Given similar conditions; information, knowledge, training, tools, resources and experiences, different people living in different environments can, when facing a specific challenge come up with similar solutions.
This implies that the solutions are not dependent on people but the environment within which the problems arise and are addressed.
This brings to mind a fundamental question; Can/should anyone own an idea?
Following the scenario above, tools and know-how, which basically evolve via emergence – the multiplicity of relatively simple interactions to form complex systems and patterns [Wikipedia], may not really be a product of an individual but the sum of various actions by many agents. Moreover, the environmental triggers that lead to emergence are systemic and result from the environment which is shaped by emergence and by itself is emergent.
The extrapolation of ideas and information may also be referred to as emergence, the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions [Wikipedia]. In the beginning there were few and simple rules and tools but their extrapolation or rather emergence led to the construction of more complex rules and tools. The information resulting from emergence has however not been created, but has existed from the beginning.
No matter how complex ideas and tools have become as a result of emergence, they can always trace their origin from the simple rule and tools and as a matter of fact a combination of them.
So, how can I claim ownership of an idea or tool which is as a result of what others have done? For without their collective actions, it may have been impossible for me to arrive to that idea.
Moreover, given that emergence is a ‘natural’ phenomena, how can I claim to own something that would have resulted anyways with or without my intervention or involvement.
After all, we are creatures that are good in copying ideas and adapting them to our needs, and it is the state of our needs and the capability of existing tools and ideas that determine what ideas we combine and what emerges from that.
How can I claim the ownership of this article when I have basically used a tool (language) and ideas (concepts) which are not mine to write it, and the need to write has been brought forth by the collective action (copyright battles that individuals and companies have cultivated in the current economic paradigm). Furthermore, this is something that others can (already have) thought/written about and acted upon. Where in the world can I lay claim that I own any of this?
I would have to create something in its entirety to claim its ownership. As such I would have to be God.
This leads to my second question; Should I attach my name to any piece of work that I produce and should I ask others to put my name next to ideas they have taken from me?
But if I cannot own ideas or tools, how can I attach my name to them or ask others to when they are not mine to begin with?
How ideas spread:
A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving… Einstein
Egotism hampers the progress of science
– denying questioning and alteration (Carse 1986. Finite and infite games p. 106-107)
Explanations succeed only by convincing resistant hearers of their error. If you will not hear my explanations until you are suspicious of your own truths, you will not accept my explanations until you are convinced of your error. Explanation is an antagonistic encounter that succeeds by defeating an opponent. It possesses the same dynamic of resentment found in other finite play. I will press my explanation on you because I need to show you that I do not live in the error that I think others think I do.
Whoever wins this struggle is privileged with the claim to true knowledge. Knowledge has been arrived at, it is the outcome of this engagement. Its winners have the uncontested power to make certain statements of fact. They are to be listened to. In those areas appropriate to the contests now concluded, winners possess a knowledge that no longer can be challenged.
Knowledge, therefore, is like property. It must be published, declared, or in some other way so displayed that others cannot but take account of it. It must stand in their way. It must be emblematic, pointing backward at its possessor’s competitive skill.
So close are knowledge and property that they are often thought to be continuous. Those who are entitled to knowledge feel they should be granted property as well, and those who are entitled to property believe a certain knowledge goes with it. Scholars demand higher salaries for their publishable successes; industrialists sit on university boards.
“This natural-rights theory of property makes the creative effort of an isolated, self-sufficing individual the basis of ownership vested in him. In so doing it overlooks the fact that there is no isolated, self-sufficing individual…Production takes place only in a society – only through the cooperation of an industrial community; large or small…but it always comprises a group large enough to contain and transmit the traditions, tools, technical knowledge, and usages without which there can be no industrial organization and no economic relation of individuals to one another or to their environment…There can be no production without technical knowledge; hence no accumulation and no wealth to be owned…and there is no technical knowledge apart from an industrial community. Since there is no individual production and no individual productivity, the natural-rights preconception…reduces itself to absurdity, even under the logic of its won assumptions”.
– Thorstein Veblen, American journal of Sociology, vol. 4, 1898