On Originality and Uniqueness

A Question of Originality and Uniqueness

The more I think and read the less original (in thought and expression and being) I become to myself. The evidence mounts against original thought as the investigation deepens. Borrowers in genetics and memetics, all organic things are. I am thus led to wonder if there is any unique entity/thing/idea in existence? Or could be in existence? Unique here defined – the unique contains or embodies WHOLLY and ONLY isolated-not-found-anywhere-else properties and relations.

This is all unique-ish

This is all unique-ish

Theories and Atoms

There are many theories in the world built on the establishment of a central, unique entity or atomic element:

proteins in genetics

sub atomic particles in quantum physics

persons in sociology and psychology

numbers in mathematics

bits and algorithms in computer science

and so on…

The question of falsity of all theories comes down to the frame of measurement reference. Experiments falsify or support theories based on measurement of relational phenomena. What properties of what entities should be measured and investigated in a theory and its experiments? As the frames of reference resolve measurement access is cut off to possible that might reveal the measured objects as non-unique (borrowed/unoriginal/non-atomic) entities. For example, the measurement and investigation of behavior between humans (and not the cells, proteins, chemistry and atoms that comprise them) experiments and theories become blind to what are possible (and likely in most cases) relevant causal networks. Time and time again it is found that an observed behavior isn't due to some reified personhood but really of chemistry exchange in organ systems and their cells and the environment. And even those exchanges are explained and mediated by network patterns and geometry (neural networks/memory, protein folding, chemical bonds, atomic spin, etc)

Infinite Regress of Contingency

Examples of contingent explanation can be endlessly drawn out. So much so that it doesn't seem plausible that fixed fidelity-level of explanation is fully contained. The infinite regress of the network of explanations seems to imply the phenomena themselves are an infinite regress of relations.

Here's the stake in the ground, so to speak. It's all networks and relations – everything in contingency. The resolution of anything, in its totality, is infinite. That is, to fully measure and explain it, all of its contingencies must be dawn out. This reality of the essential nature forces a diversification of ideas, knowledge disciplines, engineering activities, language and philosophies. The work of discovery will never be done.

The Basis of Originality

The originality of ideas or activity (unique things) was never pure. The regress of contingency ensures this. Originality can be thought of as a measure of energy between observed states of affairs (ideas, concepts, explanations, pixels on the screen music, art, societies, economies, etc) To go from here to there… the connection, the leap, the activity of the relating is the originality. It's a paradoxical concept. The space distance (perception) is usually infinitesimal between the original and unoriginal but the mass of contingencies of the unoriginal (the borrowed things) tends towards infinity. Thus the energy required to connect anew requires more energy (time aka computation aka connecting).

For example, to get a new law passed when a jurisdiction is small is much easier (takes less time, has less nodes to convince) that a jurisdiction that is large (takes more time due to more nodes to convince and more nodes in opposition). Old (established, highly contingent) laws have mass, they stick around. Getting a new (original) law in place, with even a slight change in a system as large as the USA requires enormous energy (time/computation/politicking) – the more entrenched and contingent the law the harder it is… think US Constitution.

Returning to the fore the idea of originality is reified and romantic. It is personal. It is ephemeral. It is a mere superposition of possibility collapsed into the new, which is barely different (and the only difference is new participants) than the old. But if the audience hadn't crossed the bridge themselves, the new appears new. As they walk across the bridge, alone, they'll find the same old same old… there's nothing new under the sun except what's new to you.


This is why the deeper and wider science and art and philosophy goes the more it circles back on itself… finding the same shape to phenomena across space time and all levels of fidelity. To connect wider and more diverse networks new vocabularies and new perceptive tools must be engineered. Those new tools must then come under study and interpretation and ruled use. On and On.

And Yet

The basic question remains. Is there anything unique from all things or any things? A simple case…. Is 0 different than 1? It seems so but how is it different? Where is that difference? What does the work of difference? Is a circle different than a square?

Certainly these examples are too simple. The answers appear to be YES, they are different. A circle is unique from a square. But… How are they fundamentally different? Through use? Through their mathematical properties? Through definition alone? I can approximate both with a series of lines at various angles, so the method to generate them may make them different but may not?  A circle has no sides/infinite sides and a square 4... there's a concept of equidistant from the center in both but its deployed differently... there's a infinity in both... (pi and Pythagorean theorems...) on and on...

Is geometry – the relation of things to other things, the shape of things – the only way in which things are unique? (a taxonomy of possible unique things https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mathematical_shapes)

The question seems stuck in an infinite regress of definitions and connections.

An Anti Conclusion For Now

Originality and Uniqueness do not hold up well as stand alone, substantial concepts. At best, I'm left in contingency. Things are contingent on other things on other things… occasionally whispering out possible unique relations that require a regress of investigation to reveal more sameness. Perhaps.