Sunday, May 11, 2014

Tree-climbing imitators

Charles Verdad
Tree-climbing imitators
Reaction paper on: Life of Mammals - Social climbers and Food for thought

Imitation, defined as to copy, or to do something in the same way as someone else, is something we all do. From the time we are old enough to sense the world around us, we begin to imitate. We imitate the voices we hear, and even the actions we see – such as walking and eating. When our parents are always shouting, we tend to do the same. When we are surrounded with quiet people, we become quiet ourselves. Who we are is largely based on the environment we were raised because of imitation. Imitation is probably the first step to learning. Most of the time we don’t know why others do it unless we try it ourselves. By the time we are older, we become picky. We no longer imitate everyone, but only those who seem happy or successful – people we idolize.
This behavior has been observed in mammals as well. As shown in the life of Mammals documentary by BBC, Aside from showing similar social aspects to that of humans, monkeys copy and learn from each other as well. Whenever someone finds a method of obtaining food, such as opening clams, or using a stick to get termites, younger members observe and learn from the pro. What surprised me most was the part when the monkeys used the leaves of a plant with special properties as insect repellent. Where on earth did they learn to do that? From trial and error perhaps, or probably from copying ancient people way back. Clearly, copying has played a role in the advancement of the population/species.
Nowadays when we hear the word imitation, we think of gadgets mostly from China – products that were ripped off illegally in order to cut costs on the designing phase of a product – and we see it as a bad thing. After watching the documentary, I thought about imitation in our case and thought about the intellectual property system we humans have set up. It was designed to somehow encourage progress by giving incentives to those who are able to think of an idea first. But is it really promoting innovation?
Recently, Amazon acquired a patent on a studio arrangement to take pictures on a white background. Seriously? That gives them the right to sue studios who use a similar process. How does that promote innovation? Now, this is not really the fault of Amazon but those who granted the patent themselves. Because of their poor judgement on granting patents, it has even become a trend for people to just buy patents and make a living from lawsuits – without even making the products themselves. Clearly that is a hindrance to innovation. Though there are many benefits to our intellectual property system, if there’s something we can learn from our hairy, tree-climbing imitators, then we should improve our intellectual property system, for the advancement of our race.


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