August 1, 2006
When I was a young child, there was this story in one of our text books...
The dark night has fallen, and the owner of the house, a
published writer, has gone to bed. All is well, all is calm...
That was the signal for the objects in the house to come out
to play. At the desk, there's a whole community of stationery
and writing instruments alike coming alive. The story
quickly focuses on the fountain pen. In true cartoon fashion, all
the components spring apart, into animated characters. They brag about the roles they play, and their importance. Shortly
after, the ensuing argument erupts.
The reed claims to be obviously the most important
part. After all, it is the business end
where writing actually takes place. The rubber bulb, points out that the reed is useless
without any ink. The shaft counters that it makes the pen
ergonomical, and adds elegance. To which the cap of the pen
rebuts: "Talk about being under-appreciated! Without me, the
pen will be clogged, and the owner's shirt pocket
would be smudged. It's the little things that
Each one of those arguments has merits. Undeniably,
all members of a team are inter-dependent on one another, and contribute
collectively. And yet, it is customary for the populace to give most (if not
all) of the credit to the entity in the spot light, and neglect all of those
behind-the-scene. Cases in point: Actors in a film, and the racecar
This reminded me of the concept of
"inventions" and technical development. Most people just don't understand how
it works. They hold the simplistic view that someone can somehow "invent" a
whole product or solution on their own, and deserve absolute, clear-cut
credit and exclusive rights. In reality, since shortly after the the stone
age, there had been no such occurrences.
The "revolutionary inventions" are really mundane (but
significant) development and enhancement, once the hype is striped away. The
"exclusive" idea is merely the same general desire/needs/goals that exist on
the minds of all contemporaries in the field.
Technology (like anything of
complexity) is a series of processes with no beginning and no end, with
advances building upon incremental improvements of one another's ideas. Such
artificial distinctions as who's first, who's better, are largely arbitrary
& transient, grossly unfair,
and ultimately meaningless. Anyone with the slightest technical competency
would understand that it's all part of the nature of endless cycles of
leapfrogging in specific aspects.
In the tech
community, we all know that patent system is strictly existing within the
parallel universe, and purely a legal game of technicality. The only "minor"
incidental connection to the real world is its absolute jurisdiction. The
subject has been discussed to death. That is not to say that companies
should not apply for patents. Reality dictates that they must. It's just
that the system is grossly arbitrary and unfair and often award the
undeserving, and wrongly (brutally) penalizes the innocent.
Not everything that can be counted counts,
and not everything that counts can be counted.