Daniel Lemire's blog

, 1 min read

How things change: Cheaters are Innovators

If you seek approval above all else, you are unlikely to innovate outside the rigid bounds of the current system:

  • You do not convince existing journals to give more respect to this new field you created. You go out and create your own journals and conferences. John von Neumann did not wait for his colleagues to approve of his work on Computers. In fact, he had to use threats to get what he wanted.
  • You do not convince libraries to embrace e-commerce. You create Amazon.com.
  • You do not convince university librarians to stop worrying about what the publishers need. You go out and create Google Scholar.
  • You do not wait for Amazon.com’s management to approve the use of a recommender system. You do what Greg Linden did and squeeze the feature in during a test.
  • If you can prove Poincaré conjecture, you don’t wait for a journal to approve your work, you just post it on arxiv.

Changing a system from the inside is inefficient and failure-prone. Stop wasting your time and make the old system irrelevant. Do not seek approval. Go out and test your ideas yourself. Listen respectfully to others, but make up your own mind. Work within a large company, scientific community or University if you must, but never fall under the illusion that you can change it by playing fair. Cheating is the fundamental mechanism by which change happens. Cheaters are innovators.

How are you planning to cheat today?

Further reading: Is scientific publishing about to be disrupted by Michael Nielsen