Saturday, October 8, 2011

16435--Are Original Ideas Overrated?

"If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself." -- Rollo May

Rollo May was an existential psychologist and an author.  He believed in free will and in creativity.  Do you?  I do.

With that said, Hollywood steals...No, what do they call it?  Adapting.  Movie makers adapt and recycle and remake.  Television people do it, too.  I'm sure creators in other media can be labeled as being less than truly creative when they "take inspiration" from sources outside the confines of their own skull.  Whether creators or audiences, we are awash in tributes, homages and other flat-out derivative works.

It's a short-cut to the money.  Why work harder when working less will get you what you're really after?

A remake of "Footloose" recently hit the theaters, I guess because dancing and music continue to be very popular.  Why bother to put forth the brainpower of conceiving a whole new story when you can just hang new players and songs on an already proven framework.  It was well-received so Hollywood must be on to something.  Disney goes to even less effort, simply re-releasing "The Lion King" and dominating the box office as their reward.  Even though these "new" products presented to us continue to make a lot of money and garner attention, we have more respect for original theory.

I'm in favor of effort and originality over "been there, done that".  When I was a kid, I remember one of my responses that used to get to my mother the most was "I did that once."  It meant I was disinterested in something I'd already experienced and would prefer new stimulus.  Likewise, I'd rather write something wholly original than anything I felt I had ever seen before no matter how well-received.

When Stanley Kamen was on the verge of announcing his innovative creation that would represent not just a revolutionary change but also the future of personal transportation, there was a great deal of hype and speculation that apparently got some brain cells sparking.  The boys over at "South Park" clowned around and showed us "It", a personal travel wheel that got riders from A to B at 200 miles per hour (despite a comically bizarre control system).  It was certainly much more to look at than Kamen's actual release that followed and brought the world...Segway.

I couldn't believe that he really had the audacity to unleash this as the creation that would change our lives.  People gushed and fawned, but I just couldn't (still can't) get past how lackluster a bomb Mr. Kamen dropped.  He brought to light a scooter that is ridden in a standing position.  Do I have to be the one to point out that we already had those (also available to ride in a seated position) that matched Segway in carrying capacity, range, speed and recharge time.  The only thing Segway's creator brought to the table that was different for scooters (sitting or standing variety) was its self-balancing capability.  That's right, he found someplace useful to cram a gyroscope, changing the lives of...mall cops (though I've noticed some of them now riding a pretty cool-looking three-wheel version that would obviously not need the gyroscope technology and so is probably only a tenth the price).

Ahhh...the rewards of coming as close to reinventing the wheel as I've seen in a while.

How clever to create hype for something unseen and, when finally revealed, presenting the nothing new fused with the very old (folks used to stick horses in front of Segway's and call them chariots a few thousand years ago) and still getting people to believe it.  TV and movie studios should take lessons from this.  I can see it now: Stanley Kamen hosting writing seminars on pumping new life into old classics and claiming them as your own.  Did I mention that I was going to start work on this idea I had about a man coming to Earth with superhuman powers?  Sent to us by his father, he would blend in with us while helping to save us from self-destruction.  It'll be innovative and change the future of writing and be loved by untold millions for years to come.  You'll see.  Trust me.


  1. Some folks prefer formulas, some prefer complete originality (insofar as that's possible). I suspect it's different audiences.

  2. Only so many seeds from which to create flavors for everyone, I suppose.