Originality doesn’t really exist. Every piece of original work is a derivative of something else. Art, design, engineering, most of the products we love today are a novel reinterpretation of something that was already made. If everything would be recorded you could always trace it back to source.

It’s in our nature to copy. Babies mimic their parents and as they grow they find role models and learn by copying them. We copy what we admire. 

But there’s always a stigma around plagiarism and copying others. We like to point the finger at copycats. We’re always striving to be original until we realise we’re not.

Steve and Bill were inspired by the operating system developed by Xerox which had a graphical user interface. They went on and built improved versions of it adding their personal touch. Some people to this day still think that Bill stole Steve’s idea.

The first modern tablet was running Windows. Later Apple developed a better version which became a huge success. Some people think that Apple invented the tablet, others give Microsoft credit for it. In reality, the first tablet ever made was the Styalator which was released in the ’50s. Technology just needed time to catch up. It doesn’t always pay off to be the first, timing is essential. Same thing is true for the smartphone.

If we reflect on this we can argue that originality is about taking credit for a body of work. People want to reap the benefits. That’s why we have copyright laws and intellectual property is being licensed. This cognitive breakthrough empowers the original creator at the cost of restraining other derivative works.

In many cases, there’s a thin line separating a copy or a derivative work from the original. But every now and then, a copy slips as original when plagiarism remains undetected.


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