What sort of bicycle?

While it’s likely that you own a bike, you probably don’t have a front-wheel recumbent bicycle in your garage.

Even though it’s more efficient, more comfortable and often faster.

How did that happen?

In 1933, a twenty-year old speed record was broken by a racer on a recumbent bike. Concerned, the leading manufacturers of upright bikes went to the UCI and persuaded them to ban recumbent bikes from competition.

Nearly a hundred years later, the ban continues.

Of course, most of us will never race in a sanctioned UCI bicycle race.

But, the fastest bicyclists are the ones that spend the most time and money on their bikes. They’re surrounded by a circle of other bicyclists that would like to be the fastest. And they’re surrounded by an even larger circle that is inspired by them.

And so the status roles are set, and thus affiliation roles as well. And then systems are built and technology platforms are reinforced and it becomes simpler and easier and more convenient to buy and sell the regular kind. All because of one race 90 years ago.

Consider what happens when one person (now lost to the clouds of time) decides to alter an algorithm at YouTube. That simple tweak starts to deliver more profitable results, and so others build around that change, codifying into code something that might not be in the long-term interests of users or creators.

Now that it’s built in, it changes what gets produced and that changes what gets watched.

The office that 5,000 people commute to every day is there because forty years ago, someone thought that it would be nice to work near home, and that four-person office is now a megaplex.

We cut the tails off of some dog breeds because thousands of years ago, someone mistakenly thought they prevented disease. But then it became a signal of adherence or status, and the system persists.

Little decisions compound and then anchor systems. Our commitment to defending sunk costs keeps those systems long after they’re no longer serving a purpose.

Until, one day, we look at our bicycle and wonder, “how did I end up here?”