand could get you anything – from A to F. The whole grading system cautioned against it.”
One could argue that our interconnected thinking style means we move forward together. One could also argue that what were doing isnt thinking but a decscent in a circular morass of self referential commentary.
The difference between the great thinkers (of the past perhaps?) and we who believe we are wise is that they spent time contemplating, using their own brains more. Was this better?
To state the obvious, to be original requires one to first think for oneself. To do that requires some level of isolation, but not to the level of irrrlevancy. It is a balance, and it always has been. Although today its the challenge of fasting whilst standing next to the buffet.
The best we can do is be inspired, but introduce the tgibking required to ensure we do not imitate.