Only When Originality Belongs to No One Can It Then Belong to Everyone

The idea of originality as owned by an individual person or party is an obsolete concept. It is a closed-source school of thought that perpetuates patent monopolies. Intellectual property or proprietary knowledge may sound appealing and protective, but it can be quite harmful on a collective basis. Although it breeds competition, it discourages collaboration–which are both very different models for advancement and acceleration of the human condition.

It is a school of thought that is particularly embedded in the Western psyche where the unsanctioned sharing of knowledge and information is often interpreted as bootlegging, pirating, copying, or stealing. When permission has to be granted, it makes the granter the authority. This type of thinking is particularly reinforced by Western cultures along the entire vertical spectrum from high to low. In art, critics will often shun the derivative. In fashion and other sectors of popular culture, participants will disavow off-brand products. In politics, neoliberal social justice warriors will read cultural exchange as cultural appropriation when they are apples and oranges. There is a strong tendency to prize the originator.

The idea of originality breeds divisiveness and tribalism. It is capital driven, egocentric, superficial, and pretentious. The belief that any idea or piece of information can be owned by a single entity is a monetization and privatization of our shared intelligence and contributions as a species. Why do you think Disney and other corporations lobbied the US Congress to add 20 years to an already existing 75-year copyright term?

Not only does it dismiss the possibility of the simultaneous arrival at ideas, but it also strips others of opportunity and restricts resources. Originality favors those in places of privilege or forces the disadvantaged to have to license ideas. It produces egocentrism and reinforces the myth of the genius.

The first to file a patent, the first to gain an audience to share a discovery, the first to manage to execute an artwork, the first to publish, and the list goes of—”the first” is often the person with the most resources.

Only once we learn to dismiss the hunger for originality can thoughts, ideas, information, and culture be shared more freely. Only once we accept our oneness can humans begin to start working together. Ideas are meant to be shared and utilized by everyone who is anyone.

That does not mean that uniqueness and individualism cannot exist. This is certainly not a call for conformity because conformity is forced and programmed into others. It also does not mean that the embrace of this philosophy will not be exploited, misinterpreted, or co-opted for use against its own premise.

This is just recognizing that the human condition should be regarded as an open source system contrary to current practices. It is not to say that proper credit should not be given where it is due but it is to say that proper credit should be received not for profit or ego, but rather to offer oneself as a subject matter expert.

Letting go of originality is acknowledging human collectiveness on a macro scale. It is reclaiming ownership of the ability to absorb, learn, and adapt freely. It is decentralizing influence and celebrates information and knowledge as public property.