By Mr. Quarter.
My fellow bloggers and I have used this space to vent, comment and, sometimes, rage over current political and world events. This post will contemplate what I consider one of the great shortcomings of our modern technology. I give you - the wheel, or more specifically the paradigm of the four wheeled land transport vehicle.
According to several sources that I consulted, the earliest evidence of four wheeled transports comes from Sumerian clay tablets depicting sketches of a sledge with four solid wheels. Basically a rectangular platform supported by a wheel at each corner. Capable of transporting people or goods over relatively smooth terrain with much less effort and higher velocity than dragging or pushing, and greater capacity than on the back of an animal or on oneself. Date? 3,500 B.C.
Fast forward 5,500 years. Men have walked on the moon, harnessed the very power of God in the nucleus of an atom, transplanted the internal organs from one person to another, created a web of communications that allows instantaneous transmission of images, sound and text around the world in a millisecond. How do we move goods and people over the ground? Basically a rectangular platform supported by a wheel at each corner. Capable of transporting over relatively smooth terrain with much less effort and at higher velocity than dragging or pushing, and greater capacity than on the back of an animal or on oneself. Date? 2009 CE.
The puzzle to me is that in over 5,500 years the paradigm for ground transport has not changed one iota. We have improved the basic paradigm by adding more power, more wheels, achieving greater velocity, extending the range and variety of terrain it can cross. We have even added audio and video entertainment to enjoy during the trip and air conditioning for added personal comfort. And don't forget the rich Corinthian leather! But, after 55 centuries of engineering and untold treasure spent on product development, and yet no one has come up with a new paradigm that significantly improves on the original idea.
Why is that? Was/is this the best and only concept for a land vehicle? To believe that, one has to embrace the notion that 55 centuries ago, someone stumbled on to the greatest idea in all of history and that there is no other paradigm that could be an improvement. Or, is it because we have become intellectually paralyzed to the extent that any attempt to visualize other means of land transport always reverts back to the existing paradigm?
Many of our human creations are inspired by models we observe in nature. The obvious example is an aircraft. Looks and works pretty much like a bird. I suppose that 5,500 years ago, some Sumerian looked at all the beasts of burden and deduced that they were basically rectangular platforms with moving parts in contact with the ground that created locomotion, and that that model would work if only to come up with a reasonable facsimile of the moving parts. Thus, the application of the potters wheel to the problem of providing locomotion.
I don't know the answer nor the reason. However, it seems to me that the current paradigm is stale. Perhaps there are other models of locomotion we can build upon. That's what they did in Star Wars!