Thursday, August 25, 2016

Originality and Improvement

I once knew a man from North Carolina who told me that Russians were a bunch of copycats. As he put it, “They are probably saying that the telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bellinski.”

The Russians put the first man in space. So clearly they lead in something. Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Tchaikovsky, Mendeleev, Pavlov, Vygotsky, Lermontov, Tsvetayeva, Mandelshtam, Pasternak, Rakhmaninoff, Stravinsky and any number of others were not copycats either; they were highly original.

There were other situations in which Russians took the idea from somewhere else and developed it further. They took the idea of ballet from Europe and created the world's best ballet. They took the idea of poetry from other places and created the world's best poetry. Hermitage has the same idea as the Louvre, but it is a much bigger and much more impressive place. There were some situations where they lead; there were others where they improved on concepts from other places.

I do not see how it is wrong or being a “copycat” to take someone else's ideas and build on them. We see this done around the world all the time. The Japanese did not invent the car or the robot, but they have the world's best cars and a huge number of its robots. The folks in Dubai did not invent the skyscraper, but they have the tallest skyscraper in the world. As for Americans, they got the idea for their successful political system from English and French intellectuals, the Greek democracy and the Iroquois Confederacy. The world owes both to people who come up with original ideas and the people who build on them.

Both Russia and America have had many examples of both.

In fact, the Soviet scientists and engineers were exceptionally inventive. The problem was that the system in which they were doing their work was very corrupt and strangulating, and most of their brilliant inventions never saw the light of the day. If business knows what is good for it – and of course it does – it will look into hiring more Russian scientists, engineers and programmers and do more to explore Russia for useful inventions that Soviet scientists and engineers have made.

Some Russian inventions have seen the light of the day. The world's most respected anti-virus program – the Kaspersky – was developed in Russia. The Baikonur cosmodrome has been launching a lot of Western satellites. The Ural truck is used extensively in Alaska. And the Russian-designed Marussia is an excellent super-car.

Of course it is also possible to take an idea – good or bad – from another place and either take it into a bad direction or to degrade on it. Lenin took the idea for Communism from Marx and created a brutal order that even Marx would have condemned. And we are seeing now many folks in places such as Australia and American inner city taking the Muslim idea of how to treat women and use them to be even worse to their women than they had been before.

There is a place both for original ideas and for improvement on other people's ideas. Both should be encouraged, and both should be respected when they produce good results. The world owes vastly to both of the preceding; and it is important that both be given the respect that they deserve.


Post a Comment

<< Home