The other day I heard a TED radio talk by K. Ferguson “Embrace the Remix”.  It was not the best entry in the series I’ve heard, but it was quite challenging and thought provoking, which is a plus in my book.

The talk opened with the statement “the last original thing was the Big Bang,” and everything since then has been a remix.  The talk’s examples were wanting, to say the least, in my opinion.


It compared George Lucas’ Star Wars to the works of Kurosawa (Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, and several others).  I found that part of the argument weak (but not flawed) on several levels: 1) the influences he used as anecdotal proof were due to the art director and costume designer, not Lucas; 2) he totally ignored Joseph Campbells’ work (more on that later), whereby the entire Star Wars story is a retelling of the millenia-old “orphan with a destiny comes of age” story arc.

Ferguson’s other body of examples circled around Bob Dylan. His body of work was considered groundbreaking at the time, but an analysis of his music shows that he cribbed from folk music – e.g. deep dark Appalachia.  Ferguson then proceeded to torpedo his own argument by fessing up that such behavior was the norm in those days – it was expected and encouraged that folk songs copy from each other.
Not only does he kick out one of the legs of his own argument, be he ignores the fact that sometime somewhere somewhen – SOMEBODY came up with the strictures of music not observable in nature (meter, harmony, the math behind the music).

I was struck by the coincidence on that very day I had read from Stephen King’s “On Writing” that original ideas aren’t original, they are the result of two existing ideas colliding in your head.  The writer has to always be ready to capture it.  Two points to Team Ferguson.

However, I noticed that the body of Ferguson’s talk focused on the arts – movies, music, fashion, etc.  Not once did he venture into the more scientific fields.  I would love to hear how he explains away the earth-shaking advances in history made there.  Take heliocentrism, general relativity or quantum mechanics – not only were they arguably original, they went against the grain of accepted thought. What did they crib from, pray tell?

The talk ended with me chortling to myself over Joseph Campbell, who said that there are no original stories – that all stories boil down to seven archetypes.  Guess that means that Ferguson’s hypothesis isn’t all that original either.

Any commentary, controversy, chatter, contradiction, criticism?
But please, only original comments! *snicker*