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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.




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