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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.

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    Jul 26 2013: If we go to a theoretical ground, ideas come to us from impulses we receive as knowledge, books we read, things we see and conversations we hear. So just as energy, ideas always come from other ideas. But, an entirely new idea meaning that no one has thought it before, well, first we don't have the record of all the ideas that had gone to the mind of the billions of habitants of this world and second even if someone has thought about the topic or even the same sentence or image before, our humungous differences make it near to impossible to see it from the same perspective.

    Conclusion: Original ideas exist, but they always have an origin.
  • Aug 10 2013: Original ideas are possible. Communicating these ideas via language may distort this fact because communication is achieved primarily by associating various bits of information to an existing database. The new idea thus appears as a collage of bits of existing ideas.
    Harry Potter might be portrayed to be a potpourri of ideas about witches, boarding school, orphans, maltreated wards etc. But to deny its originality and uniqueness would be akin to denying the uniqueness of any individual; after all there are billions of people in the world.
  • Aug 6 2013: Part 1

    I think that ideas can be unique to some extent. We can´t state that something can be one way or another for certain. However I think that for me it is a very dependent on the situation. Though an idea itself might not be unique, meaning it has been thought about it before the situation is always new therefore it will mostly always be a different experience because of the people, the environment, and the requirements of something among others. However it is not always that "simple", if an idea (if we talk about something material) has been already discussed or thought about, when it is produced is it unique? For example if we put technology as an example. In movies we see flying cars, however we still don´t have them, but then in the future when they are produced will they be entirely unique or not? Because the idea had already been thought about however it has never been produced. Then is it unique? Maybe or maybe not it depends on your definition of what unique means. To me something unique is not necessarily something completely new, however it is something different, it can already be existing (to some extent) but it has a new twist to it. Then it becomes unique. I do believe that ideas can be unique, I started by saying to what extent but that gives no hope. If we look at the emotional aspect of this and what it represents I feel like we need to believe that ideas can be unique. Because if we think that everything has already been thought of or has already been invented we can´t move forward, with ourselves, if we think "No it has already been done, why try!" we as humans should not be thinking in that manner.
  • Aug 3 2013: No idea is unique. To start, there's no way of knowing if someone else thought of the same thing as somebody else. In addition, every idea that comes to someone's head has been built from other things that they've already seen or experienced. In other words, someone can't magically come to an idea--say, an iPod--without previously having known about walkmans or boom boxes. The iPod is essentially a portable music device, just like a walkman or a boom box. Sure, the person who came up with the idea of an iPod said, "Hey, wouldn't it be great if my walkman could be smaller, store thousands of songs instead of one CD and be faster?" However, that person had already in their heads the concept that something smaller and more efficient or faster is better. And, they probably reached this conclusion from some other experience. Hence, all they did was group the different concepts together to reach a "unique" idea--the iPod. What they don't realize is that everything that the iPod is had already been thought of (whether it's the idea of a portable music device or the concept of making things smaller for practicality)--all they did was tweak a few things to create the product. If the idea that smaller items are more practical hadn't crossed that person's mind yet, they would never have been able to think about the iPod.
  • Aug 2 2013: If everything is infinite, time, space etc then anything could and indeed will exist, including floating brains that can live in space, that spontaneously come into existence (just as anything else may spontaneously come into existing when things get big and long enough) and given that this happens an infinite number of times, with their lifespan having infinite lengths of time, then they would outnumber all humans that ever exist and so their perspective of the universe if more pressing than ours.
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    Jul 28 2013: To the same extent any species is original. Everything evolves upon the past. Everything is always in an original state - in the moment.
    • Jul 28 2013: Good point ! Everything evolves upon the past, so there is nothing new under the sun, but it doesn't eliminate change for us, for change occurs at a unique moment,
      NOW all wold/universe wide, it's a concrescence of everything in relation to everything else ; and it's never the same.
      So, any thought/idea no matter how old it is, is in a way unique by the virtue of the moment that brings it into your mind.
      Just thoughts ... :)
  • Jul 25 2013: an act of genius presents an unique idea/relationship
  • Aug 20 2013: From the viewpoint of Patents.....Original inventions are indeed rare.
    I was recently astounded to find the semi-commonality of thought-processes as related to a proposed invention.
    The sight of previous submissions from 4, 6 (or more) decades in the past was encouraging and discouraging!
    The previous alternate theses were a looking-glass into the past.
    The "IDEAS/INVENTIONS" often inferred:
    Electronic circuitry not yet produced but hypothetically possible.
    Potential assemblies of disparate materials which "would, could, should" elicit "such and such" an outcome.
    Inclusion of decades-old assemblies for which newer mechanisms have replaced older then-working designs.
    While many submissions were innovative, many were amalgamations of ideas to simply participate in another's (either) fully or partially-executed design/process.
    The "blanket-attempt" as a "Hail Mary" to gain a share of an eventual working model.
    Componentry from 3D/4D Production may deepen the problem even more.
    Education, communication and computerization have brought the billions of minds together.
    I would be surprised if more than a dribble of original ideas came out of any realm except the most obscure sciences.
  • Aug 8 2013: I was a little surprised at how literal and academic some of the answers became. Definition became the point not a thougthful answer. thanks for those taking a different road.

    I guess to answer this one would have to determine what is meant by unique and by idea. Also needing answered is if unique for the individual or for the 7 billion others living today. By idea, one would have to determine if it is only a cognition or something turned into physical reality. Such as something another can sense with their 5 senses or gain an image in another's mind. So much for the definitions. You can sort those out.

    I'm not sure where you were going with this when you first asked the question. But while the unique for the 7 billion maybe more definitive, I'm more intrigued by the individual. I think unique for an individual has meaning and application. The unique for the billions while thought provoking, has little utility. And from the conversation so far, would you say we have some unique answers, maybe even some unique ideas? I would say there were some unique ideas, but only from the point of view as individuals. From the more strict interpretation, the 7 billion, likely not so much. And therefore for me that lacks interest.

    Unique for me would be those firsts. The first time some little person touches the hot stove. That experience was only unique to that person. I'm sure there was a unique idea planted in his/her brain. Once in a while someone does venture out to something nearly unique to the 7 billion. But even then I believe they were “standing on the shoulders of” others. The other idea of sharing it may be relevant here. Others may have thought it, but only until one shares it can it be “determined” to be first or unique.

    So for me the academic questions of can something be truly unique for all history or all future doesn’t give me much to be excited about. But make it unique to me and you have a winner.
    • Aug 10 2013: What an interesting view..
      Having the 'first' feeling of the experience would be the unique moment of your life, then I would also say having constant relations with the experience would also be 'unique'.

      "individual" that you point out, I think, is one of the main factors of being unique.
      Actually it's the key point, I believe.

      But what if it goes with a group experience?
      Or continuous, boring experience?

      Does it ever lose its peculiarity?

      Might sound too obvious, but does it?

      Want to share your thoughts on this :)

      • Aug 10 2013: As far as the group experience, it may be an experience while in a group, but the individual still has the unique first experience. So the sense or feeling, or image, etc is still a personal experience and while in a group setting, still that individual's experience and maybe unique. It can only be unique once. So continous is no longer unique.

        The thought of peculiarity is a completely different line of thinking separate from unique. As for losing it's peculiarity that is situationally depend. What is the event, thought, image, experience and how does the person respond to it. Depending on which definition of peculiar you use could make a difference on how one would view the experience(s).

        For example, My girlfriend has a peculiar way of kissing which I love and makes me want more. Versus, that peculiar odor coming for the frig makes me wonder what may be growing in there. The first one may never lose it's peculiarity or sought after or enjoyable experience for me. The odor may remain that odd smell you had that given day. I hope this got my point across. I'm not sure but right now can't think of another way to explain it.

        But I think we are mixing the unique (from the TED question) with repeated events (continuous). I think unique from the TED conversation was meaning the first idea without just extension or combination of existing ideas for anyone along the continuum of time. Your comments are not referencing this uniqueness.

        As I stated earlier, the uniqueness of the TED question isn't all that interesting to me. Make it unique/new to me and you have a winner. As an extension to your thought(s) make it something I find pleasuseable and I will hope it can be continuous.

        Good luck figuring out what I'm actually trying to say. I just reread it. I'm even a bit confused.

        Either way, Smile and have a great day.
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    Aug 8 2013: "Unique" means simply one of a kind, it doesn't mean that it has to spring from nothing. A unique piece of music is made up of notes, harmonies and intervals that have been used thousands of times, but the new combination is unique. You create unique ideas and thoughts precisely by combining well-used components into something new. Every new discovery in science, and innovation in technology is unique by virtue of being new, but they are all based on existing knowledge.

    On an average day, we all say things that are unique. The uniqueness may be that of a contrast between two unexpected things, or a different way to express something. Everyone who plays chess will find a new, unique position (that has actually never occurred before) in almost every game, and your thoughts about how to solve the problems of the position must therefore be unique, although they build on well-known tactics and stratagems.

    Look, for example, at this sentence in your question: "What I mean is if an idea is the exact opposite of another it isn't really original." It may well be that this sentence has never been written or spoken before. (By the way, while I'm on that sentence, I'll disagree with it. The idea of turning something upside down, of emphasizing the opposite, may well be a revolutionary mind-blowing thought and can absolutely be unique.)

    Uniqueness isn't rare. Certainly each of the comments here is unique. I'd bet a good sum that no one has written exactly what I've just written in this note, or what David wrote in the previous note, etc. So do these sentences and comments constitute a "unique idea?" I'd say they do. Each comment represents an expression of thoughts, and thoughts are ideas. A new way to put a sentence together is a unique idea.

    So to your question, "Are all ideas just the combination of known principles or trial and error?" I would answer that all UNIQUE ideas are combinations of known principles.
    • Aug 10 2013: Totally agree.
      “it doesn’t mean that it has to spring from nothing.”

      People tend to think pop culture—including, of course, pop songs are just so common; but at the same time they find it unique to share the culture with others.

      So it all depends on perspectives.. for ‘they are based on existing knowledge’

      Let me add my thoughts on this.

      I think in order to find whatever—what you’re doing, seeing, feeling.etc.—unique, one has to be wide open like a child.

      I’ve seen some people who don’t seem to regard what they’re experiencing as ‘unique’ as what others would have felt.

      By all means there’s no way I can know exactly what they’re thinking about the experience they’re having, but I could clearly see that they were not excited enough to consider it ‘unique’.

      Spotting ‘unique’ things and realizing what’s special are related to excitement, curiosity and interest. Without these childlike feeling, one can never find uniqueness in it.
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      Aug 17 2013: Thanks for the comment!

      Maybe I missed it, but what is your criteria for uniqueness? From your comment, it seems to me that everything new is unique. What is considered new?
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        Aug 17 2013: Yes, I think you understood me correctly.

        As I said, unique means something that's different from everything else - one of a kind. Everything that is new is by definition unique, until a copy appears.

        You raise the key question: What is new? That's really what it's all about. As others have also pointed out here, most "new" things or ideas are only partly new, and that raises a problem when it comes to patenting. When you come up with an improvement to someone else's patent, the patent laws seem inadequate to resolve the resulting knot of rights. It seems clear from this discussion that our patent process needs some serious rethinking, to adapt it to modern realities.

        I don't think, though, that dropping all patent (and copyright) protection will be the best solution.
  • Aug 7 2013: In my opinion most ideas are unique. Unique means something special that is so different from the rest. What happens these days is that people add creativity to original idea to make a difference and most times creat a wow effect. Either way, that touch of extra creativity, makes a huge difference.
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    Aug 2 2013: I must need to say "A good Discussion"
    An Idea could not be Unique in any manner, Here in this world we are not alone. We are a part of big population and we contribute very less than we expect.
    I am not a pessimist but I would like to say that We all are communicative and very much related to others.
    How an idea of our could be Unique ?

    For Example - If I am a kid who is too new to this world, I can propose that we should have wings - but as we can see that one person has not just thought about it but he gave us modern Airplanes.
    Here I can ask
    Q. To whom you will give credit of Idea about Airplanes
    1). Leonardo Da Vinci
    2). Wright brothers

    So in my opinion, I'll never consider an Idea totally Unique because It always has roots in other ones.
  • Aug 1 2013: Yes. Good Point, Daniel. Thanks for the heads up on that. I stated how I think anything new becomes while you stated what it iIS!
  • Aug 1 2013: Ideas are unique to the extent that they jump beyond polarities into a paradigm-shift; however, if the shift is not well documented and acknowledged by the right people who will prove it out, then it will not recognized as an idea at all. I'm having that problem right now in what I'm calling a socioeconomic paradigm shift that works beyond any kind of collective monetary system.

    This idea is a evolutionary in human history in an area of life that usually changes through revolution. Even though the time is right for impliment it Even if the technology is available, there are cultural memes that will not change fast enough for the idea to take place without the right kind of support. Certain factors have been identified that can quickly surpass the constraints but I am without resources to take it further; this includes skill-sets and experience needed from qualified others to make this idea a living, breathing experience. for all who use it.
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    Aug 1 2013: First, tell me to what extent unique can be an idea.
    • Aug 1 2013: Unique is what happens when you put a new thwist to an old idea that makes is almost unrecognizable but delightfully refreshingly new and useful.
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        Aug 1 2013: That's what everyone keeps saying, but doesn't the 'uni-' in 'unique' suggest one, as in one-of-a-kind and not just new-kind-of-some-old-kind?
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    Jul 30 2013: Behind every idea there is a need and Inspiration.Example for need is "Quicker transportation" and inspiration is "Birds travelling faster through air". In "Faster world" today the expectations of "Invention delivery" is quicker.Hence the look out for an Inspiration immediately starts by referring past works or from the surrounding environment..Hence most(or all) of the ideas generated today aren't completely unique. Completely unique ideas are ones that have yieded Nature's creations. And any idea conceived by Human mind cannot be "completely" unique as our mind needs some spark for conceiving an idea which can only come from pre-existence of some knowledge.
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    Jul 30 2013: Paradoxically, ideas become less appropriate, less intelligent and less creative, the greater the number of people involved in formulating that idea. One would think that an agglomeration of many brains working together would be collectively super-intelligent - but no, the opposite is almost certainly true.

    There may be several explanations for this. It might be that ideas get coloured by social/political interactions and taboos, possessiveness of an idea, and fights over who gets financial reward and accolades.

    So, if the above is true, idea formation must be something to do with the deeper psychology of the individual, rather than the chaotic sociology of a group.

    I subscribe to the notion that the greatest ideas come from the silent but incredibly powerful unconscious mind of the individual. The unconscious is, in everyday life, all but inaccessible except when in a state of being half awake/half asleep, dreaming, daydreaming, or during meditation. All four states have the effect of shutting down the noisy, distracting conscious mind, allowing the powerful creativity of the unconscious to be revealed. This, I think, is where most original ideas are formed.

    The ideas from the unconscious are fragile and fleeting in nature - a bit like capturing a glimpse of something in one's extreme peripheral vision. Similarly, trying in vain to remember dreams, easily lost and forgotten. Creative types sometimes tend to keep a notebook or voice recorder with them at all times to try and translate these rare gems into a more obvious form that the consciousness can handle.

    I'm not certain whether the unconscious is a fount of known principles. I suspect not, although Jung's theory of the 'collective unconscious' is worth studying. However, the 'personal unconscious' would tend to be a repository of past personal experiences, and ideas based on those can sometimes reveal themselves as ideas related to one's own history.
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      Aug 2 2013: Thanks for the comment! I must give Plato credit for part of my reply. In one of his dialogues, he says that our senses are what separate us from truth. To die, would be separating our soul from our body/senses so we may have a much better chance of attaining universal truths. I think with more people, there is too many senses, perceptions, and biases going on that you get farther from the truth or an original idea than closer.
  • Jul 30 2013: 7, 000, 000, 000 in the world with 7, 000, 000, 000 imaginations thinking differently every moment having new ideas. A unique idea out of 7, 000, 000, 000 people depends on every single person's perspective. Critically acclaimed award winning brilliant idea's are rare but a responce to a need of every individual. Relation between you and the rest of humanity or sometimes the universe and everything within it. You can have a unique idea to yourself a unique idea to the human population a unique idea to life on earth a unique idea for the universe. But most of the time our unique ideas only can be comprehended by others who understand our own language.
  • Jul 30 2013: It depends on how we define unique. Is it doing something no-one else is doing? Is it handling an issue with a different way that no one can think of? Unique as I perceive is comparative with other people's ability. For example in the stone age, the first man came up with using stone as knife to cut food would be considered unique.
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    Jul 30 2013: If no insect or bird could fly would we be where we are today in aviation and space exploration? Would humans ever come up with this idea alone to build a craft that could travel through this fluid? I assume this would be unique. Maybe we should give credit to the doodlebug or anything round that rolled after falling from a tree for inventing the wheel.
  • Jul 29 2013: "To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires a creative imagination and marks real advance in science!" (Albert Einstein) , this is a clare way of seeing this topic, cause you may have an unique idea, but the person that have the courage of seeing the same as you from a diferent angle, has a unique idea too.
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    Jul 29 2013: Ideas.... Let see, about 600 years ago a Bavarian printer (I think he was Bavarian) figured that if he could print bibles with reusable letters quickly and cheaply he could sell a bunch of them. About the same time, A Korean king figures that if he could use 24 characters to represent his language, he could use carved wooden blocks to print out his decrees quickly and cheaply....
    I think the mother of all great ideas is quickly and cheaply....
  • Jul 28 2013: What a lovely question and a very meta-cognative one at that which for me, brought up the following questions;

    1)Are we looking at a notion being of form (the language use to express the idea) , context (a combination of variables within it`s environment), application (how that idea influences it`s environment) and/or cognitive structure (the arrangement of the idea itself).

    2)Is a role of biology included here, for example, is the idea inferred to be an expression of neurological networks which are in and of themselves unique in the context of the individual?

    3)Is the extent exclusive or inclusive? Does the entire idea have to have a uniqueness, or can a portion be unique and thusly the whole be defined by this part. If the latter, then to what proportion does the idea need to be previously undiscovered?

    4)Is there an implicit value to uniqueness of ideas? Does an idea perhaps with few or indeed no as yet understood context have greater or lesser value of one than is within some form of cognitive/social/emotional/imaginative etc framework?

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      Jul 29 2013: Wow. Thanks for the questions! I'm either brain passing gas right now or don't really know enough to answer your questions well. I can say though, I'm seeing if an idea can be universally unique, not just unique to the person that had the idea. Also, seeing tf anyone knows how we would objectively, if possible, evaluate uniqueness. Hope that helped :/
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    Jul 28 2013: I just had an idea that was unique to the fullest extent. However, in order to keep it perfectly preserved that way, I'm not going to tell any of you or any one else, what that unique idea was. I'm taking this unique idea with me to my grave. You'll just have to take my word for it. It was totally, completely, utterly unique.
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        Jul 28 2013: ...awwww... Dude.... Not cool..... I totally thought I had it.
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        Jul 29 2013: That's the scary thing about some ideas, though, too.
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        Jul 29 2013: "If you aspire to be a great thinker in your own right, you have to keep thinking until you get ahead of all the rest."

        ...or until you expire and your great thoughts disappear together with you. Sad but true.
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        Jul 30 2013: That is positive indeed. Ideas with value and potential should not deserve to die.

        Unfortunately, original ideas, although there, often do not see the light of day, for a variety of reasons.

        Which university is it you represent? Just asking out of sheer curiosity.
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    Jul 28 2013: If by 'idea' it is meant any thoughts on or regarding our universe, human endeavour or consciousness, then I would posit that none can be unique. An example could be mathematical discoveries that are attributed to two men in two countries almost simultaneously. Geniuses in fields such as physics or medicine explore new theories which are only new because they had not yet been explored by others. An idea that was unique would create something entirely new not discover something that was already in existence.
  • Jul 25 2013: An idea/thought would come into being only if there is awareness of it and as soon as we are aware of it, it is relative
    to something we already know (through personal experiences or examples). That has to be the case because awareness can only be relative, therefore there can be no such thing as an 'original kosher' idea at this plane.

    However, once we are at a more relative plane (post awareness),we can continue this discussion of whether an idea is "relatively" original and would conclude that originality is a mere judgement call. You experience the notion of an idea and then make a judgement call on it whether the idea is"original/non-original", once you have determined and convinced yourself it is original, you then sell this notion of an original idea to other peers. At this plane, depending on how widespread the awareness of that idea (body of knowledge is) is amongst the bearers of similar notions/ideas, the idea could be termed as relatively original. In conclusion. an idea could be referred as "original" only and only in terms of- degrees of originality not in absoluteness.
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      Jul 29 2013: Does originality have some clear rules or is it all perception?
      • Jul 29 2013: Good Question, first some general agreement on terms, so the context to my response is clear:
        Perception = Instant awareness of a notion
        Rules = Represent structured judgement (through inductive or deductive logic)
        on our awarenes of a notion (aka perception). Rules would be standards set by those passing a judgement on their subjective awareness of a given notion. Rules are very appealing to our mind because they can stand their own ground based on human logical reasoning.

        With those definitions,Yes, there can certainly be rules imposed on notion of originality. In fact, not just one set of rules, conflicting set of rules... to the point of chaos, all at a relative plane (post awareness/perception) though. The rules would be based on the subjective belief system of the bearers of similar notions/ideas and the judgements they pass in order to understand a concept, in this case the abstract notion called originality.

        At an absolute plane, the question would not apply, as it becomes invalid.
  • 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 :)
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      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.
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          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.
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          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.
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          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.
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          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!
  • Jul 25 2013: The most unique ideas lie in our imagination,there we can develop original ideas and if they are probable and their function is true,they can be actualized.
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      Jul 25 2013: And where do your unique ideas come from before they curl up in your imagination and begin to gestate?
      • Jul 25 2013: The soul, mind, or personality of a person which is our psyche and responsible for our thoughts and feelings.
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          Jul 25 2013: Thank you for that answer. I have another question. From where in the soul, mind or personality of a person which is our psyche and responsible for our thoughts and feelings do these unique ideas come from?
      • Jul 27 2013: According to Nobel Prize Winner Roger Sperry it's the right side of the brain.Hormones produced from glands in our endocrine system act as neurotransmitters,these nerve cells transmit information to receptors in our brain,they're made up of atoms and these atoms were created as a result of the Big Bang Theory or some other creation of the universe.I guess what ever created our universe would ultimately be responsible for where any idea unique or not comes from.
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          Jul 27 2013: Thank you. That explanation I can accept. The one you first made I could not. But now I have another question. Are you suggesting that uniqueness ultimately resides in the Big Bang?
      • Jul 27 2013: I'd say for anything to be,have been or become,it must first exist in some way and if the Big Bang is the reason that anything exists,has existed or will exist at all,then ultimately it is the creator of anything that ever was,is or will be.
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          Jul 28 2013: You know scientists are suggesting that there wasn't just the Big Bang, but multiple Bing Bangs, much in the same way that there used to be just our solar system and then other solar systems and then one galaxy and then other galaxies.
      • Jul 29 2013: That's an interesting theory Daniel,thanks,i'll have to do some reading on that.
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          Jul 29 2013: This probably isn't a very helpful suggestion, because I'm not positive as to who the TED speaker was, but I'm pretty sure it was Brian Greene that made mention of it with some graphics that definitely helped me picture just what in the hell he was talking about. If it wasn't him it was Brian Cox or Martin Amis. Not sure.
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    Jul 25 2013: Yes. Please hear me out. First, consider this etymology of unique:

    c.1600, "single, solitary," from French unique, from Latin unicus "single, sole," from unus "one" (see one). Meaning "forming the only one of its kind" is attested from 1610s; erroneous sense of "remarkable, uncommon" is attested from mid-19c.

    Why the etymology instead of the definition? Because there are several definitions of 'unique' and they fall into two categories.

    The etymology supports the first of these which is of unique being an absolute quality, either it is unique or it is not. This means I can jettison the messiness of the latter category, which is of there being degrees to uniqueness. A lot of ideas have this sort of uniqueness; they are remarkable or uncommon, but I don't want to wade out into that muck to measure the extent to which they can be so.

    It seems more prudent to first consider if an idea can be unique in the all or nothing sense. We deal with only two possibilities and if successful we can definitively say: "To the full extent."-J.Zahn

    So can an idea be 'single, solitary'? In other words, can it be the original idea? Well, since many definitions of idea relate it to things like concepts, thoughts, notions, impressions, let's first turn to the etymology:

    late 14c., "archetype of a thing in the mind of God; Platonic `idea,'" from Latin idea "idea," and in Platonic philosophy "archetype," from Greek idea "ideal prototype," literally "the look of a thing (as opposed to the reality)

    Now, archetype, this jives with the first and most important definition of idea, "a transcendent entity that is a real pattern of which existing things are but imperfect representations." In other words, when an idea is unique it is in the archetypal sense, in the full extent. The difficulty of any given idea being unique is underscored by the fact that the next two definitions of idea refer to it non-unique, as a representation, a replica of a pattern, an image recalled by memory.
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        Jul 25 2013: Note, in the first etymology that the concept of 'more common' as you put it is only a mid-19th century and its an 'erroneous sense.'

        I do not think it is should be assumed that in order to have an idea 'you would have to apply it to an individual and their state of consciousness at the revelation of the idea.' That's overcomplicating things, because the application part isn't necessary. We are only concerned with whether or not the idea is absolutely unique or not unique at all.

        In the etymology of idea, it says 'archetype of a thing in the mind of God.' for example. So if we are going to get into who it would apply to then alongside 'very young children with no worldly experience on which to build ideas' we would have to add God as well.

        So put aside God and small children, put aside Plato and Jung, and consider how it is often stated or debated that things like gravity and mathematics and natural rights for all mankind were not created, but discovered. They were discovered, there is someone to attribute (apply) the discovery of these ideas to, but no one to ascribe the creation of these ideas to. Yet they are ideas and they are unique.
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    Jul 24 2013: The question is one of uniqueness and originality, not necessarily newness. To be the first—and there is always a first—to ideate a concept is, by definition, to be unique. However, we are each products of our environment, and all of our ideas are the result of prior thinking. It has been said that there is “nothing new under the sun,” and even geniuses like Shakespeare, Newton or Mozart, to name a few unique intellects, employed experience and observation to supply their fruitful imaginations. Were their ideas “new?” If newness means created from nothing, perhaps not; but they were unique and original. Most of us (including me) are, by comparison, prosaic in our thinking.
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      Jul 25 2013: Wasn't Newton the very one who said he stood on the shoulder's of giants. He's a good example. Shakespeare used pre-existing stories and actual history more often than not. Another good example. I can't think of an example why Mozart is was so unique, not specifically, but so be it. I know I like a lot of his violin concertos and flute quartets.

      The phrase from Ecclesiastes is a bit out of context, since the book is about how there is nothing new under the sun, because what has been will be again. It attempts to refute that there is any value to uniqueness more than that there is such a thing as uniqueness.

      You said yourself 'not necessarily newness.' In Ecclesiastes the Preacher relates all the different ways, each unique from the one before if, to get past the vanity, the injustice, and the pointlessness of life and all he saw was that sun will also rise and go around, same with the winds, you can try whores, drinking, whatever, build up a business, or seek wisdom, but there's no way to get past the vanity, the futility of it all. In other words, there's nothing new under the sun, because all unique things will have same dissatisfying result.
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    Jul 24 2013: An idea is unique only when it makes us see something we completely missed or in a way that revolutionizes our point of view. Like say simply looking at time in a relativistic way and taking speed of light as a natural constant.
    Uniqueness and originality may not be synonymous. No thought is entirely original, we can always find out a hidden cue behind it.
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      Jul 25 2013: That first part sounds like it makes uniqueness a subjective quality. An idea might be unique for me because it makes me see something I completely missed, but it wouldn't be unique to you because you didn't miss it. Likewise, it might revolutionize your point of view, but not mine. How can the same idea be unique and not unique? And more importantly, how does the subjective relativity of an idea influence the extent of its uniqueness?
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          Jul 28 2013: I read your entry (the one from three days ago) again. And then I read my reply. And then I read your entry once more. And I have to say you are correct. I don't why I didn't see your point three days ago.
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        Jul 28 2013: The deleted comment that you replied to above was inadvertently posted in the name of my son who was logged on in facebook. The content was mine of course and I think it is not required anymore. Sorry for the confusion and thanks.
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          Jul 28 2013: Well, I agree with your comment that begins, "An idea is unique only when..."

          I was wondering where the spectacle-wearing chimpanzee picture was.
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        Jul 28 2013: The spectacle wearing Chimpanzee is getting older and he slips at times. But he is here, no worries.
  • Jul 24 2013: On the shoulders of giants - Newton. But an act of genius is seeing and describing a relationship that always existed but no one has recognized. (everyone can do an act of genius) A genius is someone who can do it multiple times. I might add usually once described many times the relationship seems obvious.
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      Jul 25 2013: Mmmm...what has genius got to do with uniqueness?
      • Jul 30 2013: an act of genius is pointing out a relationship that no one has done before - it is unique
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          Jul 30 2013: I disagree. Genius can be in the way someone plays chess or the piano better than others, but not necessarily in a unique way. In other words, with the same skill, only more of it.
      • Jul 30 2013: no look at my definition of an act of genius - just playing better than someone else does not qualify - for chess, you have to come up with a defense or attack which no one else has ever done before. Similar to a math proof, if it is new the proof is named for you.
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          Jul 30 2013: No, I still disagree. "Genius is seeing and describing a relationship that always existed but no one has recognized" doesn't clarify things for me. Maybe one chess player is considered a genius because he comes up with a new move or strategy; at the same time, another chess player is a genius simply because he knows more of other people new moves and strategies.

          IF the second player, knowing all sorts of other people's moves or strategies, but having no unique moves of his own beats the first chess player, who did, let's assume have a unique idea, but only that one and didn't have as many of other people's moves and strategies to rely on, THEN you have an example of someone where there is no relationship between genius and uniqueness beating someone where there is a relationship between genius and uniqueness. As you can see, iif there is a relationship with uniqueness and genius it is not a particularly strong one, certainly not a defining aspect of it.

          What makes the first person a genius is that it illustrates the point that you only real know what you can recall to mind at the moment that knowledge is required. That first person knows all the things there are to know about chess, or at least learned as much of those things as he could. He succeeded because he was able to recall what things he needed to know when he needed to know them. This served him well; he had a positive genius for it. There was nothing unique about his approach.
      • Jul 30 2013: i guess we will have to agree to disagree but examples would be the relationship of mass to energy, gravity, /a/ll existed but until someone in an act of genius put it together.
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          Jul 30 2013: See, I think of those as discoveries, not ideas. It is an inherent property of nature that energy is mass times the speed of light squared. But I'll gladly just agree to disagree. I've gotten confused, anyways. I think you would have won out, anyways, simply because you've been more committed to making your argument. Talk to you later.
      • Jul 30 2013: On a side topic, the beauty of chess is its unpredictability - I agree today, with MCO and all the analysis it has become a grind it out and wait for the other player to make a mistake. The genius is when you create - Morphy, Fisher, Alekhine, Steinitz (defense of the roy lopez), and Evens

        Yes there are great players very few i would call genius.
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    Lejan .

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    Jul 23 2013: All ideas ARE the combination of known principles AND trial and error. Thats why I consider patents and 'intellectual property' as highly counterproductive and decelerating for development in all affected fields.

    There is a nice thought experiment about ideas and why no idea is ever unique or new for 'the first time':

    Imagine a letter generator who generates letters from A to Z in complete, perfect randomness, and let it generate an infinite amount of letters - which may take some while :o) - yet would look something like this:

    sodjlqhfnskajflqwfmlvqalmvqihbfn ...

    Because the letters are random, there is a chance, that somewhere in this line of letters we could find something like this:

    jduanjshfbkjhebdjfhghellokdjshbn ...

    And, did you find it?

    jduanjshfbkjhebdjfhg HELLO kdjshbn ...

    Note, that we are using English here, but it works in any language as well, just not at the same location in that row.

    Now comes the clue. Because the letters are random AND infinite, the chances to have them somewhere perfectly aligned in order to form, lets say, the whole book of Charles Dickens 'A Christmas carol' is, admittedly, pretty small, yet NOT ZERO and this because the numbers are infinite! And not just Charles Dickens, there is any book in any language in this row of numbers, those which have been written already and those which will be written in the future...

    And there are not only books. Anything which can be described by words will be there. Somewhere.

    Mathematically, this little experiment can be done, and because it is infinite, we don't need a printout ... :o)

    Now comes the question: Does the fact that we are not capable to tap into that row to extract what it contains negate its very existence?

    I think it doesn't and therefore no idea can ever be claimed to be new. They might have been thought of a first time, but recognizing is different from existence.
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      Jul 24 2013: Ah, so ideas are just discoveries? Thanks for the thought experiment! I like the idea and I'll get back to you.
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        Lejan .

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        Jul 24 2013: In a sense, they are, and there are so much more to find! :o)
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        Jul 25 2013: Ideas may be discovered, but they aren't merely discoveries. The question that should be asked is, if an idea is discovered, how did it get there in the first place? Where did it come from and who created it?
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      Jul 25 2013: You're example of random letter generators has a famous counterpart, at least in our country, where it is asserted that if you put a dozen monkeys in front of a dozen typewriters and gave them no time limit, they would eventually write out the complete works of Shakespeare. Again, when given long enough.

      Things I disagree with you about:
      1) Ideas don't have to be new to be unique. Put another way, uniqueness is not a temporal quality.
      2) They need not be "combinations of known principles." They could be a single principle unto themselves. Note the UNI in unique means one, after all.
      3) Trail and error are not requisites, either. Many other methods may be adopted, such as chance or the elimination process or observation or induction or deduction, etc. And these are still just ways of discovering it. Do we have to discover an idea just to ascertain the extent to which it is unique?
  • Jul 23 2013: This is something that has been discussed in many areas. Here are a few links:

    I think an idea can be unique if it represents a new solution to a problem, a regrouping or reconfiguration of existing thoughts, ideas, materials or opinions to form something new, or if it is just an inspired application of something new to improve life, add to the collective body of human knowledge, or provide a new process or method for accomplishing a task.

    I think you carry around inside of you a massive collection of knowledge, memories, observations, and experiences. As you are confronted with a set of circumstances, situation of new thoughts, you can draw on your intellectual abilities to conjure up these things and assimilate them into something new or different, at least for you. To the extent that they are also new and different for others may define their true originality as opposed to just a good personal idea or way to solve a problem.
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      Jul 24 2013: So true originality is something new to others, right? Would the first person to put or conceive of putting peanut butter and jelly between two slices of bread have a truly original idea? It would be new to others, but is just a person combining known things.
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        Jul 25 2013: No, truly original would mean that the idea was unique to the full extent. Since you've demonstrated that slices of bread and the two main ingredients of PB & J already existed, the idea while original, is not original to the full extent. In fact, consider all the combinations of things that have been put on sandwiches since their invention, I would say the idea of PB&J's has a relatively low extent of uniqueness. Keep in mind, the popularity and ubiquity of PB&J's has nothing to do with their uniqueness.
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    Aug 21 2013: So just for fun.... you could say: to what extent can ideas be the same?

    I am not sure that ideas are the universal and unchanging form that we like to think that they are. Each individual has a whole set of personal experiences and beliefs, a unique set of biology, and exists in a different time than ever before. So each moment is a new emerging experience of each idea- each experience is slightly different. The form of ideas can change over time but we label them as consistent.

    I know that this isn't what you were aiming for in your question.... but I wanted to try to give a unique view;)
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    Aug 21 2013: Yeah,do understand-
  • Aug 20 2013: As archaeology has shown and proved, forms created for a certain purpose using the same substance (stone, sand, wood, etc.etc.) are limited and finite. So are ideas, I think. That is why there is convergence of ideas on the same topic, thought by different individuals all over the world.
  • Aug 19 2013: I believe we live in an ever expanding universe in all directions, if your mind is the center of your being you are boxed in an originality does not come to you that often and perhaps originality is common among like minded people all over the world. if you live from the heart you are ever expanding yourself, meaning as a consciousness you grow, but if you think and grow in already existing consciousness our the expanding consciousness of humans actually expands the universe is the question. is the grid of consciousness already their and does it expands on itself and makes the available thoughts also or does it only expand the grid only and we fill it up with thoughts. or perhaps their is no expansion but circles of growth followed by decline.

    I would say all of the universe is expanding and human consciousness contributes to it, but the amount we expand it compared to all expansion will be so little that when you have an overview over all expanding consciousness you will see it has so little that you can better say no influence.

    consciousness generates thoughts like most of you will know but I feel I have to mention.

    then Is there the question unique for a human being right now we are expanding but then the question is are we rising after a fall.

    this question makes you think but their can never be a conclusion without the oversight over all human consciousness, and if you make the question bigger all consciousness.
  • Aug 16 2013: I think we need to narrow the field. Are we talking about a social or philosophical idea like moral concepts, freedom, liberty, etc? Or are we talking about commercial ideas such as creating a device which allows us to rent movies at a drugstore kiosk? I suppose you are referring to the latter, as moral and philosophical ideas are difficult to place a value on. Those ideas are not entirely useful although momentarily profitable they are always proceeded by a technology which eventually renders them obsolete. Ideas that are truly unique and historic (a term I am fond of) would be ideas or opinions that reshape how we view subjects like economics. Joel Mokyr, Professor at Northwestern University and noted Economics Historian wrote a book entitled 'The Gifts of Athena' (2002 Princeton University Press)in which he powerfully argues that all real economic growth in human history (economic expansion, i.e., wealth creation) has resulted from the development of new technologies. This is a powerful idea because it answers the fundamental question, 'why are some societies so poor and others so rich'. This question may not be answered fully to the satisfaction of all, because I know that many have their pet conspiracy theories/villains. Jared Diamond also addresses this topic from a sociological and anthropological perspective, but his work does not shed much light on why so many modern states continue to remain so disproportionately poor. Nonetheless, Mokyr's book is an excellent example of a unique and powerful idea. I think there are many examples of such unique and powerful ideas or knowledge. Sadly, those with direct monetary value are esteemed above all else.
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      Aug 20 2013: Hi Sewell, Do agree-:) acturally lots of great ideas and discoveries are ignored by you have any suggestions to avoid such sad thing happened-:)
      • Aug 20 2013: I think that those who appreciate ideas (knowledge) will value them and preserve them in books and other formats for the benefit of future generations. I do not mean to completely discount commercial ideas or inventions. I simply mean to say that often a philosophical or moral idea can be just as powerful and have as great an impact or in some cases a far greater impact than commercial technologies, ideas or inventions.
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    Aug 16 2013: Hey Kai,

    You know that you have posed a difficult question, don't you? Who in this world would be able to appraise if the idea was unique? C'mon, you know that this is a trick question yo are asking.
    But if here was to be an answer, it is going to prove difficult. Because UNIQUE IDEAS occur to UNIQUE INDIVIDUALS. And our societies and culture do not worship Uniqueness but Conformity and Obedience.

    And being Unique is a very and extremely hard proposition as we imitate and copy one another.
    A Unique individual MUST have TOTAL Integrity, should he or she claim to be Unique. Without total Honesty and Integrity, Uniqueness is just a word...

    So. The left brain has to mirror precisely the right brain, and the Conscious needs to mirror precisely the Subconscious/Unconscious. As in word, so in deed. At-one-ment.

    Unique ideas are not remembered. They are not derived either, they have no objective cause at the time of the birth of the idea. They are like a flash of lightning. The mind itself can be - and it is usually confused - as the idea does not go through the normal filters of the knowing mind. One is in the "flow" (see Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi "Flow" the concept). The mental state of the Unique idea transcends space-time. It must, as space-time is controlled by the conscious memory (knowledge) which is the past.

    Difficult? I say.
  • Aug 15 2013: At age 30 I started to be an idea guy. You have to conceptualize, verify and validate and then do--do what other people either don't see or mistakenly dismiss. I won my first "winning idea" award that year and cleared $17K from it through Human Resources at my job. My co-workers mostly said they thought about doing something "like" what I did but something in them told them they didn't have enough to go on. There are lots of things where it's no one's place still left to be improved and innovated against.. Who can reform education for instance? No one holds power enough to do so by mere concept and edict. It has to be a visionary shock to the system which will deliver the goods and sells.
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    Aug 15 2013: I think that most simple ideas have already been thought of. The more complicated and detailed an idea is, the more likely it is to be unique. For example, if you considered an entire 400 page book as one idea, that idea would very likely be unique. It all depends on how we define idea, but I think it is safe to say that simple original ideas are very rare. I suppose most new inventions could be considered original ideas.
  • Aug 15 2013: All individual creatures are unique. The belief in "sameness" is a false product of defacto creationism. By defacto creationism I mean the belief in creation by god--not necessarily the Hebrew Bible story of it. We are not "created". We come into existence as a product of genetic compositing which produces a unique individual. We also are not limited generally by genetics to be of a limited intelligence. Our minds neuroplastically grow capacity based upon the individual meeting of challenges. In 1899 the US Patent Commissioner declared "everything that can be invented has been". That of course has proven to be utter nonsense. There will always be the struggle to do what no one else has ever done. And there is plenty left that no one has ever done.
  • Aug 14 2013: It doesn't matter. "Uniqueness" is a silly criterion upon which to evaluate an idea. Usefulness, riskiness, entertainment value, etc., all are valid. Uniqueness? Meh. Even patent law admits that an "innovation" or "invention" does not have to be "unique" to be worthy of patent.
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    Aug 13 2013: Idea is unique if no body has read , heard or thought about it before.

    It is possible but extremely rare.

    But definitely , non stop evolution of ideas continue to take place and some of them emege as unique.
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    Aug 13 2013: I have an original idea. Concerning the creation of reality:
    "If in the beginning there was nothing, shouldn't that situation still exist?"

    The opposite of this notion is that something has always existed or, there never was a beginning.

    If you are a single individual isolated from the rest of humanity, then every thought you have would be an original thought, having no other thoughts to compare it to.

    Likewise, If you are alone with your thoughts and you create an idea and it consisted of elements that are not related to anything you are thinking about at the time or part of your common data base, you are doing original thinking. When I studied calculus, before we ended with the summation process, I realize the idea of limits, without reading about it in the book.

    I think more of what we consider original is relative from one person to the next. I imagined riding on a light beam at age 12, before I ever heard of Albert Einstein.

    Originality compared to the general population of thoughts may not, comparatively exist, but, Individually, it happens everyday as we move through the day. After having these original thoughts, we explore and search for relevance, sometimes finding the idea has already been explored. But, with us, at the moment of the creation of that thought, it was original.

    Making fun or our normal life -Comedy- involves in depth original thinking. George Carlin is an excellent example.
  • Aug 10 2013: I think I see where you are going with this. From my perspective, humans are not capable of making things up--or as you might put it, they aren't capable of an original thought. That's why I believe that there has to be some truth to things like Bigfoot, UFOs, the Lockness Monster, etc.

    That said, I also think that those who appear to have original thoughts are the great artist down through history. Who could explain where Beethoven's music came from or what possessed Vincent Van Gogh to create such amazing images? We don't know where Shakespeare got his genius, but one thing that is true, even for people like Einstein, is that somehow we are able to 'connect' with what they know. What we call genius is only called that because these works strike so many of us at a very deep level. I think these 'ideas' are very special to us because they come close to mirroring the workings of the human mind. Another way to look at it is that when anyone is very very good at doing something they don't have to think about it, it is a pure mind-body connection. If we can achieve, even for a few moments in our life a perfect connection b/t mind and body that is worth a life time of effort. I used to do this as a long distance runner, and if I could have written a perfect poem about how I felt when performing at my best, it would have moved humanity to tears.

    That said, I do think we have to have unique thoughts ever so often; if we didn't we would progress as a species. This is like punctuated equilibrium in evolutionary biology--scientist don't really know how a species can evolve to meet environmental pressure so quickly and so precisely, but it nevertheless happens. Just the same, I think our minds slowly evolve and due to unknown forces think in truly new ways when it's necessary.

    I am not sure that 'uniqueness' of thought is as important as continuing to recombine concepts in new ways and to think more clearly about everything.

    Take care, Prof. Schneider
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    Aug 10 2013: Has anyone actually read all 180+ comments? The ideas in this conversation stopped being unique days ago.
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      Aug 10 2013: For the truth you can simply read Jung.
  • Aug 8 2013: An idea can be unique to the full extent.
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      Aug 10 2013: Why? That's already been said by people before. I want to know, why?

      Or, how many ounces of juice does your extractor extract?
  • Aug 8 2013: My thoughts… how important is it to be "unique?" Think about how often inventions actually occur simultaneously and independently. Each inventor thought their invention was unique, and they were correct... based on what they knew at the time. Should the inventors still be proud of their inventions? Did they still meet expectations? The answer is probably “Yes!”

    As “ideators,” if our goals are to be novel, first, fresh, proud, or other internally-focused goals, then being unique is significant. However, if our goals are to provide better solutions, innovative results, and collaborative development, then we can be more effective since we are externally-focused and we give less significance to being unique.

    Additionally, as we evolve to products-of-one with 3-D printing, for example, being unique becomes more of a commodity and important at the consumer-level. However, if we are becoming exponential and less linear in technology growth, the faster we’ll be able to innovate. As that accelerated pace continues, being unique becomes less likely.

    So do we need to be unique? As consumers, we will be more unique as we move toward products-of-one. As innovators, we become less unique by sharing development with others. In both cases, we are winners.
  • Aug 8 2013: Part 2:
    So, in this crowded room of the mind, how could a unique idea possibly be conceived? Let’s call the supposedly unique idea “x.” From the time x enters the mind to the time it exits, x would have been shaped by memory, memory of 7th grade philosophy class, a conversation at a bus station, an argument over Kant. And, thus, this idea is not unique; it is merely a combination of known principles.

    Therefore, for now, I am convinced that an idea cannot be unique; however, I think we should challenge ourselves to think about when and where a unique idea could possibly be conceived, if there is such a place? Perhaps immediately after the creation of the world, for those who adhere to that philosophy, or after a period of intense meditation…regardless, these ideas could certainly be the most interesting and revolutionary of our society.
  • Aug 8 2013: Part 1:
    While the concept of a “unique” idea is certainly hopeful and refreshing, I find myself leaning towards the statement that all ideas are the combination of known principles or trial and error. Since I have a more mathematical mind, I reflected on the concept of a “theory” in mathematics. Each theory we learn was derived from previous truths. Those truths were derived from even more archaic truths. An endless chain that leads up to the “postulate.” “Postulate” is defined as “a statement which is taken to be true without proof.” Well, “postulates” certainly seem like unique ideas. But, let’s analyze some geometric postulates. You can only draw one line between two points. A line segment only has one midpoint. These are not original ideas at all! They can be abundantly observed in nature. For me, unique ideas are not only those unclaimed by other human beings, but those unclaimed in nature. An observation is therefore not a unique idea. Perusing through my personal experiences and readings, I cannot come across any idea I would consider “unique.” About a year ago, I decided to embark on a research project studying the effect of limestone filtration in the Tiete River. At first, I was proud of my “unique idea.” But, in fact, this idea was not unique at all, rather a compilation of the idea to filter, the idea to use limestone, the idea to clean rivers, the idea to experiment, etcetera.

    However, for the sake of discussion, let us assume that a “unique” idea does exist. When was this idea conceived? From the moment of birth, we are constantly exposed to an influx of principles and observations and ideas. And, as human beings, we have an excellent capacity to remember. We don’t easily forget moments of our lives. It is well known that a person’s mind can never be completely empty. This is not the result of our tremendous intellect, but instead the sheer amount of information we have been exposed to.
  • Aug 7 2013: At this stage in life, the twenty first century, there is no such thing as an idea being unique (considering that unique is a brand new invention, from the scratch). The reason for that is the fact that our brain is always seeking for some kind of pattern. What we do are merely imitations of what was previously observed and immediately acquired. Yourself might be thinking: How were the first movements and ideas created if we acquire our knowledge from our neighbor? And I reiterate what I said in the very first sentence: nowadays, it is impossible for creating a new idea. People have experienced so much and humans have inhabited the world for such a long time that it would be difficult to think about something that someone hasn't thought before. Take this example: there are only a certain amount of stories that can be told. People say they are around 36 basic literature plot stories, which, compared with the number of stories I have already heard, is an incredibly low number. Does telling the stories from different perspectives with different characters and props make it different? Absolutely not. The core of what is being told is the "unique idea". Implementing new characteristics to it, leads the reader to believe that that story is unique, which, in fact, it isn't. This technique, of "leading" someone to believe in such things, are the famous fallacies we encounter excessively in our daily lives. Those fallacies hinder our ability of approximating ourselves from the originality of the idea, dribbling our thoughts to believe that uniqueness can come from the junction of two different ideas merged as one.

    While I read this question, another question popped into my mind: How narrow is your definition of uniqueness? I can create something unique to myself (being that I have never done before), while other can agree on a much wider range. However, that have a faith on changing the ordinary should believe on the uniqueness of their ideas.
  • Aug 6 2013: Part 2

    We need that hope to move forward and to be willing to progress and advance. If we return to the example of the flying cars, if we don´t believe that ideas can be unique, then we are not going to have someone trying to build a flying car because it has already been thought of. As a society we continuously search for uniqueness, in our names the way we dress and even the way we act sometimes, everyone ones to be unique, I think that living in a society with those wishes and desires we cant stop to think that ideas are not unique, maybe if at times that believe is triggered by our emotions.
  • Aug 6 2013: I believe there are actually two sides to this question. If we take a closer look and think deep about it, all ideas come from preexisting ones. They can be seen as answers to things that have already been stated. Think about it, when someone has an idea, it either contradicts a certain principle, or it expands it. We have ideas based on things that have already been put out there, they are ideas based on our opinions. This is the only point where it can get unique. The basis of ideas are our beliefs and opinions, and this is something that no one can take away from us. Therefore, considering this aspect, it is indeed unique. But I have to agree with what has already been said by a few people, we must consider the definition of unique before analyzing it. The correct definition according to is that unique means “existing as the only one or the sole example, having no like or equal.” However, in the world we live in today, it is very hard to have such unique ideas, in the end they are just combinations of various different things. I like the example given about technology because even though there are new advances, they are innovations that are based on previous ones. Then I think creativity comes into this as well, because creativity is unique, and being creative can lead to certain advances. So ideas itself are not unique, but rather the small aspects that make up ideas.
  • Aug 6 2013: After thinking about what the word "unique" may mean, I came to the conclusion that this word was very similar to "original". Based on this, I thought that a unique idea had to come out of nowhere or at least have absolutely no relations with previous ideas or experiences. This would imply then, that it is impossible to produce anything that is unique, because we live in a certain paradigm where we have set boundaries of our own in the way we think, act, and survive. However, when rethinking about the meaning "unique" consists of, I think it is actually very different from originality. Both would be influenced by factors such as past experiences, culture, and language, but a unique idea will take us a step further. In other words, it may introduce a paradigm shift. The discovery of cells in the scientific realm was revolutionary in the sense that the idea opened up the previous paradigm and introduced a new one. In the process of this discovery, tools invented earlier were used and tested. In this way, a unique idea cannot be made out of nowhere, and there is nothing wrong with that. It can be unique as long as it is very new and inspiring, affecting many others. I believe that is what differentiates unique from original, too.

    In attempt to answer to what extent an idea can be unique, I believe all ideas can be unique if one believes it is. This is greatly based on perception, and the fact that unique can mean various things depending on the person. If the owner of the idea believes that it is a unique idea by their own definition, then it certainly is. This may seem like there is no limit, and ideas can be unique to a full extent based on perception, but that's not necessarily true either. There are limits. For example, plagiarism is not a unique idea, as it is often recognized as a negative act. But again, this is my perspective and based on my definition of unique. Even if an idea is not unique, I think there is always a possibility for an idea to be unique.
  • Aug 6 2013: Part II:

    Ideas, or better yet, "unique" ideas, have never had such an esteem than in this day and age. The very idea of copyrighting suggests that a "unique" idea is so valuable that one must seek legal grounds to protect the idea and claim it as their own. However, let us use the example of a person that might invent a better lightbulb. Even if this invention might turn out to be the best, most innovative, most extraordinary piece of lighting equipment that may have crossed our plane of existence, the fact is that it is hardly a unique idea. Upon trying to copyright his idea, the so-called inventor might find that the basic format for the glass of his lightbulb has been copyrighted by some Swedish molding firm, while the wiring design used in the lamp is owned by a Chinese electronic firm. While this "inventor" can be credited of being able to synthesize two different pieces to make a whole, the reality remains that his "new idea" simply builds off previously established knowledge.

    Nonetheless, for those who might argue that there are cases where an extremely elucidated individual might come up with an unique idea, I'd advise the following. That individual wasn't born in his illuminated state; having gone through some resemblance of a system of education, this individual is bound to have encountered pieces to the final puzzle that was his "unique idea." His ability to synthesize vast amounts of knowledge and information is impressive on its own, but it is undeniable that the individual only arrived to his unique idea because of previous knowledge that the human race has built throughout time.

    Thus, keeping in mind my definition of a unique idea, I would firmly state that a unique idea is as hard to come by as a unicorn, in this case a hybrid-animal that was thought up when someone synthesized the idea of a horn and a horse.
  • Aug 6 2013: Part I:

    To paraphrase Kirby Ferguson, author and director of "Everything is a Remix," once upon a time, Luca, known as the last universal common ancestor, reproduced, and, over time, as his genes were copied and copied and copied and copied, they transformed such that every one of the billions of species of life on earth can be traced back to him.

    As troublesome as it might seem, a unique idea–meaning an idea that doesn't base itself off of established cultural, scientific, ideological, educational, and countless other areas' knowledge–is virtually impossible.

    However, I must take a minute to explain why such a thought isn't as bad as we might imagine. We are all familiar with the concept of evolution. Organisms seek to find combinations of genes that will ensure that the best-adapted forms live on. One could theorize that culture evolves the same way, and the genes, in this case, can be seen as ideas. The implication of this is that humans have been conditioned to behave in such a way that any seemingly "unique" idea is simply building off past established grounds.
  • Aug 6 2013: Part 2

    In 2012, Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde manipulated the temperature, humidity, and lighting of a room so that he could use a fog machine and form a cloud indoors. According to Time Magazine, his work “evokes both the surrealism of Magritte and the classical beauty of the old masters while reminding us of the ephemerality of art and nature.” The astonishing quality of Smilde’s work lies in the fact that, although temporarily, he was able to bring a weather phenomenon, an uncontrollable part of nature, indoors. Perhaps the artist’s idea was derived from combining the weather—a concept that cannot even be attributed to anyone—with previous experiences and knowledge, but in doing so he was able to put it into use so as to expose his artwork. Is it possible that someone else wanted and knew how to make an indoor cloud but did not have the means to do so? Yes. But Smilde exposed his audience to something new, innovative. Within the modern artist realm of ideas, therefore, I believe the main reason why Smilde gained so much recognition is because his audience perceived his idea as unique.

    Finally, it is critical that a line is traced between originality and uniqueness. Even though, as stated by Abraham Lincoln, tools of knowledge like books sometimes “serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren't very new after all,” it is still possible for someone to use ideas that were not initially theirs and build on them to create a completely distinct, unique idea. Perhaps if some of us stopped being taking over by our schemas and need for specificity, we’d realize that two different ideas could be unique in different ways and exist in different time periods, while having a similar basis.
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      Aug 7 2013: Thanks for the comments!

      I see Smilde's uniqueness in creating a natural phenomenon. I wouldn't say though, that his creation is more unique than other artists and actually may be less unique than other artists. His final product was already envisioned and had been seen (outdoors, but still seen). Other artists may not have such a deinite inspiration for their final product, maybe just a theme or emotion.
  • Aug 6 2013: Part 1

    The word “unique” is derived from the Latin "unus," meaning “one,” and is defined as “being the only one;” “being without a like or equal.” At no point in the word’s definition a time frame is set. While it is ambiguous and allows for a variety of interpretations, I am unable to find any valid “rule” inherent in it that says that for an idea to be unique no one could ever have come up with it before, that it cannot be derived from another idea. Perhaps my limited knowledge does not allow me to understand a story that lies behind the origin of the word and that prevents me from understanding it in a different way. Or perhaps I cannot break the boundaries set by language and consider all possible definitions of “unique.” But, within my paradigm of thoughts and using provisional knowledge, I believe an idea can be unique within a certain society and scope, in the sense that it adds to that community something perceived as new and innovative.
  • Aug 6 2013: Continuation....

    , but because he was able to see trends and connections that led him to believe that what was previously known was wrong (assuming that there is a right and wrong in the world we live in). In conclusion I do believe that almost every idea is unique, and that we do re-use previously learnt ideas, but it is how we use them that maintains that uniqueness, because of our perspective your idea will always be a little different than someone else’s (even so slightly) who had the same pervious knowledge as yourself.
  • Aug 6 2013: All ideas are unique. To begin with, I do agree with the assumption that everything you say or come up with has been altered by past ideas/experiences. However I do believe that even though this happens with almost every one of us, it does not alter the originality of the idea. Take for example Quentin Tarantino, who has allegedly taken various parts from a diverse spout of films and mashed them into one film (examples such as kill bill, Django, Pulp Fiction) to create his own. Is it anyone’s place to argue that because he used pieces and bits from other films, that his final work is not at all unique! It was his mind that was able to see the connection from scene to scene, from speech to speech. I doubt that there is anyone who could have seen those trends as he did that made his films so recognized worldwide. Even by broadening our spectrum I doubt that even two people out of the 7 billion have the same thinking process because of the diversity that our world represents (especially when it comes to experiences lived by the variety of individuals throughout). There are of course people that can come up with genuinely new concepts, since I wonder that it is how we began to first understand the world, using techniques such as observation (which requires no prior knowledge). In a world so advanced as the one we live in 2013, I would find it highly unlikely though. On the other hand there is also a hand set of individuals that only repeat or re-use past ideas as their own, which cause the uniqueness of that idea to be quite inexistent. This is so because even by “paraphrasing” I still believe that we humans put our own spin to things because of our personality, and the only true way to render your idea not unique is to specifically quote someone. Finally the idea that an oppositional idea is not unique is preposterous, for the simple fact that someone is not arguing against an idea merely for the fact of being displeasing and inconvenient,
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      Aug 7 2013: Thanks for the comment!

      For Tarantino, I don't many people are implying that he's entirely not unique, just not entirely unique. He had inspiration and that makes it not entirely unique, but he did create something no one else had, so he is unique to some extent.

      Ideas made out of observation, in my opinion, are not "genuinely" unique. They base their idea on something they saw. It affected their idea and may have been the sole inspiration of their idea, so then I wouldn't classify them as "genuinely" unique.
  • Aug 5 2013: I believe that it is essential to define the criteria of what unique is before embarking on this discussion. What has been mentioned as not being unique is simply having the opposite idea of something or someone. I agree with this. I also agree with the fact that one would not have to necessarily have the opposite idea, but by simply having an idea build upon another idea would already make that “new” idea not a unique one.
    What do I mean by this? Well, let me give the example of art. I believe that all forms of art are a mere reflection of something or a spark that was caused by something- therefore being built up from something else, making it not original. Warhol’s pop art was a spark he got from a sex symbol of the time. Writing (in terms of novels or poems or lyrics) is created from experiences (e.g. from having exposure to other means of art), which would qualify again as not original. Where ever one looks it seems to be the overbearing and utter truth that no idea is original, and that it only builds on other ideas or experiences.
    Oscar Wilde once said that "Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.” Never did he use the word create, and so I believe that Wilde has it spot on. One builds from the other, and he believes the opposite of what many would think (not making his idea unique!) But whether he is right or wrong with that statement is another discussion, for another time.
  • Aug 5 2013: To believe ideas can no longer be unique is nothing short of despairing. Despairing because it suggests that change is essentially and universally constrained, and that we, both as individuals and societies, are moving in paths that get narrower and narrower as time goes on. Time... To believe that ideas cannot be unique is to believe that time is the world's newest – and oldest – pandemic, and that the problems of the world we know today will probably chase us for a long, long time. It is to believe that we are stuck on a one way road to wherever our final destination is, and that thought alone is depressing.

    Then again, banning the possibility of new ideas may be taking it a bit too far. Even though it might make sense to think that after thousands of years of thinking, our stock of brand new ideas should be pretty low, it also makes sense to widen our scope of thought a bit. How can we be so sure that a few thousands of years is such a long time anyway? Is it fair to attribute to ideas our own distorted perception of time (one hundred years is pretty much as old as we can imagine ourselves)? Compared to the estimated 13 billion-year-old universe, the time we've been around isn't that much at all.

    And one last thought. Aren't we being too specific about what to consider unique? Perhaps a unique idea doesn't have to be something completely different. Maybe intentions can also make an idea unique. The concepts (ideas, if you will) behind the nuclear bomb might be similar to those behind nuclear medicine. Can they really be considered “the same idea”?
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      Aug 7 2013: Thanks for the comment!

      Ideas can be altered to fit various situations, and still not be unique. In "A Beautiful Mind" (or at least in the movie), he had no idea his idea about people doing the best for themselves and the collective whole could be applied to so many other areas—I forget what they are now. Lack of absolute originality or uniqueness does not confine us to one path. Like you said, changing intent or applying an idea to another area can drastically change the world.

      To answer your last question, they may not be considered the same idea, but most likely similar ideas.
  • Aug 4 2013: I don't believe any idea is absolutely unique. Our brain works solely on previously acquired knowledge, which is then combined to create something nominated new. Think of music, for example. Rock was born out of blues and heavy metal was born out of rock music. Therefore, it is by building up on previously conceived concepts that one is able to create something "new". Although heavy metal is considered a different genre of music, it is very similar to rock in many levels. Therefore, it is not completely new. Different but not unique as it borrowed a lot of concepts from another genre of music. And that extends into everything we know. Politics --- New parties around the globe are born sharing many similarities with other parties. Many times the politicians who created a new party, at least in Brazil, broke away from another party and borrowed some of their ideals in order to create something different. Religion --- A topic that I don't really like to talk about as I am not very comfortable with many of the nuances of the subject and its effect on people but anyway, different religious, historically, might have branched off from other preceding ones. Science --- Einstein has a great quote on the subject. I am paraphrasing here but he says something along the lines of "I have only gone this far because I stood on the shoulders of giants". He was probably referring to Newton and other physicists that came before him. He used their research and their knowledge to come up with something groundbreaking. But it was not unique, not completely original. All in all, no idea is absolutely original. We all plagiarize to a very minor extent.
  • Aug 3 2013: Hi Kai,

    I think I'd like to go into physiology for a bit.
    we store in our brains in the form of neuronal connections a lot of information. it keeps getting accumulated. sometimes they get destroyed as well. however, an idea in my mind is when a lot of these information gets played around and a new circuit or connection gets formed. that's our eureka moment.

    now would you say that its unique?

    In a sense no, because its all due to previous information that we gathered from our environment.

    but more likely, its a yes. because the information in each of our brains is unique as a whole. it is built from the experiences and thoughts of our lives, which has never been before and never be after.

    thus a lot of times we are able to come up with similar ideas as other people (because they may have had the same set of info particular to that topic in their storage), and sometimes completely new(by forming a connection never previously made)(this would be rarer) and sometimes we build up on what appears to be someone else's ideas(a mix of both)

    I hope this was helpful pertaining to your question
  • Aug 3 2013: I don't think that ideas can be completely unique, because humans have been around for over 10,000 years and most things that can be imagined, i believe already have been. I don't believe someone in Rome could have imagined something like the iPad or the Internet, so those ideas, the ones that need technology and advances before even becoming within the realm of human imagination, those ideas I do believe are unique. But besides an idea being unique, I don't think they can really count unless it can become something concrete. After all, an idea becomes an idea only after you have told someone about it and some effort has been put into making it real or tangible in some way. Thus, ideas cannot be unique, because they come from the environment around us as we think with what is already here to create something new, that is, because Steve Jobs lived in a times where things like the computer and the internet existed he could think of something like a touch screen or a lightweight laptop, but besides that he also had the means through which to accomplish them and make them real, since no one can confirm that no one else had thought about those concepts. So an idea, in your head cannot be unique but bringing it to life is what makes it unique.
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    Jul 30 2013: Oooooo that is just a huge question! I don't know if there is ever a way to know if a thought can be entirely original because even if someone is 100% positive that their idea came from the no where, they can never be certain that its not something they stored in their unconscious. I remember watching a documentary about creativity and if someone can come up with an entirely new solution, they did an experiment at which they give people a tricky riddle and they ask them for a solution, they were given a break, in this break some of them where given nothin to do, others where asked to do a minor task and the third group were given a hard task. I know this might not be very relevant to your interesting question, but the group with the task of moderate in difficulty were the best in finding a creative solution to the riddle. This might suggest that even distant activities might stir our minds into putting things together and coming up with a solution/ idea/ thought. So an absolutely intact mind might not be able to even generate an idea that goes far.
  • Jul 29 2013: Hi Kai, An idea could be unique to such an extent that it could save the lives of many, it could change the course of the universe, it could alter the geography of this earth.
    But I feel saving human beings from disaster is a unique and good idea but only if anyone is ready to listen.
  • Jul 29 2013: Some further questions I find interesting;
    1)What is the model of existence this is assumed to be in? Single Universe(since Big Bang), Multiverse??
    2)Is unique in the context of first, or having only ever existed at one point of time and perspective?
    3)Do Boltzmann Brains make it impossible?

    WIth Genuine Interest

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      Aug 2 2013: Let's do multiverse (after quick wikiing). Unique in context of first. It'd be pretty hard for only one poin of time. Blotzmann Brains' wiki page is a little complex for me. Would you mind giving a quick summary of it?
  • Jul 29 2013: Comparing with analogy of big bang theory of physics which states that one big explosion of energy created the universe.
    Comparing with analogy of evolution theory states that every piece of life has emerged from one another after evolution.
    In the same way there is always each thought is linked with other thought in lesser or more degree.

    Human always adds or mixes the various thought into new one.So in principle the person is most creative and unique if one mixes the ideas in best ways to create new and useful ones.

    Concept of meme can be useful to understand this topic.The unit of behavior is called Meme.
  • Jul 27 2013: Well,an idea can never be 100% authentic because every idea formed in our world was inspored by idea as we call it is a breakthrough ....a breakthrough from something that already every single idea gets its inspiration from either an existing idea or an existing entity
  • Jul 27 2013: Just once per the patent holder, or whomever has the better legal team:) But who's keeping score anyway?Does it really matter? Universally or individually, an original and unique idea can only be formed through discovery of something that is previously unknown to everyone but the discoverer. So my answer is and only once. From that point on... it's all about ego and ownership.
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      Jul 29 2013: How'd that first person come upon the idea without any influence? The prescence of influence would make it lose it's universal originality or uniqueness.
      • Aug 16 2013: I disagree. The Greeks (and later the Romans and others) for centuries debated the principles of liberty and freedom as 'divine', yet they eagerly enslaved one another in war, despite their respect and appreciation for the philosophical concepts of Freedom and Liberty, their appreciation seemed to be limited to personal freedom and not that which might be enjoyed by others. For them it did not rise to the level of becoming a clear moral concept as it did in the 18th and 19th century in the French and American Revolutions. This is directly attributable to the influence of Christian leaders in the West. I think we all know slavery is still alive and well in many parts of the world where social customs allow it to be tolerated. While modern western culture has been clearly inspired by the early writings of Greek and Roman thinkers, they rejected the soft philosophical appreciation of the concept of freedom and embraced the moral conviction that all men should be free. In the span of human history this is a unique and powerful idea. Granted, it would be a monumental task determining who first articulated this new concept of freedom. Nonetheless, it is unique and original in the light of history in its application. I think we can agree that it is one thing to postulate an idea or belief and another to put it into practice. Whether we can pinpoint the precise moment at which this idea arrived and by whose mind and pen I think is quite irrelevant. We can clearly see its impact and so we must differentiate it from its flawed predecessor.
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    Jul 27 2013: " 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."

    What do you mean by opposite? Can you give an example?
    • Jul 30 2013: The answer to all if this new idea belongs to an age old question. How can you make something out of nothing? People want a better answer then the creationism story of the bible so we can turn to magic or science. Magic is simple now you see it now you don't but there is truth behind magic and that's because whatever it is it has always been there. Science has a better explanation and we can understand it if we can understand what a nebula does. A nebula creates matter out of it's own energy so to think our minds are not the same as a nebula would be unimaginable. 7, 000, 000, 000 people on earth with 7, 000, 000, 000 imaginations meaning everyone thinks of a new idea every moment because to each is own.
  • Jul 26 2013: I believe it's natural to have a new idea and it's biological. The first thing that happens is 1 brain cell is triggered electronically as it captures a moment of it's own unique movement. The cells around that 1 brain cell imitates the movement and starts a pattern to collect enough energy to become a thought. Taking what you know in your mind the wave pattern turns in to a frequency that calculates rhythms. The frequency of brain cells in your mind uses combinations to unlock inovative ways to manipulate the norm and replicate your thought process. If your inner thoughts builds enough energy and is broadcasted outward on to say a blog about unique Ideas then are understood by other peoples brain waves there you have achived a unique Idea.
    • Comment deleted

      • Jul 30 2013: The brain is the physical muscle and it just uses waves to flex and stretch nerves and blood tissue along with other chemicals. The mind is the cognitive energy that forms by instinct (like when a baby brest feeds) and creativity (like when a baby starts to crawl then walk).
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    Jul 26 2013: Kai, there is a need to understand certain fundamentals of logic. If we say , "entirely original" it can be meant a complete new thought which is impossible to exist. It is like, can you imagine a thing which is unimaginable. So it is impossible to imagine which is unimaginable. We cant think beyond our knowledge which we have acquired through our experiences with our possible senses and organs, languages and history, chaos and nature. However we can be abstract to the extent which is limitless.
    A zero gravity thinker ( A thinker which is not expert of the field ) always comes up with new thought. For example, if an engineer is asked to present a solution of financial reference model, a new perspective will emerge. Engineer having little knowledge of finance will try to solve the issue with engineering background would land in an innovative thinking.
    So this way, i think new ideas can be developed.
  • Jul 25 2013: Sure, if it was actually him and not his cook that made the discovery!
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      Jul 25 2013: Hahaha...I do think he deserves the credit because as the story goes he asked to have his meat and what not stuck between two pieces of bread so his fingers wouldn't be greasy whilst he continued to play cards.

      (I'm happy I got to use the word 'whilst'; I think it was the context of the Peerage of England that put me in the frame of mind, and then the earlier use of 'what not' that pushed me over the line.)
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    Jul 25 2013: A question...............What do you call it when your unique idea or question is not acceptable to the Status Quo or TED and they take you off the air?
  • Jul 25 2013: In terms of an idea, a thought, it can be unique.

    In that you may after researching a subject, you find that you are able, and it works, to amend what you've learned to a completely different arena than original material explored. That thought of connecting the dots, that no-one else has ever done, makes the idea unique, in so far as to the new field it's applied to.

    As for completely unique, I would say no, because in reality we have always been the sum of knowledge before us, it's why after all the ancient Greeks didn't have cd players.

    I'd love to you give a concrete example(s), but first I'd have to talk to my lawyer, who would probably say no. It behooves one to remember that these days we live in a world of litigation, trademarks, patents and copyright, irrespective of what one thinks is unique or not.
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      Jul 25 2013: Hello again. I'm learning to stop in my scanning of conversations when I see your first name, because there is something worthwhile being said even if I don't agree with it so some degree.

      First off, Greeks didn't need CD players, because they had bacchanalias.

      In your assertion that there is no such thing as a completely unique idea, however, your criteria depends upon there being no person who is not influenced by sum of knowledge. It is possible that someone raised by wolves or stranded at a young age on a deserted island would have unique ideas since they aren't relying on what you termed "the sum of knowledge" or are their ideas still non-unique, because for example they learned form the wolfs how to communicate, and on the island they saw how sea birds opened clams and that gave them an idea to use a rock like a beak and open the shell?
      • Jul 27 2013: Thanks for the compliment Daniel, good to see your comment here too.

        But to find someone raised by wolves, is going to be a hard find. Although it did happen twice i believe in the early part of the century, if your interested in it, look up psychology and cave girl around 1920. Sorry I cant be more specific I forget the details, apart from for the person found, it was not a happy life, or ending.

        But to throw the cat amongst the pigeons, I could add that your last para is flawed in it's logic, if the the person saw the bird open the clam - surely the idea belongs to the birds :)

        On a different note, I don't think you'll need to stop anymore, my time here is almost up. But with our discussions, it certainly has been the kind of elevated thinking that has been very enjoyable.
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    Jul 25 2013: Is a small idea more likely to be unique than a big idea, and why, or is size not an issue?
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    Jul 24 2013: An idea can be unique to the full extent.
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      Jul 25 2013: I'm sorry, I've already quoted your original comment, 'To the full extent," in one of my above comments and have exactly zero characters remaining to amend it to include this longer version of your comment.
  • Jul 24 2013: I'd have to say that the most unique 'ideas' come from error's that are recognized for their properties. There's some instances from early chemistry aka Alchemy that come to mind and other material sciences. The notion that someone can set out to discover something, fail miserably or even partially succeed , while at the same time developing the idea to still find applications with said failure has always been my favorite. They seem to include arbitrary means, out of the box attempts to discover, with observations that then are applied in other fields... pretty unique to me.

    see Graphene, Corn Flakes, Micro-wave oven, Silly-putty, etc...
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      Jul 25 2013: Exactly how does this help us to answer the question at hand, which is 'to what extent can an idea be unique'? Are you suggesting that there is some casual relationship between where ideas come from and how they come about that endows it with the quality of uniqueness?
      • Jul 27 2013: I'm suggesting that uniqueness is created through recognizing potential, implying that the extent in which an idea can be unique does have a relationship with how said idea comes about. It wasn't my aim to necessarily answer the question, rather provide food for thought.
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          Jul 27 2013: I see. I was already thinking 'I see' before I got to the second sentence of your reply. I'll be honest. I'm going to have to think about if and how "the extent in which an idea can be unique does have a relationship with how said idea comes about." I guess that qualifies as 'food for thought.'
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          Jul 27 2013: Still, if it can be proven that a unique idea can be proven to the full extent, that's a definitive answer, an end game, a check mate. Do you think it's possible that the 'relationship with how said idea comes about' could prove, or in any way support, the ability of an idea to be unique to the full extent?
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    Jul 24 2013: I asked this question long ago on considering a topic for a thesis. My adviser said one can do novel things by asking questions that have not been asked and collecting original data and interpreting them with the tools the individual brings to that. Our combination of experiences and education often makes for a unique perspective.
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      Jul 25 2013: Are you using unique in the phrase 'unique perspective' as in it is a singularly original perspective? Or in the sense that it is an uncommon and perhaps remarkable perspective, distinctive from similar perspectives?
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        Jul 25 2013: I meant one-of-a-kind. Whether that perspective is remarkable in its novelty will depend on the person.
  • Jul 24 2013: Perhaps there is something to be said for "relative originality" as well. In the peanut butter an jelly example, the first guy was absolutely original, but the next 50 guys that did the same thing, without knowledge that someone else had done it, were also being original. The next 500 guys that heard about the new sandwich and decided to add marshmallow, or crackers, or something similar to make it further unique were also being original, albeit a derived originality. I think originality probably has varying degrees.
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      Jul 25 2013: So an example of absolute originality would be John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich?
      • Jul 25 2013: Sure, if it was actually him and not his cook that made the discovery!
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          Jul 25 2013: Hahaha...I do think he deserves the credit because as the story goes he asked to have his meat and what not stuck between two pieces of bread so his fingers wouldn't be greasy whilst he continued to play cards.

          (I'm happy I got to use the word 'whilst'; I think it was the context of the Peerage of England that put me in the frame of mind, and then the earlier use of 'what not' that pushed me over the line.)
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      Jul 24 2013: I like the idea that an idea is considered unique if the purpose it serves is new.
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        Jul 25 2013: Yes, but to what extent!? For instance, how unique would it be of me if I used two pencils as chopsticks? On a scale of 1-10.
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      Jul 25 2013: I feel like I could take the last part of your comments on space exploration and circle back to the first part of your comment about ideas being developed form past experiences and education. In other words, space exploration is definitely always being built on previous ideas.

      How else could astronomers, cosmologists, and others deduce the things they do from satellite photographs, telescope observations, and endless mathematical formulations unless they were extending their knowledge of our earth, our solar system, our galaxy and projecting it those final frontiers?
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          Jul 25 2013: Like quantum physics compared to Newtonian physics?
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          Jul 25 2013: That was a trick question. How unique can physics really be from physics. It is, after all, all physics. One isn't separate from the other so much as they are sub categories of a larger category. Note, the progression in both historically and in the classroom. One moves from basic math into calculus (Newtonian) into Newtonian physics into quantum physics. See how it goes from math to math/Newton to Newton/physics to physics/quantum? I realize that example isn't entirely accurate, but I do think its sufficient to make my point. I realize quantum mathematics fits in there somewhere, etc. The point is that one is BUILDING upon the other.
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          Jul 25 2013: Yes, and I'm getting dizzy. Can I ask if you have read my original comment, not any of my replies, but the comment I made up at the top of the full conversation? No hurt feelings, of course, if you haven't, but I put a lot of effort into it (and was left with exactly zero characters remaining) so as to put a stop to all the circular thinking. It cuts to the core of what unique and idea mean and dispenses with all the examples. In other words, it assigns parameters to what would other be a very roundabout conversation.
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      Jul 25 2013: What if I had an idea that was non-unique "to such an extent that it could save the lives of the man, it could change the course of the universe, it could alter the geography of this earth." Would the extent of its non-uniqueness really have anything to do with the extent of its influence? If not, then why does uniqueness get special treatment?
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          Jul 25 2013: Sorry, Deepak. I confuse myself sometimes. Let me put it another way:

          An idea that is NOT unique could also have an extensive influence on saving lives, changing the universe, and alter earth's geography.

          So are you sure that saving lives, changing the universe, and altering the earth's geography is reliable criteria for determining the extent to which an idea is unique or the extent to which an idea is useful.

          I think that ideas can be unique and have no significant influence on the larger world. That has nothing to do with the extent of their uniqueness; they might be entirely unique.
  • Jul 24 2013: I would rather label it unique after seeing it than have definitions.
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      Jul 24 2013: But do you think you would see a completely original idea?
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        Jul 25 2013: All archetypes are completely original ideas. They are the original from which the patterns are cut. The number 1 is a completely original, unique idea. You can even see that in the way unicycle means one wheel, unisex means one sex, either male or female can wear it or use it. Unicorn's have one horn. Something that is unilinear is made up of one single line. Something that is unique is literally one of a kind. Like the number one. The original number, the sole number, the single number, single meaning one.... and on and on and on....
      • Jul 25 2013: A little strong , but likely true
        But could we really do it by definition - an idea that sounds like the Texas State Constitution.
        I see problems there too.
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      Jul 25 2013: Then name one idea you've already seen that you can label unique. No definitions necessary.
      • Jul 26 2013: Thank you this is getting more fun Unique to one creature or to society as a whole. Am I getting weird here?

        Sometime we seek to find a better way to fix something in a way it's never been done around us before. Youo are i may do many things in an unusual way which is just like someone does it at the other side of the world. That could be a individually unique context. One thinks of the woman who was knitting near Einstein - She suggested another way it could be done. The explained to him what that style was called.
      • Jul 26 2013: Okay multiple discoveries are relevant.