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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 14 created 09/23/2019 by UWMdhhProgram.

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