‘Everything that can be invented, has been invented’

You’ve probably never heard of Charles Holland Duell.

He was the commissioner of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and died in 1920.

So, unless you’re mega old or mega interested in patents, there’s no reason why you’d know him.

But, here’s his most famous quote – which was allegedly uttered in 1899:

“Everything that can be invented, has been invented”

(Historians and the like have made several attempts to prove that he didn’t actually say this – for the sake of the post, let’s say he did).

Now, as I look around a world where AI and robots are becoming part of every day life, I can’t help but wonder…where will we go next? Where will it end?

And, most importantly, are we happier?

But those are questions for another blog.

What is clear is that, as creatives, we need to make sure that we’re not like Duell – we can never stop thinking about the future and the next step.

Imagination drives innovation, so don’t kerb it. Everything that can be invented hasn’t been invented yet.

Is art art ‘cos of where it is?

It’s worth remembering that art, like many things in life, can be very subjective.

In fact sometimes the setting can make art seem more like…well…art…than the actual piece itself.

It was May 2016 and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art was awash with visitors, as it usually is.

One particular corner of the museum was considerably busier than the others. The staff thought was weird as there was nothing extra special there.

When they went to investigate further, they found this unusual display…

(Photo credit: The Independent)

Modern art, right? A pair of glasses at an unusual angle – simple and understated, yet still keeping an eye on the world around them.


It was a prank by a local teenager.

But, for several hours it had blended in with everything else around the gallery. To the point where people were taking photos and marvelling at it – it even survived being shattered by clumsy feet!

So there we go, with the right border around it (e.g. a gallery) even the most mundane thing can look like art.

Whenever you find yourself stuck for creativity, remind yourself of this.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but you can always take the wheel and put it somewhere else to see how it looks.

In a world where nearly everything is done, it’s about finding originality in life’s endless déjà vu while changing the border around it to present it to your audience.