May 1, 2011

Myopia, Hubris and Amnesia: Three Reactions to Innovation

Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008)According to Arthur C. Clarke [1]:

“New ideas pass through three periods:

  1. It can’t be done;
  2. It probably can be done, but it’s not worth doing;
  3. I knew it was a good idea all along.”

These three stages can be summed up as Myopia, Hubris and Amnesia. Which sounds a bit like the famous misquote (?) by Mahatma Gandhi:

“First they ignore you,
then they laugh at you,
then they fight you,
then you win.”

We are all surrounded by innovations of various kinds. If Clarke and Gandhi are right, we are either:

  • myopically ignoring them…
  • laughing and fighting them hubristically or
  • amnesiacally approving of the winners

Which one are you?


    1. Benford, G. (2008). Obituary: Arthur C. Clarke (1917–2008) Nature, 452 (7187), 546-546 DOI: 10.1038/452546a


  1. The intellectual origin of this (IMHO) is William James (1842-1910):

    “When a thing was new people said it was not true, later when its truth became obvious people said that it was not important, and when its importance could not be denied, people said that it was not new.”

    Comment by Douglas Kell — May 1, 2011 @ 10:43 am | Reply

    • Didn’t know that, thanks for the reference. Difficult to find the original source, even with the help of Professor Google.

      Comment by Duncan — May 1, 2011 @ 1:32 pm | Reply

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