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+ - Technological Genius is Timeliness Not Inspiration

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Hugh Pickens
Hugh Pickens writes "Ezra Klein has an interesting essay in the Washington Post about "simultaneous invention," where technology advances to the point that the next step is obvious to multiple people at once, and so they all push forward with the same or similar inventions because while the natural capabilities of human beings don't change much from year to year, their environments do, and so does the technology and store of knowledge they can access. One good example is Alexander Graham Bell, who in all likelihood invented the telephone after Elisha Gray — and both of them came after Antonio Meucci, who couldn't afford the fee to keep his patent current. "The idea of the lone genius who has the eureka moment where they suddenly get a great idea that changes the world is not just the exception," says Steven Johnson, author of "Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation," "but almost nonexistent." Or consider Adam Goldberg's CU Community, created in 2003 at Columbia University, a social network that launched first and had cooler features than Facebook, with options for pictures and integrated blogging software. "Today, Zuckerberg is many times as rich as Goldberg," writes Klein. "He won. Zuckerberg's dominance can be attributed partly to the clean interface of his site, partly to the cachet of the Harvard name and partly to luck. But the difference between Mark Zuckerberg and Adam Goldberg was very small, while the difference between what Mark Zuckerberg could do and what the smartest college kid in 1999 could do was huge. It was the commons supporting them both that really mattered. ""
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Technological Genius is Timeliness Not Inspiration

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