It happens a lot more often with internet resources at our fingertips. No longer is it possible to reinvent the wheel in 2 different locations with zero cross-pollination involved. If anything, we can be thankful that we have the ability to move on and forward sooner, even though that is not a savory place to be when you go through it.
In academics you are constantly fed optimized ideas from the collective experience of industry (more or less). Outside that, exists a world of trade secrets and conflicting motives… enviros that set us up for such heartbreaking ends to our projects. It is what it is… but I can say I appreciate my time doing robots as a hobbyist these days as much as I did as a student.
I haven’t watched the vid yet, as the reference to self help material kinda scares me off.
As far as form/function… of course form can follow, or lead. Engineering is not something a robot does well for a reason… thinking out of the box is paramount. If I put on my engineering hard hat and only think of boxed items school and life has shown me… not some random perhaps artfully inspired idea… I may miss the boat on design altogether. So imho form follows function (aircraft fly better with wings for example), but function can also follow form (would helicopters have occurred to us if we never considered the sycamore seed?).
What is beautiful to me, is that humans are free to explore all ways of thinking, and there are in infinite number of perspectives that result in an unending stream of coolness for us all to witness.