Open Culture -Part 3/3- When Ideas Have Sex

This is the last part of my essay I wrote for a course about Open Culture.
Read the first part.
Read the second part.

To be able to build up a more complex and rich culture we need previous ideas to build from. Re-inventing the wheel every time one wants to create something is a very slow process that does not lead to much cultural progress. This is why we need to be inspired and able to use other ideas in order to progress. Copyright works as a system that restricts and slows down creativity. The more open and accessible the ideas are, the easier it becomes to create even more culture.

“How did we become the only species that becomes more prosperous as it becomes more populous? […] I think to answer that question you need to understand how human beings bring together their brains and enable their ideas to combine and re-combine, to meet and indeed to mate. In other words you need to understand how ideas have sex” (Ridley, 2010).

This exchange of ideas is very important for progress. By helping each other with culture we are able to produce more of it. “People through all times have enjoyed a shared culture, it’s a part of what makes us human” (Öberg, 2010). Opening up our restrictions on culture would allow us to enjoy an even larger amount of shared culture.

“What happens when you cut people off from exchange? From the ability to exchange and specialize. And the answer is that not only do you slow down technological progress, you can actually throw it into reverse. An example is Tasmania. When the sea level rose and Tasmania became an Island 10’000 years ago the people on it not only experienced slower progress, than people on the main, but they actually experienced regress. They gave up the ability to make stone-tools and fishing-equipment and clothing. Because the population of about 4000 people was simply not large enough to maintain the specialized skills necessary to keep the technology they had” (Ridley, 2010).

The industrial age was a clear example of the increased effectiveness that specialization brought. The Internet is a technology that allows us to connect and use a much larger population in order to specialize even further. If we are able to use other peoples work and combine them with our specialized small part we will create more and better things than was achieved in the past.

With more data and knowledge available it becomes easier to make new creations and improve on the existing culture. This is one of the reasons that an open culture benefits greatly from open data. “We created something, called the collective brain, we are just the nodes in the network. We are the neurons in this brain. It’s the interchange of ideas, the meeting and mating of ideas between them that is causing technological progress, incrementally, bit by bit” (Ridley, 2010).

Ridley, Matt (2010), When ideas have sex: Matt Ridley on, online video, accessed on 4 October 2010

Öberg, Jonas (2010), How do you explain creative commons, blog, accessed 18 August 2010,

[pic: CC-BY, Nina Matthews photography]

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Josef Ohlsson Collentine

A transparent and kind American/Swede who likes cultural patterns and Social Media. A creative early-adopter who sports, discusses and explores. More about me
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