The Original Thought Theory

When my friend mentioned the Original thought theory to me, I was at a loss, so I did decided to read and think about what the theory implies. The Original Thought Theory suggest that anything anyone can ever think of has already been thought by someone else or will be done so by someone in the future, i.e. no thought is original. A bold claim! One that got a few of us involved in arguments. They argued that it makes a valid theory given the number of people that have ever lived and that are yet to live. I, on the other hand, failed to come to a logical reason why it would be true. Let me explain why.

First of all, it should be noted that this remains a theory because it cannot be proven to be true or false, so what follows is just my short understanding of the topic. I am not trying to prove or disprove it, but rather explain my understanding of it. I probably did not do my concept justice because I am not being able to explain it as well as I understand it. Be warned: this is going to get fairly mathematical!

There are namely 4 factors that should be taken into account when discussing this argument.

  1. The think pool – the total number of unique thoughts that can ever exist. This includes thoughts of things that have not yet been discovered or invented. Contrary to common belief, the greater the think pool, the less likely it is for someone else to copy your thought, hence a greater possibility that your idea really is unique. Let’s look at a minuscule example: a think pool consisting of only 10 possible thought (call this a-j), and there were only 2 people, with only 2 thoughts that they can think of. If the first person chooses thoughts a and b, the chance that the second person chooses one of the two is 2/10 or 20% i.e. there’s a 20% that one of the ideas is not “original”. As we increase the size of the ‘think pool’, that percentage keeps on getting smaller and smaller, i.e. less chance of it not being original.
  2. Number of thoughts – the total number of thoughts one individual can have during his/her lifetime. If we use the same example as before but increase the number of thoughts to 6, then the chance of an idea not being original is 6/10 or 60%. Thus increasing the number of thoughts, increases the chance of the idea not being original. However one must look at the number of thoughts:the think pool ratio, to get the overall picture, and considering how vast the think pool is, one would suggest that ratio to be relatively small.
  3. The population size – no one knows how many people have lived on Earth since the beginning, and how many will come to live before the inevitable end. Once again if we use the original example, but this time have a population size of 3, the chance that the third person’s idea not being original, is 4/10 or 40% (considering the second person’s ideas are original). As the population size increases the percentage also increases i.e. more chance that an idea is not original.
  4. Complexity of thought – ideas have varying degree of depth and complexity. The more complex or tiered an idea is the less likely it is to be thought by someone else. Taking the original model, but with the thought being 2-tiered, the chance of the idea not being original is 2/100 or 2%, instead of the 20% we mentioned above.

As the size of the 'think pool' increases, the chance of an idea not being original decreases. However, with increasing population size this chance increases. We should note that in real life (in my opinion) the population size is much much lower compared to the think pool. Also, we can effectively have a smaller population size by choosing a very specific topic. Increasing number of thoughts have a similar effect on the probability to that of increasing population size.

So in summary things that increase the chance of an idea not being original are population size, and the number of thoughts; while a more complex thought and a greater think pool increases the chance of an idea being original. Taking this into account, if we can effectively reduce the population size then the chance of an idea being original is increased. How do we reduce the population? By choosing a topic that has less exposure – for example specific details about quantum physics which will be not available to everyone, furthermore the fact that this was discovered only recently means that we can assuredly say that anyone before this probably did not have an idea about quantum physics. Thus we have effectively reduced the population by number of multiplicity, hence increased the chance of an idea being original.

What we can be certain of is that as long as the ‘think pool’ contains more thoughts than the population size x number of thoughts, there is still a chance that an idea will be original. Not to mention that complex/tiered thoughts reduces the chance of an idea not being original logarithmically i.e. by several logs.

18 responses to “The Original Thought Theory

  1. Nice explanation although it is not proven that quantum physics has not been explored in a past civilisation also I believe some mystical texts have explained quantum physics thousands of years ago, just not using the same terminology we use today, at the same time I understand why you chose that as an example.

  2. there are a few that i think is quite obvious. such as, that the phrase ‘history repeats itself’ thus, i think that people in the past and the future, however different their lives would vary, would go through the same problems and have the same kind of happiness as well. that would make all human no matter time, to think a like…

  3. See, the real question is: What is the probability that someone else had THIS exact thought, this analysis of the theory? Seems pretty novel to me, but then again, you never know…

  4. Really good explanation..! I have always had trouble grasping this theory and what i always think is this : every single human being, wether they have lived, are living, or are yet to live, all have unique expeiriences, know different people, and without a doubt different ways of looking at things .. All factors which greatly alter a thought..although people may be similar.. NO human is unique..!! Right now i could think up the most random thought by adding experiences, people i know, different factors that would decrease the odds of it being already thought of?!.. Its just mind blowing

  5. Part of where your explanation loses ground is where you choose to view the scenario from. Human learning requires exposure and experience. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t learn anything ever, but would know it all already. Because we cannot think up something that has not been experienced or at least partially been experienced, we can only at best combine 2 or more experiences in effort to generate something as yet not thought of. The only other position for this is that which is accidentally misunderstood. But even misunderstanding is the result of assuming similarity where it didn’t exist leading to a misdiagnosis of sorts. So original thought is impossible due to how we think to begin with. Add in the billions and billions of people that ever lived and you can not generate a thought that has not been generated by somebody else unless you use the Piggyback concept.

  6. It seems like u actually fully understand quite a bit about this
    topic and that demonstrates thru this amazing blog post,
    titled “The Original Thought Theory | Mahfooz’s Expositions” transatelonline . I am grateful -Clayton

  7. In our known world everything you know and see is a product of o.g thought. And every new thing that you will and won’t see is and will also be original thought.
    He who claims there is no such thing as original thought is a fool and is obviously not capable of original thought

  8. Pingback: Change Already! with Jillian Maas Backman: Who’s Listening to the Message? | ImaginePublicity·

  9. i think we have determined the universe id self contained finite and yet does not have clear boundaries. however in a more common frame is there an original way to put on pants. then have fun.

  10. Original thought cannot exist as thought arises as a conclusive result of all the perceptions, circumstances, chemical reactions etc that have gone into making the situation where the thought is generated.

  11. No one else can see the world from your perspective, in your location at a given time. This produces a memory that is saved as an image in your brain, no one else can recreate your exact image, hence your thoughts are original. However, if you keep breaking down these images that are stored, they are basically all the same. Think of a couch, we both definitely have the same basic shape of a couch, but did you think of a brown love seat with gold studs along the arm rests? Even if so, how much more detail do you have in that memory/thought of a couch? Where was it located? Definitely not in a suburb of Saint Louis. At least I would imaginenot. Even if that was so you won’t get my location. So the simplest way to really say this is, if you focus on details, your thoughts are completely original, until you become a 4th dimensional creature who is not bound by space or time, then you will forever be original.

  12. Nice math. Dumb subject.

    Calculate the probability of our existence instead – I’m itching to know how many other civilisations probably exist (or have, or will), and I think Drake’s maths is even more stupid that the Original Thought Theory.

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