Friday, May 19, 2006

Simplicity = unlearning and synthesis.

In the recent “Changethis,” ( Dan Ward does some writing about the problems of complexity and over-thinking.

Click on the title above to go to the article.

Here are some highlights and notes:

1. There is a “complexity on the other side of understanding.”

In other words, people can often go too far in trying to develop an idea. Solution: peel back the layers to get to what is good and what works.
2. Complexity and goodness are not always directly proportional.

“Here we find the learned academician who everyone assumes is brilliant because no one can understand a word he says. In fact, his academics may simply be overcomplicated and have very limited goodness.”

3. To remedy the problem, Ward recommends “unlearning and synthesis.”

“To begin moving in this direction, we must learn a few new skills and forget some old ones. In place of learning and genesis, which served us well on the trip between Simplisticness and Complexity, we must now master a skillset that includes things like unlearning and synthesis.”

4. Reduce the design to basic components.

“The idea is to prune and pare down the design, reducing it to the essential components."

“For a more academically rigorous approach, we can look to Genrich Altshuller’s Theory of Inventive Problem Solving, which identified something called the law of ideality. This law states that as systems mature, they tend to become more reliable, simpler, and more effective—more ideal. This law goes onto explain that the amount of complexity in a system is a measure of how far away it is from its ideal state. Interestingly, Altshuller postulates that upon reaching perfect ideality, the mechanism itself no longer exists. Only the function remains; the various components have been simplified to zero.”

5. Experiencing complexity is an important step.

“One cannot usually jump directly from simplistic to simple, skipping complexity entirely. The initial increase in complexity is as crucial to maximizing goodness as the later decrease in complexity.”

“We have now replaced what Albert Schweitzer called ‘naive simplicity’ with a ‘profound simplicity.’ This is done by pursuing synthesis rather than genesis and goodness rather than complexity.”
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