Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Improving Upon the Original

So before it was made famous by the TV show, The Big Bang Theory, Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock was a thing.


In case readers don't feel like clicking through to the Wiki:
  • Scissors cuts paper
  • Paper covers rock
  • Rock crushes lizard
  • Lizard poisons Spock
  • Spock smashes (or melts) scissors
  • Scissors decapitates lizard
  • Lizard eats paper
  • Paper disproves Spock
  • Spock vaporizes rock
  • Rock crushes scissors
This improves upon the original by reducing the chances of ties which, with the only the original three options, is statistically (and anecdotally) highly likely.

That being said, "improvements" are tricky things. New Coke is the usual example of innovation gone wrong. Sometimes, however, an established product really requires a total rethinking in order to meet modern needs.

My favourite example of this is the spinning wheel. Given this prompt, most people would think of this:


But, in fact, the spinning wheel has been redesigned and modern day ones look more like these:


The new generation is portable (many fold down and fit in carry bags), space-efficient, and easier to maintenance and repair (or so I've been told by friends who spin). In the words of my friend, Sally, who first brought these to my attention,"It's like someone sat back and asked,'What is a spinning wheel SUPPOSED to do?' and then designed something that did that without weighing a ton and taking up the entire living room."

Often when I consider transportation, I wonder if that's what needs to happen. I remember seeing an interview at one point where someone pointed out that if we were to invent cars today, the proposal would be ludicrous: "Let's invest in vehicles that run on fossil fuels, pollute the environment, require billions of dollars in infrastructure to create and maintain pathways on which to drive, and need replacing or major repairs every five to ten years." 

So where are our successes? What do we lose with change? Can we learn from mistakes?

My current round of edumication is thematically hung up on paradigm shifts in schools. Getting away from curriculum-driven, factory-based classrooms but also needing more documentable achievement and skills outcome targets than traditional child-centred teaching provides. It requires a lot of rethinking as well as a total change in administrative/political focus. It's a daunting windmill to tilt at, especially when we're up to our eyeballs in the trenches. Still, if I didn't think it would get better eventually, I probably wouldn't get out of bed in the morning.

Anyone else out there feeling a sense of revolution in the air? Anyone getting a sense that the more we change, the more we stay the same? It's been a while since I called on my readership for a discourse. Any insights on this, spinning wheels, or variations of Roshambo (that don't require getting kicked in the nuts... or do. Whatevs ;)?