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"Could it have been someone else?"

"What do you mean?"

"What if it wasn't you? What if someone else did it already?"

"You're not accusing me of plagiarism."

"No."

"Then you're accusing me of being unoriginal."

"Would that be a problem?"

"I'm pretty sure nobody else has been working on it. I'm pretty up to date on the latest developments."

"But would it matter if it wasn't you?"

"Well, I'd like to get at least some recognition for my work, for contributing to the community."

"And if you didn't? What if someone else got the credit?"

"I'm pretty sure I have a solid case that all my research and contributions have been original."

"And that matters to you."

"Shouldn't it? How else do we encourage progress and the advancement of society?"

"How much would it matter to you?"

"What do you mean?"

"How much time would you devote to making your case and presenting your side of the story?"

"As much as it takes. It's a matter of principle."

"What if you never make another significant contribution ever again because you are wrapped up in procedure?"

"What does that matter? I've done my part, and deserve credit for it. What more do you want from me after all I've given?"

"So you'd be happy never making another contribution, as long as you don't get a fair hearing."

"What's fair is fair. Am I supposed to be encouraged if someone else gets the credit for my work? Why bother doing anything then?"

"That's the question isn't it?"

"Which question?"

"There is no reason to help advance society just for the sake of advancing society."

"Helping everyone else out is good and all, but you expect us to sacrifice ourselves on the altar of the public good?"

"You do agree advancing society is a good thing then."

"Yes, but what should we be expected to sacrifice for it, if we get nothing in return?"

"Society advances in return."

"If the rewards are not proportional, why would anybody help?"

"Let's say you were never born."

"Okay..."

"How long do you think it would take before someone else comes up with your ideas?"

"I can't predict the future. How am I supposed to answer that?"

"You know calculus."

"What about it?"

"What if calculus had been invented by someone else?"

"I heard about that. Your point being?"

"What is the significance of knowing who invented it?"

"The person who did would see some justice."

"And if they get no justice? Would it change the history of mathematics?"

"Maybe not as much as it would change how people are motivated."

"Meaning?"

"Maybe someone else would have invented calculus regardless, but how much effort would anybody put into stuff like that if they got nothing in return for their contributions?"

"Do you believe the next great innovation would have been significantly slowed, if the wrong person got credit?"

"It would certainly affect everyone's motivation, and that could build up over time."

"You believe it would affect the motivations in a negative way."

"Of course in a negative way. It's a matter of basic fairness and justice."

"How do you determine what is fair?"

"I get what you're doing. I don't think it's circular reasoning."

"What do you think it is then?"

"You tell me what you would replace things with."

"I don't know."

"If you don't know, why are we even talking about this?"

"If we can't be sure our system works in a positive way, I wonder about our efforts to maintain it."

"I'm pretty sure it works in a positive way."

"Is that an opinion, or a fact?"

"A fact for me anyway. I know why I do what I do, and if others think the same way, then it's a fact for them too."

"Based on the current expectations of the culture."

"You mean we would expect different things if society were different."

"You don't agree?"

"It's hard to imagine how a different culture could work if we don't already live in it."

"I'm not sure I know either, but I want to make sure we're not biased in favor of what we have now."

"I don't think bias can be avoided."

"So you admit you're biased in favor of the current system."

"It's all we know. It's not perfect, but we do know it does work in many cases."

"Unless you tie up the rest of your life in a court battle for recognition."

"Some sacrifices have to be made to keep the system running smoothly."

"But you can't be sure alternatives won't work better."

"You come up with a good alternative then."

"I don't really want to be dismissive of all you've accomplished, but I think many others could have done the same if you didn't happen to be in the right place at the right time."

"I think you're conflating luck and everything else now."

"You don't believe anyone else could have come up with your ideas if you were never born."

"But I was, and I did, and I believe ...well, our system is set up to encourage those who are first."

"You believe that's justice."

"Our current definition of justice, yes."

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