I believe that there are original questions out there, though the internet has shown me that it can be very difficult to track them down. I guess you're competing not only against the entire population of the planet, but also the entire HISTORY of the entire population. It makes the odds a bit steep...
Sure. One example of an original thought is Einstein's "the speed of light in a vacuum relative to any observer is a constant."
When we do science, or sometimes engineering, we think up things never thought before. I think this may also be true in art. I'm not an art expert, but supposedly the da-da-da-DUM in Beethoven's Fifth, being set off by one beat from the start of the measure, was new and radical and even upsetting to some at the time.
The sciences and the arts really seem to be the only places where original thoughts come from. The individuals that come up with them are often labeled insane or heretics. Their gifts are discovered later after we have had time to catch up.
Newton, Einstein, Da Vinci, and newly Hawking are examples of men who have come up with original thoughts or just twisted an old thought so far it became new. Problem is we aren't all of those men's intellectual ability. So I have been finding myself trying to come to an original thought or idea and well every time I do, Google proves me wrong. Then I started kicking around why the original thought problem is like this. Is it that school systems around the world are very similar in their curriculum and inhibiting imagination? Or is that just about anything practical had been thought about and changed? The only things that come off as being close to original thoughts are thought experiments about the 11dimension in the string theory. The practical importance of that besides having a unified thought of physics is somewhat lost to me. But is that the only way to have an original thought, to burn off to the point of where no one gets what the hell you are talking about?
At the same time while this is all pessimistic, there is that old legend that President McKinley tried to close the patent office in 1899 because everything had been invented. Thanks for the ideas gents.
Does it matter if there is? Surely there are original thoughts, but they are infrequent and often pass unnoticed. But I would argue that the originality of a thought doesn't matter so much as the implications of the thought at a given time. Thousands may have had an idea I come up with for a business, for example, but if I am the first to act on it, I would argue that would be more important than the thought being unoriginal.
Not only do they happen, they're common enough in science and engineering. You think of something in a new way, or put two things together that didn't seem to belong. (For example, Einstein thinking about shining flashlights along the path of a moving train.) It's just that usually that original thought won't have the tremendous implications of Einstein's.
If you define an original thought as "one that no one else has ever had before," they are few and far between, but they must exist. For every idea, there was someone who thought of it first.
If you define an original thought as "one that you came up with by yourself," then I'm not sure -- my first instinct was to say, yes, of course these exist. They can come to any person who chooses to exercise their brain. But then I thought about how interconnected we are and how much we influence each other... No, I still think that they can come to any person who exercises their brain.
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