Victor Ogu: Stop Inventing! Start Where the Knowledge Stops
The expression “reinventing the wheel” has become common in our everyday language, and it is often used to emphasise the process of inventing a new solution to a problem. It is also used as a counterargument to those who believe starting from scratch is a waste of effort when established solutions already exist. While this is somewhat correct, it may also stifle innovation and hinder advancement. I argue that beginning where knowledge ends is a more successful method to make a significant contribution to the world.
The phrase originated from the observation that many cultures independently invented the wheel for transportation. While each civilisation had its unique version of the wheel, the basic idea remained the same. This example illustrates that there are some fundamental concepts that humans keep discovering and refining throughout history.
In modern times, reinventing the wheel means making something new from scratch from what already exists. Is it, however, always a bad thing? In certain circumstances, beginning from scratch is required in order to create something new, something that does not presently exist. The world is changing all the time, and what worked yesterday might not work tomorrow.
The reality is that knowledge is not a finite resource. It’s a continuous, evolving process that we all participate in. Starting from where the knowledge stops acknowledges that there’s always more to learn and that our understanding is always growing. It is also acknowledging that we are building upon existing knowledge rather than reinventing it.
Furthermore, starting from where the knowledge stops allows us to take a more nuanced approach to problem-solving. We can learn from the past and build upon existing solutions, but we can also identify new challenges and opportunities. This approach encourages us to think critically and creatively, developing solutions that are tailored to specific problems and challenges.
Of course, there are limitations to this approach. We must be careful not to become overly reliant on existing knowledge or to become complacent in our thinking. Starting from where the knowledge stops means that we must continually seek out new information, ideas, and perspectives. It also means that we must be open to new ways of thinking and doing things, even if they challenge our existing assumptions.
Starting from where the knowledge stops is a more nuanced and effective approach to problem-solving than simply trying to reinvent the wheel. By building upon existing knowledge and learning from the past, we can develop solutions that are more effective, efficient, and tailored to specific challenges. This approach encourages critical thinking, creativity, and continuous learning, all of which are essential for making a meaningful contribution to the world.
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