TED Conversations

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

To what extent can an idea be unique?

Are all ideas just the combination of known principles or trial and error? Examples and peronal experiences are good as well as just opinions. This question could be expanded to any thought at all, not just ideas. If there is a thought that is almost entirely unique, there can't be any previous oppposite idea. What I mean is if an idea is the exact opposite of another it isn't really original. It just stated the opposite. If an entirely original idea can be made, how will it be formed?

I have some opinions currently, but I'm sure they'll change after your comments. Please ask me to expand or clarify if needed.

+6
Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Jul 25 2013: We can start this off by saying that everything around us is the product of someone else's ideas and that we cannot form a conception of something that doesn't exist because the idea for that thing that doesn't exist would have already been thought of. For example, a unicorn doesn't exist. Correct? Yes, but the parts that make up the animal do; the ears, teeth, eyes and so on. They exist in other animals from which we base our fictional creature, aka, our unique idea. Therefore, our unique idea is a jumble of other ideas we have put together to create a whole.

    In my opinion, a good idea is one that provides value to society and changes it(society) in some form or other. Whether for good or bad would be up to the person carrying out that unique idea. A unique idea should be one that leaves you thinking one of two things: 1. "Damn, I can't believe I didn't think of that. 2 "How did he/she even come up with that?" Lets discuss these further. For #1, if the idea leaves a person thinking that, it means that somewhere in their mind they possess the knowledge/know-how to have come up with that idea. It just so happened someone though of it sooner. For #2, the person is completely astounded as to how someone thought of it because unlike in #1, they don't possess the knowledge/know-how. Therefore, a unique idea is one that uses our previous ideas, thoughts and knowledge and compiles them into one that will leave others thinking.

    A unique idea is not really a unique idea, it is just a bunch of regular ideas that have been put together but have not yet surfaced.

    I will leave you with a quote I was told was from James Jannard, the founder of Oakley. "Everything can and will be made better."

    Thanks, for reading my post :)
    • thumb
      Jul 25 2013: Thank you for making your post. Interesting ideas. Your one and two examples, however, which define what makes an idea unique, are both dependent on this highly elusive yet extremely important quality called recognition. Ideas, as you define them, are only unique once they incite one of the two reactions you mention. Does a tree that falls in the forest really make no noise?

      You're assuming that all human ideas are derived from other human ideas, and not from observations of ideas in nature, such as the behavior of birds, the actions of monkeys, etc. or that of natural processes as a whole, in which cases, a unique idea IS really a unique idea, because it wasn't based on "just a bunch of regular ideas that have been put together and not surfaced" but is taken instead from direct and immediate observation of the natural world, aka reality, in which we are totally and utterly immersed.
      • Jul 26 2013: Thanks for the reply. You added to my daily brain stimulation.

        If we take a look at the behavior of birds or the actions of monkeys, the act of learning from them in itself is not an idea; they are what you said they were, behaviors and actions. For example, if you see a bird flying and you say to yourself, "Wow, I wish I could fly. Maybe I could invent a machine that'll allow me to do that." All you did was watch their behavior and try to mimic it. It only turns into a unique idea until you put your thought to work and actually make the device or at least come up with a good plan to create one. Because if you think about it, before you came along and created the flying machine, how many people thought to themselves the same thing you did? I bet a whole lot.
        • thumb
          Jul 26 2013: Mmm...sure a whole lot of people had the idea and tried to realize. The one who realized it first was unique.
        • thumb
          Jul 29 2013: He wouldn't be unique to the fullest extent though, right? If he had never seen anything that could fly, he wouldn't have come up with the idea. He was inspired, and although his product may have been completely unique, his idea wasn't completely unique, since it was based off an observation.
      • Jul 26 2013: True.

        What I was trying to point out however, is that the idea of watching things in nature is not a unique idea in itself but an observation. And yes, the person that came up with it first is unique because he had the sense to gather up his intelligence and create something that would leave people astounded.
        • thumb
          Jul 26 2013: Okay, not a unique idea, fine. What about Good or Bad? Were they realized through observations? Or were they unique? Don't be afraid to put the stake in me. I'm weakened and confused.
        • thumb
          Jul 29 2013: I'm still trying to get adjusted to how your definition of uniqueness is based off people's reactions. Idiots could find an idea incomprehensible, but genius' find it idiotic. And if youmean everyone has to find it astounding, what if a person from the past wouldn't find it astounding or unique. Then, the standard of uniqueness would change along with time. This is just stream of conscious, so feel free to get your feet wet too and respond :)

          ^Not being pushy.
      • Jul 26 2013: The good or bad for an idea would eventually come down to that person's personal beliefs and or preferences. How they were raised, what things they saw as they grew up, who influenced their lives or just plain and simple, if that person just doesn't give a damn and wants to do as he/she pleases regardless of his/her past and/or consequences. The good or bad would also be subject to however everyone else views that unique idea. For example, the extermination of the Jews by Adolf Hitler. In Hitler's mind, it was the right thing to do, but of course the majority did not agree.
      • Jul 30 2013: Hi Kai,

        I like how you responded with the "If he hadn't seen the bird fly he wouldn't of had the idea to do it." It is true that the "idea" for flying may not have been 100% unique but what good does it do you if no one can benefit from an idea that was taken from seeing a bird fly. The point I'm trying to make is still the same; unless you can astound others and somehow profit from it, either monetarily, religiously, or whatever may interest you, then your "unique" idea is just an idea in your head along with many others.

        Because we're human, we compare our ideas to those of others. When we finally come up with something that makes us think "I bet no one has thought of this before" it is because the fruit of that idea hasn't been observed; no one has made that idea into a reality. Also, if we get our idea from an animal, it may still be unique to a certain extent since the animal will not compete with us to get our idea to market/ out to the real world. People may condemn and complain that the idea was "stolen" from the animal, but that's just because they're mad that someone thought of it before they did. They just as easily had a chance to observe and create.

        The standard of uniqueness does change but it changes according to its environment.A certain unique idea will be eventually topped by another and another and so on. It feeds on previous unique ideas. And as for the first, it would have been based on different thinking than the ides that came after it but it retained its use in the world. For example, there are a bunch of different iPods. The first was constructed to focus on having music in your pocket. The ones after that kept that same idea, but just expanded into the aesthetics of the product and the technology to incorporate as to make the listening of music a better experience. Though the newer ones have touch screens and video playback capacity and what not, the main role for it is still to play audio.

        Thanks for the response!

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.