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Have you ever come up with a brilliant idea only to find out that someone else just thought of it? You thought the idea was uniquely yours. Did aliens read your mind and then implant your best ideas into the mind of others who have wasted no time in touting your brilliant ideas as their own?

Or maybe “the cloud” isn’t limited to the virtual world? Maybe as you sleep your loveliest ideas steal away to dance with other shimmering epiphanies under the disco ball known as the moon. And maybe those lovely ideas, loopy after a wild night, go home to the wrong brain? Maybe.

Or maybe a few years, months, or weeks ago you saw or heard the idea in some way, shape, or form and your brain saved it for later. That happened to me. Last night at bedtime I made up a story for my daughter about a robot who isn’t sure what his purpose is. After trial and error, he discovers he’s a Nannybot.

Nannybot! Brilliant!

Last night as I said the word I was sure I was the first one to come up with it. But this morning I Googled to find that Nannybot is a character in Futurama. And my husband reminded me that real nanny bots are being launched in Japan – a story he’d told me about last year.

Whatever cosmic or prosaic powers control this occurrence, I think we can see it as a good thing for PB writers. That’s right. When you have an idea that has either recently been done or is coming out soon, you know you are tuning in, are in touch with the zeitgeist, the current muse, the – oh, ugly word – marketable ideas for today’s children. And I’m still going to write my Nannybot story. True, I didn’t come up with the concept of the Nannybot, but I don’t know of any PBs featuring Nannybots. Mine might be the first – or maybe yours will. The idea is out there now.

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I am fascinated by the concept of “multiple independent discovery” which describes the phenomenon of researchers independently coming up with the same discovery. Well documented in science (Newton/Leibniz and Darwin/Wallace; see more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiple_discovery), it can also be argued to occur in the Humanities.

Check back for subsequent stories on multiple independent discoveries as I continue to research and write about this concept. And if you have a multiple discovery story to share, please add it to the comments!

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