Any examples of "positive feedback" startup ideas for production companies?


I am looking for examples of ideas, historical or current, where the output of a production process is also used as the input. An example could be something like this:

  • Magnifying glass is used to heat up sand
  • The hot sand is turned into magnifying glass
  • The newly produced maginfying glass is used to heat up even more sand

This is an example of a self-magnifying (or positive feedback) process. What are other examples of such ideas?

The reason why I am so interested is that really radical ideas could be produced with such self-magnifying effects.

Bootstrapped Ideas Chicken And Egg Innovation

asked Jul 9 '10 at 06:16
1,567 points
  • You mean like this: ? – Tim J 13 years ago
  • Not really, the concept is similar, but it is just a misunderstanding of physical laws. The purpose of these machines does not seem to be to produce anything, just not stop moving. – David 13 years ago
  • It was tongue in cheek - but it is equivalent. You are talking about the input of a process being the same as the output of the process. – Tim J 13 years ago
  • Ok. Fair enough. It is an example of such an idea. – David 13 years ago

4 Answers


A Q&A site like this ;-)
Really - you could say any site that drives repeated user input (community site) fits this model. Even more so if it has a viral component that compels others to join

answered Jul 9 '10 at 06:28
146 points
  • You are completely right. Amazing that I did not think of the thing standing right in front of my nose! I was, though, primarily thinking about physical production. – David 13 years ago


This methodology is quite common in writing programming languages and called bootstrapping.
The BASIC, C, and Pascal computer languages were created this way. A current day example is REAL Studio, from REAL Software. For a number of years the current product release has been developed and compiled using a prior version of itself.

See this Wikipedia article on compiler bootstrapping for an introduction.

answered Jul 9 '10 at 08:45
Keith De Long
5,091 points
  • This is very interesting, but I am looking for such effects when producing something physical. – David 13 years ago
  • David, I'm guessing that I don't understand the intent or purpose of your question. What do you mean by 'something physical', and in your thinking why is a box of software that one purchases not a something physical? Perhaps expanding or clarifying your question will allow others to offer answers that better address your question. – Keith De Long 13 years ago


What you're describing is called "positive feedback", and there are many, many examples.

answered Jul 9 '10 at 10:53
407 points
  • I do not see any examples in the article, where positive feedback is utilized in production of things, where the production output is also used as input. It is, though, very good to have an expression for it. Thanks! It was also a very interesting article! – David 13 years ago
  • I guess I don't understand the point of your question, then. There appear to be no examples of what you're looking for; even the magnifying glass -> sand -> lens process you used as your example is not the process used to manufacture magnifying glasses. – User1377 13 years ago
  • But such a process could maybe be utilized. I do not have any examples myself that are currently being used, which is why I am really interested to know if someone has any examples. – David 13 years ago


I have found an example myself. The RepRap 3d printer, which can print large parts of itself, meaning that it can to a large degree self-replicate. Self-replication is only one way of positive feedback. I thought of another much simpler answer, which is when cutting trees in the forest, to utilize the energy they release to make other trees fall as well, as a kind of domino effect. I do not see how it would work in practice, but it is what I am looking for, because the trunks are used as input to create other trunks (from trees).

answered Jul 10 '10 at 19:26
1,567 points

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Bootstrapped Ideas Chicken And Egg Innovation