Originality (General Paper Essay)

Q) Is being original always beneficial?

Originality is often viewed by society as a holy grail, a lofty idea that all should pursue to stand out in a grey sea of homogeneity. In fact, originality can even be said to have been romanticized, portrayed as the key to endless wealth – at least in the realm of business – or even great power and influence. As such, many go to great lengths to be original, to be the one that strays off the beaten path to find what has yet to be found. But is originality really always beneficial? Does it always guarantee success? Whilst originality does offer some benefits, most of them unique to its pursuit – originality is not, and never will be, always beneficial.

Most people associate originality with talented businessmen, many of which attribute their overwhelming success to their revolutionary ideas, or their pioneering efforts in fields they themselves had created. It is true that the very act of being original offers tangible benefits to those who grasp it. Being the first individual or group to come up with a fresh idea that is radically different would, in essence, give access to an as yet untapped customer base – a fantasy to those who chase financial gains. A quick look at some top businessmen and entrepreneurs would prove this point. The founder of Snapchat was the first to popularise and devise an easy way to have private conversations with peers, wrapped up in a shiny and intuitive way that set it apart from its competitors. Uber, too, was the first company to bring to public attention the convenience and ingenuity of a self-moderated base of civilian drivers. These firms were original, arguably pioneers in their respective fields, and it allowed them to reap unprecedented financial gains – with one key advantage – a legacy as being the ‘original firm’, and the prestige and brand loyalty that comes with the title. However, it can also be argued that these benefits are diminished in the long run, as the ease of replication today ensures that similar competition will soon be snapping at the heels of the pioneers, potentially dulling their edge – financial or otherwise.

Originality can also bring other benefits, for chasing it can lead to new discoveries that could not be unearthed using existing methods. Sticking to existing, often stale methods might limit the occurrence of a groundbreaking discovery, given that new, fresh methods are often vital tools in breaking the walls of possibility. Take for example, the radically different field of science known as stem cell research. The sheer originality of gene-based therapy took pre-conceived notions of medicine and turned them on their heads. Diseases that were previously thought to be incurable saw significant progress in the path to their eradication thanks in no small part to the revolutionary CRISPR method, a way to remove damaged or corrupted genes from an individual’s DNA. Originality brings immeasurable benefits to society, opening doors that were not believed to have even existed. This allows for the rapid progression of society in various fields, from healthcare all the way to education. Originality can be said to be like a seed, for when planted, grows like a living, breathing organism, constantly evolving and branching onto different paths, all of which possibly lead to the realisation of a utopian future.

In line with my previous arguments, there is no field where originality beings more benefits than in the field of arts and design. Artists and designers across the ages ushered in new forms and waves of art that entertained and enlightened all who came before us, the effects of their relentless pursuit of originality offering humankind relics of their past achievements that we can still appreciate and learn from today. Take for example, the evergreen band The Beatles. They were the first British band to write their own songs and music, as those before them had their songs written for them. Their refreshing and original style helped them gain legions of fans all over the world. Their music and album covers changed the course of music forever, allowing for a shift in music tastes from rock and roll from the decades preceding them to a newfound taste for pop and tastefully made album covers. Designers like Coco Chanel and other fashion designers brought with them new waves of fashion trends and products for all to enjoy. The crux of all of this? Limitless variety for us, the general populace, Originality is the driving force for society to move forward, for change to be embraced and new creations to be made for all to enjoy. But the most special thing about originality and the change it drives? It leaves behind a spectrum of past tastes and trends, a vast catalogue of old sectors that still continue to thrive to this day. Appreciation for pieces of the past such as record players – revolutionary and original at their time – stands testament to this.

Given all the aforementioned benefits of originality, it is easy to assume that it is always and entirely beneficial – which is, despite overwhelming support for this belief, sadly not the case. Originality is the seed, the blessed sword of creation, but if everyone pursues originality, there would not be any effort devoted towards improving what already exists, to take original ideas – to the extent of firstly replicating them – and build upon them. Society, and humankind in general, needs men and women who have originality running in their veins, but it is also in need of those who are willing to back these people up, to take the original ideas and methods they have come up with and improve upon them. Napster is seen as the genesis of the music-sharing platform, but despite its radically original conception, it lacked the polish and mass appeal that would have allowed it to become a true great. Spotify took this idea and gave it what it needed, the polish and mass appeal afforded by its slick user interface and clever advertising, offering to society the benefit of an improved ‘original idea’. A suitable visualisation of this argument would be this: Imagine a group of people trying to construct buildings. If they all tried to be original, all they would accomplish is the completion of many, while different, uninspiring little buildings. But if one individual were to build a foundation, and provide a plan for others to build upon it, a towering skyscraper could then be built. Society needs originality, but it arguably needs even more those who are willing to sacrifice their originality for the greater good.

In conclusion, while originality does, almost all the time, prove beneficial, it should never be pursued exclusively. Originality is thus only beneficial when pursued in moderation, to have a base of original ideas for others to build upon. After all, if everyone seeks to be original, where is the originality in that?

Examiner’s final comments:

The essay shows a mature and well-read mind, with a variety of good examples. You should have provided more than one opposing view/argument. Other than that though, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the essay! I like the very clear style of writing, controlled yet articulate enough to show your flair for the language. It must be said that the excellent handwriting adds to the joy of having marked an outstanding essay. Good job Cedric!

Language: 16/20

Content: 22/30

Total: 38/50