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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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  • 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 people...do 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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