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← Everything is a Remix Part 3

Creativity isn’t magic. Part three of this four-part series explores how innovations truly happen.

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Showing Revision 13 created 03/07/2012 by trionima.

  1. The act of creation is surrounded by a fog of myths

  2. Myths that creativity comes by an inspiration
  3. that original creations break the molds
  4. that they are products of geniuses
  5. and appear as quickly as electricity can heat filaments
  6. But creativity isn't magic
  7. It happens by applying ordinary tools of thoughts to excisting materials
  8. And the soil from which we grow our creations is something we scorn and misunderstand
  9. even though it gives us so much, and that's copying
  10. Put simply copying is how we learn
  11. We can't introduce anything new until we're fluent with the language of our domain and we do that through emulation
  12. For instance all artists spend their formative years producing derivative work
  13. Bob Dylan's first album contained eleven cover songs
  14. Richard Pryor began his stand-up career by making a not so good imitation of Bill Cosby
  15. And Hunter S. Thompson retyped the The Great Gatsby just to get the feel of writing a great novel
  16. Nobody starts out original
  17. Need copying until the foundation of knowledge and understanding
  18. And after that... things can get interesting
  19. After we've grounded ourselves in the funtamentals through copying
  20. it's then possible to create something new with transformation
  21. Taking an idea and creating variations
  22. This is time consuming tinkering but it can eventually produce a breakthrough
  23. James Watt created a major improvement to the steam engine
  24. because he was assigned to repair a Thomas Newcomen's steam engine
  25. He then spent twelve years developing his version
  26. Christopher Latham Sholes modeled his typewriter keyboard on a piano
  27. This design slowly evolved over five years into the QWERTY layout we still use today
  28. And Thomas Edison din't invent the light bolb
  29. His first patent was "Improvment in electric lamps"
  30. but he did produced the first commercially viable lamp
  31. after trying 6000 diferent materials for the filament
  32. These are all major inventions
  33. but they're not original ideas so much as tipping points
  34. on a continuous line of invention by many diferent people
  35. But the most dramatic results can happen when ideas are combined
  36. By connecting ideas together creative leaps can by made
  37. producing some of history's great breakthroughs
  38. Johannes Gutenberg's printing press was inventent around 1440
  39. but almost all of its components had been around for centuries
  40. Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company din't invent the assembling line
  41. interchangeable parts or even the automobile itself
  42. But he combined all these elements in 1908
  43. to produce the first mass market cat, the Model T
  44. And the internet slowly grew up for several decades
  45. as networks and protocols merged
  46. It finally hit critical mass in 1991 when Tim Berners-Lee added the World Wide Web
  47. These are the basic elements of creativity
  48. copy, transform, and combine
  49. And the perfect illustration of all these at work
  50. is the story of the devices we’re using right now
  51. So let’s travel back to the dawn of the personal computer revolution
  52. and look at the company that started it all Xerox
  53. Xerox invented the modern personal computer in the early seventies
  54. The Alto was a mouse-driven system with a graphical user interface
  55. Bear in mind that a popular personal computer of this era was operated with switches
  56. and if you flipped them in the right order
  57. you got to see blinking lights
  58. The Alto was way ahead of its time
  59. Eventually Apple got a load of the Alto
  60. and later released not one but two computers with graphical interfaces
  61. the Lisa and its more successful follow-up, The Macintosh
  62. The Alto was never a commercial product
  63. but Xerox did release a system based on it in 1981
  64. the Star 8010 two years before The Lisa
  65. three years before the Mac
  66. It was the Star and the Alto that served as the foundation for the Macintosh
  67. The Xerox Star used a desktop metaphor with icons for documents and folders
  68. It had a pointer scroll bars and pop-up menus
  69. These were huge innovations and the Mac copied every one of them
  70. But it was the first combination it incorporated that set the Mac on a path towards long-term success
  71. Apple aimed to merge the computer with the household appliance
  72. The Mac was to be a simple device like a TV or a stereo
  73. This was unlike the Star, which was intended for professional use
  74. and vastly different from the cumbersome command-based systems that dominated the era
  75. The Mac was for the home and this produced a cascade of transformations
  76. Firstly, Apple removed one of the buttons on the mouse to make its novel pointing device less confusing
  77. Then they added the double-click for opening files
  78. The Star used a separate key to open files
  79. The Mac also let you drag icons around and move and resize windows
  80. The Star didn’t have drag-and-drop
  81. you moved and copied files by selecting an icon
  82. pressing a key then clicking a location
  83. And you resized windows with a menu
  84. The Star and the Alto both featured pop-up menus
  85. but because the location of these would move around the screen
  86. the user had to continually re-orient
  87. The Mac introduced the menu bar
  88. which stayed in the same place no matter what you were doing
  89. And the Mac added the trash can to make deleting files more intuitive and less nerve-wracking
  90. And lastly through compromise and clever engineering
  91. Apple managed to pare down the Mac’s price to $2,500
  92. Still pretty expensive but much cheaper than the $10,000 Lisa or the $17,000 Star
  93. But what started it all was the graphical interface
  94. merged with the idea of the computer as household appliance
  95. The Mac is a demonstration of the explosive potential of combinations
  96. The Star and the Alto on the other hand
  97. are the products of years of elite research and development
  98. They’re a testament to the slow power of transformation
  99. But of course they too contain the work of others
  100. The Alto and the Star are evolutionary branches that lead back to the NLS System
  101. which introduced windows and the mouse
  102. to Sketchpad the first interactive drawing application
  103. and even back to the Memex
  104. a concept resembling the modern PC decades before it was possible
  105. The interdependence of our creativity has been obscured by powerful cultural ideas
  106. but technology is now exposing this connectedness
  107. We’re struggling legally
  108. ethically and artistically to deal with these implications
  109. and that’s our final episode
  110. Part 4
  111. What if Xerox never decided to pursue the graphical interface?
  112. Or Thomas Edison found a different trade?
  113. What if Tim Berners-Lee never got the funding to develop the World Wide Web?
  114. Would our world be different?
  115. Would we be further behind?
  116. History seems to tell us things wouldn’t be so different
  117. Whenever there’s a major breakthrough
  118. there’s usually others on the same path
  119. Maybe a bit behind
  120. maybe not behind at all
  121. Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz both invented calculus around 1684
  122. Charles Darvin proposed The theory of evolution by natural selection of course
  123. but Alfred Russel Wallace had pretty much the same idea at pretty much the same time
  124. And Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray filed patents for the telephone on the same day
  125. We call this multiple discovery
  126. the same innovation emerging from different places
  127. Science and invention is riddled with it
  128. but it can also happen in the arts
  129. In film for instance we had three Coco Chanel movies released within nine months of each other
  130. Around 1999 we had a quartet of sci-fi movies about artificial reality
  131. Even Charlie Kaufman’s unusually original film
  132. Synecdoche New York
  133. bears an uncanny resemblance to Tom McCarthy’s novel Remainder
  134. They’re both the stories of men who suddenly become wealthy
  135. and start recreating moments of their lives
  136. even going so far as to recreate the recreations
  137. And actually this
  138. the video you’re watching
  139. was written just before the New Yorker published a Malcolm Gladwell story
  140. about Apple, Xerox and the nature of innovation
  141. We’re all building with the same materials
  142. And sometimes by coincidence we get similar results
  143. but sometimes innovations just seem inevitable
  144. Hi there I'm Kirby
  145. I am the creator of "Everything Is A Remix"
  146. and thank you so much once again for watching
  147. i would like to take a quick moment to thank the folks who contributed works to this episode
  148. as well as my followers on twitter who help out with research occasionally
  149. For the last time financial donations are very much appreciated and welcome
  150. They really do help make this work
  151. so if you are in a position to donate
  152. please visite the donate page of the website
  153. and contribute whatever the series is worth for you
  154. Also consider consider the sources and reference pages of the website
  155. and buy some of the books and music and movies that are there
  156. That is the work that I am building upon in this series
  157. those folks can certainly use your support as well
  158. Lastly, come see me live. I have speaking engagements coming up check out the website for details
  159. if you want to book me for a speaking engagement
  160. email me at
  161. That's it! Tune in next time for the exciting conclusion of everything is a remix
  162. and also an exciting announcement
  163. Alright take care folks bye-bye!