Issue November 21, 2011

Study: Everything has happened

In a discovery that could have wide-ranging implications, everything has already happened. That’s the surprising verdict of a long-term study conducted by the National Bureau of Information, according to its executive director, Curt Pasado.

“We now know for sure that everything that happens has already happened — in most cases millennia ago,” Pasado says. “Every idea has been thought of, every joke has been told, every technology has been invented, every recipe has been concocted, every hairdo has been coiffed, and every sexual maneuver has been explored. Everything every human does is simply a rerun.”

The finding comes after years of research by the NBI, a division of The Central Data Agency. For the past two decades, the bureau studied the arts and sciences, healthcare, government, athletics, fashion, commerce, religion, linguistics, technology, popular culture and the colonoscopies of the patrons of America’s all-you-can-eat soup and salad bars.

“People think Thomas Edison, say, or Thomas Jefferson were ‘renaissance men,’ but there are no real renaissance men,” Pasado says. “Hell, there weren’t even renaissance men during the Renaissance! Well, maybe Leonardo da Vinci, but a lot of his stuff was a rehash of Epicurus, Lucretius and — little known fact — an obscure, 12th-century painter of homoerotic art named Vinnie da Vinci (no relation).”

In the absence of critical analysis, it might seem as if people are always doing new and innovative things, but, upon further inspection, that almost always turns out to be false, according to Pasado’s research. For instance, a frame-by-frame analysis of the television program “Family Guy” reveals that the entire series is an almost exact remake of “All in the Family,” which was mostly stolen from “The Honeymooners,” which was based almost wholly on the plays of George Bernard Shaw, who borrowed most of his shtick from Molière and so on, right back to a 3rd-century Chinese comedy writer named Xin “Shecky” Zheng. Similarly, teen heartthrob Justin Bieber is recycled Justin Timberlake who was Donnie Wahlberg who was Frankie Avalon who was Rudolph Valentino who was P.J. “Stinky” Featz who was Adolph “Conestoga” Wagner who was Alphaeus the Lesser Son of Zebedee.

Even science and technology, which seem to produce new discoveries all the time, are actually just reinventing old ones. The iPad is simply today’s laptop, which was yesterday’s PC, which was an updated newspaper/abacus. Lipitor is just today’s version of the long-lost custom of not eating one’s weight in processed cheese at every meal. Facebook is updated AOL, which was Telex, which was party-line telephones, which goes all the way back to cave painting. Even Google, which seems like a huge breakthrough, is basically today’s substitute for having an education and long-term memory.

So, what effect will it have on the human psyche when people begin to realize that nothing new ever happens? Not really all that much, argues Posada. “People are nostalgic by nature,” he says. “They like to think of themselves as innovators, but they are happy to relive the same events over and over again. It’s sort of a collective déjà vu or Groundhog Day consciousness. People will happily watch what is essentially the same athletic competition played over and over again, year after year after year. Same with TV shows and ‘classic’ rock. Same with burgers and fries.”

But nowhere is the illusion more pervasive than in newborn babies, Posada says. “Human infants are essentially miniature replicas of their grandfathers, from the bald heads, missing teeth and plaintive whining to the inability to control their bowels. But most parents view them as uniquely beautiful creatures. It’s part of the mystery of being human. I suppose we should just be grateful nature had the good sense to make babies come out tiny.”

With the last great idea (loving thy neighbor) dating back about 2,000 years and the best ever idea (beer) about 8,000 years, it doesn’t seem likely we’re going to come up with anything new at this juncture. But we can always rediscover good old ideas. We’ve emerged from dark ages before, and we can do it again.

And we can always combine old ideas into new ones like we did with Google. Hey, loving thy neighbor’s beer! No, that one’s been done, too. Let’s keep thinking. If we put our heads together, maybe we can come up with an old idea good enough for somebody in the future to steal.