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Reinventing the Wheel

"Why do you reinvent the wheel?"

Is probably one of the most offensive and insulting phrases people can say. It's often used to say "This exists why do you need to make that", but then bicycle wheels exist, why do you need train wheels? It also implies a wasted effort and an insult towards the person making the effort, as there's work to get to the same stage, and it kind of implies that the problem has been solved, which normally highlights how they are either bitter against people solving problems, or have incomplete knowledge about problems... But the response is simple.

"I'm not reinventing the wheel, I'm building a better mousetrap"

Oh, why are you making a machine gun? You're just reinventing the wheel. We already have smoothbore muskets what more do we need?

Somehow, this phrase is deeply engrained in the unconscious of software engineers about libraries and the way things are. Or, the person saying it doesn't understand the domain well enough to understand the improvement- or is so blind to be unable to perceive it. Blind leading the blind!

There's 2 other cases:

"Why would you reinvent the wheel" as bitter resentment against learning how the wheel works or belief in forgoing the process to a conclusion by the silver platter you received it upon.

"Why would you reinvent the wheel" as cost-value where they aren't aware of the cost or the value(which includes the nebulous idea of it being enjoyable, which why live if no enjoyment is granted?).

There is of course the laziness factor. Why put work into improving something that already works? Especially if lots of other things are dependent on a somewhat-inefficient foundation. Updating it would make more work. Yet... One person's laziness shouldn't be weaponised against others to move forward and improve things. That said, laziness will affect the inertia at which improvements are adopted widescale.

And regarding the dependency on other things... it's not even true that there always exists dependency! Some of the most common abstractions in software engineering are interfaces, decoupling and making things modules, so even if they are dependent on the result being as they expect, they do not care about the inner workings(where many improvements may lie dormant).

And then there is the belief of the importance of engineer hours. Is this true? Partially, depending on value. It is a few hundred hours of effort, to implement an improvement that has a multiplicative effect of improvement on millions of people... it's almost insulting to those millions not to take it! Yet Microsoft doesn't understand this, and instead sacrifice their improvements on the altar of shareholder value.

But now we come to a crucifixion... The value of an improvement is different from the perceived value of an improvement which is different from the sociopolitical value. The first 2 are similar and addressed above, but the last concerns shareholder value... Programming culture has very little selection pressure upon it to conform to good engineering quality- why else are we drowning in complexity and garbage software? They sacrifice the values that matter, for improvements at the altar of shareholder value... And the shareholder value of their work, is in plugging brains into an attention farm for advertising and propaganda purposes.

This value... Do you remember Mark 14, when the woman cracks open the ointment and the Pharisees say what a waste of money and how it could be used for the poor- the same logic is used by modern day Pharisees to peddle their ointments. What a waste of money it is, to not politically control the masses- but then ask what the endgame of that is?

Their value, is the throne... their value is the sword of Damacles above their head- but not just their heads but they are the last to feel the slice of its guillotine as they sacrifice others to that throne of shareholder value.

Circling back around, the reason to "Reinvent the wheel", is to bring good quality back to an industry pooling in its own self-sacrificed blood-- however the qualities that serve a modern Pharisee are antithetical to societal progress.

Thus, the deep seated use of the phrase "Why do you reinvent the wheel?" is just a phrase for demoralisation.

Anyone who uses this phrase is an agent of this demoralisation, either incidentally(through no fault but the collective unconscious), emotionally(by jealousy) or by being a plain political pawn growling against competitors.

Published on 2024/03/12

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