Sometimes reinventing the wheel is exactly what you need

Don’t reinvent the wheel.

The argument for not re-inventing the wheel is often one of efficiency. The wheel has already been invented, it’s a commodity; just get the cheapest wheel you can find, a wheel is a wheel.

An argument for re-inventing the wheel is one of effectiveness for the job at hand. What would vehicles today be if they were restricted to using the “original” wheel?

But wait, you say, an iteration of the wheel isn’t a reinvention of the wheel, it’s just an improvement, a “re-imagining”. The people who went from solid wheels (of rock, perhaps) to hollow wheels with spokes weren’t reinventing the wheel. Or were they?

Consider the tracks that were developed for heavy machinery and armored combat vehicles. These are not “wheels” in the traditional sense. Those vehicles would not be possible if the wheel had not been reinvented. Would we have been able to send humans to the moon if we hadn’t reinvented the wheel?

I think where most people get bogged down on this is the question of form over function.

If what you need is an actual wheel, a circular object into which you can insert some sort of axle and then place a chassis of some sort onto that axle so that the resulting vehicle can move from place to place, then what you have is not an issue of invention but rather a question of selection: pick the right wheel that already exists for the job, maybe modify its form slightly to meet your needs.

If, on the other hand, you have a need for a means of providing locomotion for an as yet not designed or built system of some sort, then limiting yourself to a “wheel” that has already been designed may be overly limiting. And reinventing the wheel may be exactly what you need to do.

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