When developing ideas there is always the chance someone has already developed the same idea or is developing it in parallel. So you probably shouldn't get too attached to it.

Who captures the credit for an idea can be a fun game for historians.

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In strong hierarchies, the only acceptable thought leaders are those high in the hierarchy. In which case we just call them leaders, and don't distinguish thought leaders.

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People with strong minds are often happy to give their great ideas away, since they are confident they will have many more. Those with weaker minds are far more protective of their ideas, since they are afraid of running out of them.

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I have not noticed this thought leader phenomenon in politics, or in the military - it may be that this reflects strong pressures for conformity in those environments.

It seems that academia has a refined, though not foolproof, process for establishing origination of thoughts.

Are the examples in these cases I am missing, or is this phenomenon mostly focused on business and the arts?

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The most glaring example of such whitewashing being Elon Musk "inventing" the vactrain. It was even in a Steely Dan song, for crying out loud. (Yes, originally Hyperloop was a slight variation, but that went by the wayside years ago and the press are still calling it "Elon Musk's Hyperloop invention".)


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Perhaps this is because in the really successful ideas we see our own thinking, while those we don't aren't. Nothing new under the sun but a season for everything.

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you can influence the world of ideas by coming up with new thoughts, but you are unlikely to be celebrated as a key thought leader.

I find that encouraging. I'd rather have people developing ideas because they seek (favorable) influence than because they seek recognition. I think the former will come up with better ideas, even if not truer ones, truth being the outcome of conflicting idea bearers.

I'm glad when people steal my ideas. You seem to resent it (yet, strangely, don't mention the specific instances).

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fun how we currently live in a world where most ppl think that burning the commons for fun and profit is easier than making anything http://www.hidysmith.com/bl...

i want to make things

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"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats."--Howard H. Aiken

You, of all people, are surely familiar with that experience, Robin.

There's a difference between supporting a thought to make it more widely known and accepted, and developing the original thought.

Ignorant people will ignore that difference. And we are all ignorant on most subjects. So supporters get credit they're not entitled to for developing original thoughts.

That's not fair, but supporters are necessary for valuable new thoughts to become accepted. Because those who are skilled at developing new thoughts are rarely also skilled, or in a position, to support them.

And no blame accrues to the supporters, except in the (rare, I think) cases where they explicitly take credit for the thoughts of others.

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In other words: get a professorship at a prestigious institution or become CEO of a popular company before pushing ideas, if your goal is to be a thoght leader. Originality is neither necessary nor sufficient.

I'm pretty sure I've seen gwern comment about this w.r.t. whitewasing some recently popular ideas, but let's pretend someone cooler did first (sorry gwern, you're cool to me!)

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