Gabriel Tarde’s *On Communication and Social Influence*

This 19th century French sociologist is worth reading, as he is somehow the way station between Pascal and Rene Girard, with an influence on Bruno Latour as well.  Tarde focuses on how copying helps to explain social order and also how it drives innovation.  For Tarde, copying, innovation, and ethos are all part of an integrated vision.  He covers polarization and globalization as well and at times it feels like he has spent time on Twitter.

It is hard to pull his sentences out of their broader context but here is one:

We have seen that the true, basic sources of power are propagated discoveries or inventions.

And:

The role of impulse and chance in the direction of inventive activity will cease to amaze us if we recall that such genius almost always begins in the service of a game or is dependent on a religious idea or superstition.

Or:

…contrary to the normal state of affairs, images in the inventor’s hallucinatory reverie tend to become strong states while sensations become weak states.

…When the self is absorbed in a goal for a long time, it is rare that the sub-self, incorrectly called the unconscious, does not participate in this obsession, conspiring with our consciousness and collaborating in our mental effort.  This conspiracy, this collaboration whose service is faithful yet hidden, is inspiration

He argues that societies in their uninventive phase are also largely uncritical, and for that reason.  (Doesn’t that sound like a point from a Peter Thiel talk?)

He explicitly considers the possibility that the rate of scientific innovation may decline, in part because the austere and moral mentality of semi-rural family life, which is most favorable for creativity in his view, may be replaced by the whirlpool of distractions associated with the urban lifestyles of the modern age.

And:

Attentive crowds are those who crowd around the pulpit of a preacher or lecturer, a lectern, a platform, or in front of the stage where a moving drama is being performed.  Their attention — and inattention — is always stronger and more constant than would be that of the individual in the group if he were alone.

Tarde argues that desires are intrinsically heterogeneous, and economics makes the mistake of reducing them to a near-tautologous “desire for wealth.”

Not all of it hangs together, but I would rather read Tarde than Durkheim or Comte, the other two renowned French sociologists of the 19th century.

You can buy the book here, here is Wikipedia on Tarde.

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>He argues that societies in their uninventive phase are also largely uncritical, and for that reason.

I don't understand this statement. Can someone elucidate?

@derek from the phrase itself and extrapolation it simply means a primitive society where invention is not praised or promoted is more homogeneous. Think jungle tribe where it's taboo to do things a new way.

As for this author, he is apparently a precursor to Rene Girard, like TC says (I'd never heard of either until today) and is formulating the old Chinese saying "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery".

Bonus trivia: in a point of law even IP professionals sometimes don't get right, you *can* get a copyright for a "derivative work"! I bet even AlexT doesn't appreciate this? Think it through! It's deep, very deep. I mean imagine getting a derivative work copyright on an original work done by say Disney corporation?! Of course Disney IP lawyers will never let you get away with it in practice, litigating you to death (analogous to the defense of 'fair use' in copyright infringement), but in theory it can be done.
Dear reader, don't confuse today's patent laws, with all their mistakes, with what I propose could be done to spur innovation. i could write a book on it (but prefer TC does so, lol).

You should give a quick summary of your proposals because today's patent laws are very broken. The number of new businesses that could be formed today but cannot due to threat of litigation is staggering. For example, there is no YouTube or Spotify competitor yet both streaming video and audio are solved technical problems but the chance of being sued out of existence by the big copyright holders are enough to prevent any rational business person from entering the industry.

Another example is the smartphone industry. There are something like 100k patents involved in making such a device. An entrepreneur needs a law degree before he needs an electrical engineering or a business degree to even start the game. It's ridiculous. Even if you got hundreds of patent holders to license their tech it takes just one to be unreasonable and well you have Qualcomm v. Apple. That's partly why 5G is hard to get off the ground.

Forgive me if I come across skeptical of your patent utopia but look at this timeline and tell me if it makes more sense to be a lawyer than to start a business:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smartphone_patent_wars

@WK - agree. Don't have time here but I got into legal services rather than science exactly for that reason, made nearly a million bucks on my own, never had to worry about a job, inherited money, retired in my 40s, now I'm independently wealthy. Sad but true. In a nutshell: I would have patents become like copyrights (automatic right granted without examination, until litigation, no initial examination, just like copyright today), I would streamline and subsidize patent litigation so it costs $1k rather than close to $1M, I would allow the defense of "independent creation" in patents (again, like copyrights), and, finally, for pioneer patents I would give inventors 'moral rights' (like in copyright) and automatic 'workman comp' compensation for all truly worthy patents from the US government. It's outrageous that Kary Mullis got only $10k for inventing PCR (test tube DNA replication, the backbone of the biotech industry). There's no future in science for 'normal' people unless the above is adopted (and more, no time here, but also better patent examiners needed, not just a few hours to make a decision from a sole examiner as today but a team of people need a week or more for true pioneer patents)

@ myself - small amplification re patent litigation, close to $1M to $10M or more is more like it, depending on the technology and what you're trying to do...but no time to get into this.

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Thiel calls himself a libertarian but clearly has pro-police state views and has the investments to prove it. This blog is advocating state capacity libertarianism. Isn't it time we stop stretching the meaning of things and just abandon the "libertarian" moniker altogether? Otherwise we might start seeing sharia libertarians, democratic socialist libertarians, and other combinations that won't make a whole lot of sense.

Thiel only cares about a police state he can profit from - China does not practice surveillance capitalism, and Thiel is not known for being pro-China, in comparison to being pro-Palantir.

Do not fault people who are in later middle age recognizing that a younger generation is replacing the previous one - just think "this is not your father's libertarianism" as the motivation for rebranding a term.

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Necessity is the mother of invention.

A fitting epitath for Zuckerberg, as there was no necessity in creating Facebook, just a drive for profit.

I’m not sure. What’s the necessity for dating sites, or Skype, according to you? I use FB to keep, albeit sporadically, in touch with relatives.

And what’s wrong with profit?

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I'd rather be named Durkheim or Comte than Tarde.

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"He explicitly considers the possibility that the rate of scientific innovation may decline, in part because the austere and moral mentality of semi-rural family life, which is most favorable for creativity in his view, may be replaced by the whirlpool of distractions associated with the urban lifestyles of the modern age."

I'm trying to imagine where Tarde was getting that notion from. Louis Pasteur was born and raised in what appear to be small town backwaters in eastern France. But Pierre Curie was born in Paris and Marie Curie was born in Warsaw. I don't see it as being accurate in France or the US, in the 19th or 20th (or 21st) centuries.

Mood affiliation.

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Interesting stuff but he appears to be almost completely wrong on this one.

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Copying and innovation go together? Then why are urban copycats uninventive while the relative isolation of rural life is favorable to creativity. I suppose Facebook was innovative, but are the many copycats that came later innovative? Of course, a critic of tech would emphasize the sameness of the "innovations" tech produces; indeed, the sameness of thought and behavior that Cowen's friend Peter Thiel criticizes. Here's an interview of Thiel on Rene Girard: https://www.businessinsider.com/peter-thiel-on-rene-girards-influence-2014-11 [An aside, Thiel is not a New Testament scholar, so I suggest one ignore his remarks about Revelation.]

Several years ago I listened to an interview of the Collison brothers on NPR. Their telling of how Thiel came to invest in Stripe is priceless. I believe only one of the brothers met with Thiel, and the brother's pitch to Thiel was to emphasize what was wrong with PayPal. Quite a gamble: Thiel may well have been offended, but instead was intrigued by the upstarts, who I suspect knew of Girard's influence on Thiel in developing the pitch.

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Copying speeds the diffusion of innovations and also brings evolutionary branching through learning by doing.

Innovations occur at the margin: improving a prior innovation. "Copying" is a misnomer: improving is not copying, copying is not improving. This blog is a tech defender, so one cannot expect to read criticism of tech that is based on Girard's insight. Learning by doing, on the other hand, is insightful. As I like to point out, there are three ways of learning: by listening, by seeing, and by doing. Boys (including the boy wonders) learn by doing.

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Yet, it was Isidore Auguste Marie François Xavier Comte who inspired many of the most important reforms in the history of mankind.

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This statement:

Tarde argues that desires are intrinsically heterogeneous, and economics makes the mistake of reducing them to a near-tautologous “desire for wealth.”

demonstrates to me a fundamental misinterpretation of Economics, (Economic transfers solely represent expectations of positive future values).

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"…contrary to the normal state of affairs, images in the inventor’s hallucinatory reverie tend to become strong states while sensations become weak states."

Ah, to go all Myers-Briggs pop psych for a second, such is the conundrum for being NP in an SJ world.

I am a NP person. It is not that bad, actually, I think.

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