“My question is this. Even if you are remixing to make something new, it’s all coming from technically the same thing that was already in existence. Even if an artist is drawing inspiration from something already in place, his work is not entirely new if it is based off of something else. Is there anything out there that’s truly novel and completely new?”
In Making Beliefs Pay Rent (in Anticipated Experiences), Eliezer Yudkowsky talks about the fact that beliefs have to correspond with experiences. Consider the classic “if a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound” dilemma. The problem with that question is that “sound” doesn’t have a clear correspondence with experience. When you substitute sound out for a real experience, like the existence of sound waves, or an auditory sensation, the question becomes easy.
Similarly, in this scenario, I think the first step would be to substitute out “completely new” for something more concrete. If “completely new” is to be taken literally, I think it would mean “uninfluenced by the past”. The world seems to be deterministic, so in that sense, everything is influenced by the past, and nothing is completely new.
That wasn’t very useful, so let’s try a different replacement for “completely new”. Let’s say that it means “without consciously using other works of art in the same category”. In this case, I think that it is possible for something to be completely new. In fact, I think it’s easy.
A better question is whether you could create art that isn’t even unconsciously influenced by other art in the same category. Actually, that’s probably not possible, so a better question is probably whether you could create art that is only very slightly influenced by other art in the same category. I think the answer to that question is still yes, but it’s difficult. So much of the intuition and thought process behind art happens by messing with “templates” of work by others.
– Adam Zerner