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But that's always how it works. A Kubrick, a Gates, a Bezos is one percent their efforts and virtues (without which there'd be nothing) and 99 percent being in the right place at the right time. Malcolm Gladwell (another example of this!) is glib but has talked about that in relation to the Silicon Valley titans: they were born at a historical moment, and were part of a small cohort (you mention four directors who didn't become 'Kubrick', not 4000) and among that cohort, their talent and effort lined up with good fortune.

You can say luck so long as you understand that ONLY luck won't get you this result. But among those with talent and determination, it's really fairly arbitrary who becomes the titans of art, industry, finance. You get good enough to meet the bar, and then it's up to Fate.

This is normal. It's more about what celebrity/stardom/ultimate merit IS, rather than what Kubrick is. It's a lot like internet virality. The pool of possibles is not large, but moderate: from that point onward it's luck and self-reinforcing prophecy. And again, you can't make a nothing into this sort of total winner because they must meet the bar first, they've got to earn their spot in the pool, but anyone in the pool would do as well.

Kevin Kelly has an interesting take on this in _What Technology Wants_ [1]. Essentially - that these sort of works were inevitable. If Kubrick, Gates, or Bezos hadn't made 2001, MS, or AMZ - someone else would have. Not _exactly_ the same thing of course, but something so similar as to fill the same spot in history. 2001 happened because 1968 was, in a sense, "ripe" for it. The book undoubtably explains it better. :-)

(Weird. This is the second book recommendation I've made on HN today... I swear I'm not a bot!)

1. https://www.amazon.com/What-Technology-Wants-Kevin-Kelly/dp/...

I think yours is the sophisticated view of progress rather than the naive "great man" theory. I subscribed to the "great man" theory that the great man pushed society's progress. Now I think that it is society's progress that creates the great man.

We are taught to think that there was something special or even superhuman about newton, turing, etc. But the reality is that they were one of many highly intelligent people working on the same problems created by society's progress. Even if they didn't succeed or achieve, someone else would have. But humans have an innate myth making imperative and a desire to hero worship so we create heros. But reality and history is far more complicated than the idealized myths we create. Without newton, we'd still have calculus ( leibniz, et al ). Without turing, we'd still have computer science ( Church, et al ).

> If Kubrick, Gates, or Bezos hadn't made 2001, MS, or AMZ - someone else would have. Not _exactly_ the same thing of course, but something so similar as to fill the same spot in history.

I'm willing to grant that this is true in one sense: having the right surrounding environment is necessary for the creation of some "great work". What I question is whether it's sufficient.

If some other filmmaker made the zeitgeist-equivalent to 2001, or some other entrepreneur made the zeitgeist-equivalent to Microsoft or Amazon, they would have done it differently, and differently enough that those differences, in and of themselves, would have had tremendous impact.

Have you watched the documentary "Boxes?"


I think you really knock Kubrick without giving proper respect to his work ethic. And sure, luck is when preparation meets opportunity, but Stanley had the preparation part in spades, in a way that even many other successful "titans" probably do not.

You presuppose that individual determination is blind. How can you honestly look at an Amazon or Microsoft and say their impact on the world was essentially indeterministic chance? Amazon, especially, has had ample competition, yet the disparate decision making within each organization has resulted in disparate success.

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