Week 7: Evolution of Ideas

Dan Blank got me thinking about collaboration and how far is too far. I think that pretty much defines the issue of authorship and plagiarism in a simplistic way. We touched on the issue of how works by other scientists and authors often catapult our own work, helping and inspiring us to develop our own ideas about a topic of interest. I was actually astounded listening to the Ted Talk by Austin Kleon. I could not believe that he was able to trace the cutting up of previous works (newspaper, books, etc.) to create a new work (poem, story, etc.) back to the 1760’s. And this was all before the internet! It’s funny because the internet makes collaboration so easy but also really complicates the issue of authorship and plagiarism. At the end of the day, I think collaboration is so crucial for the advancement and betterment of science, art, and humanity as a whole, because when we work together, the extra brain power can really create a concept or experimental design that no one person could think of on their own. When we build on other’s works…is it plagiarism or stolen authorship…or is it evolution? After all, we wouldn’t be where we are today if we didn’t continue the work of others. I think that is a different way of posing the question: how far is too far? In art I think it’s easier to acknowledge another artist who has inspired you and Kleon even mentions how good poets transform their imitation and admiration of previous work to make something better. In the sciences, things are a little different and more technical ways exist to give others credit where it is due however collaboration is just as important. I think without really realizing it, we are always building on the work of those who came before us. That’s how science, health, medicine, etc. continue to advance and we as a species continue to thrive.

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