The Qwerty keyboard itself was designed to be inefficient. Typists in the 1800's would jam the keys by typing too fast, so it was created to slow the typists down. Yet the Dvorak keyboard, a more efficient system and common suggestion for replacing the Qwerty, retains these outdated symbols like the caret.
As a designer who lives on her computer, the design of this all important periphery irks me. Much like the proliferation of the Windows OS, however, the most common solution, while not being the best, will remain the most prominent, if only because of it's prominence. Maybe I can program the email button on my keyboard to type a quotation for me.