Archive for June 25th, 2014

June 25, 2014

Reinventing the Wheel

square wheel


To reinvent the wheel is to duplicate a basic method that has already previously been created or optimized by others. The inspiration for this idiomatic metaphor lies in the fact that the wheel is the archetype of human ingenuity, both by virtue of the added power and flexibility it affords its users, and also in the ancient origins which allow it to underlie much, if not all, of modern technology. As it has already been invented, and is not considered to have any operational flaws, an attempt to reinvent it would be pointless and add no value to the object, diverting the investigator’s resources from possibly more worthy goals which his skills could advance more substantially.

‘Reinventing the wheel’ may itself be an ironic cliche—-it is not clear when the wheel itself was actually invented. The modern ‘invention’ of the wheel might actually be a ‘re-invention’ of an age-old invention. Additionally, many different wheels featuring enhancements on existing wheels (such as the many types of available tires) are regularly developed and marketed. The metaphor emphasizes understanding existing solutions, but not necessarily settling for them.

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