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"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

― George Santayana

"I've got news for Mr. Santayana: we're doomed to repeat the past no matter what. That's what it is to be alive."

― Kurt Vonnegut




"Those who can remember the past are condemned to watch everyone else repeat it."

-- I have no idea who originally said this, and DuckDuckGo doesn't seem to be especially helpful in enlightening me on the origin of this particular corollary to Santayana's quote


On an individual level, Vonnegut is wrong. On a societal level, he is right. Santayana is still right.


There's even an expression for it: reinventing the wheel.


No, reinventing the wheel is alright; at best you may find a new and better kind of wheel, at worst you'll still learn something. This is forgetting that wheels can be round.


Our lifetime is finite. Given the choice, I'd rather invent the car than reinvent the wheel.


It's nice that different people have different interests. I, for one, find materials science fascinating and car engineering rather bland.


Thus, reinventing it, no?


Learning from the past isn't to prevent you from reinventing the wheel but from reinventing the pothole.


Nothing wrong with reinventing potholes...

https://www.indy100.com/article/this-man-is-painting-penises...


Only for those who don't understand the euphemism :). That guy actually learned from past mistakes and avoided reinventing them (methods that never worked).

What the original saying is about is pretty clear from the words "condemned" or "doomed" to repeat it (depending on the version). [0]

The saying is not about "reinventing the wheel" as in "refining/reinventing something already positive". It's trying to steer people away from major mistakes. Like ones that lead to great human tragedies and loss. Of course, everything can scale, it can affect an individual or the whole world.

[0] https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/George_Santayana#Vol._I,_Reaso...


The funny thing about that expression is that wheels have never been reinvented. As far as we know. The Summarians had them, and the technology spread through contract with other civilizations. But not as far as we know re-invented anywhere else.


I think people at the same epoch living in other continents did reinvent them.


That's independent invention, not re-invention. Reinvention requires that you could conceivably be aware of / be using an existing technology, but instead you choose to create it from scratch yourself.


Fair enough, I guess you're right.




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