This past week’s lecturer, professor Vittorio Loreto of Università La Sapienza in Roma, struck an interesting chord with me. As someone spanning both the humanities and the STEM in my studies, Loreto left me with a faint feeling of dread. He presented the novel ideas of quantifying innovation, an abstract concept in itself, and eventually concluded that the efficiency of innovation over time is decreasing. By his findings, the only reason the number of innovations is increasing steadily is due to the vast number of individuals seeking innovation. That only means one thing for an individual like myself (soon to graduate): competition. Therefore, there has to be a directly causational relationship between competition and innovation. As Loreto phrased it: ‘as I am writing a paper, I have to race to publish it, as my neighbors are likely doing the exact same work’. The space on which to innovate is shrinking, but the number of individuals tackling innovation is only growing.

But where does innovation fit into the scope of this lecture? How is innovation and origins related? I find myself asking the question time and time again: ‘which came first, the innovation or the origin?’ Can they even be considered on the same plane? See, if innovation is defined as ‘the action or process of making changes in something established’, it can only be that origins came first. The origin was the birth of the originally established, and innovation was the evolution of a later version. But, I must circle back to one of my original posts where I concluded that origins are hierarchical. If origins due truly only lead to another origin, might it be also that innovations are the catalyst sparking the next in a tree of origins?

I ultimately conclude that innovations are separate, but crucial to, origins. We can place innovations on our theoretical tree of origins where the path of origins branches further. A concrete example, would be the invention of the atom bomb: an innovation which lead to the origin of the Occupation of Japan and later the Cold War. Note: origin may be an odd or inaccurate word to use here, so bear with me. Loreto referred to this indirectly with his ‘Wave of Novelties’: an instance where a single innovation leads to similar creations, until a novel innovation comes along’. These waves, or rather the lull between them, is illustrated as the stretch of time between branches in the hierarchy tree.


As an aside:

Of course this brings us back to the question we started the semester with: “what is the origin of all origins?” See, I would venture as far to say that the study of innovation and origins is the study of the original origin.  For something to be original, it must have been present from the beginning. For something to be an origin however, it is the place where something begins, yet can exist on the timeline of other, preceding origins. This interestingly implies that the term ‘original’ adds a dimension of chronology relative to origins.