'Over-simplify' or 'Over-complicate'
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29-01-2012, 11:05 AM
'Over-simplify' or 'Over-complicate'
I have been accused in the past of ‘over-simplifying’.

My usual response is: “no, I do not over-simplify ... you over-complicate”.

Which only proves that everything is relative.

However, basic concepts our lives depend on are very simple. Birth, death, procreation, family, food, clothing, shelter, co-operation, competition, love, hate, ... you know what I mean. It is possible to build a very complex civilization on top of our simple basic needs, but NOTHING will change our basic needs for survival.

Often in History people lost sight of the basic necessities and allowed the self-created complexity of their human constructs to destroy their simple needs. Needs that determine whether we live or die, whether we are happy or miserable. I think this curious and uniquely human (animals don’t do it) contradiction deserves a thread of its own.

In my favourite SF book, an Earthman is talking to a sane alien (Zatamon):

"I told him about Plato's state, Saint Thomas Aquinas's principles of the divine universality of the outcome of labour, the common work of the Cathari and the Hussites, Fourier's phalansteries, Thomas More's Utopia, Proudhon's people's bank, Louis Blanc's national workshops, Robert Owen's social manufacturing plants, the communal states of the Dominicans and Jesuits in South America, and finally I came to scientific socialism and the latest theories, to the plans of Marx, Lenin, Bakunin, Bernstein, Kropotkin, Kautsky and Plekhanov, and to technocracy and the democratic socialism of the Fabian Society, Wells and the Webbs. I spoke of the work theory of mercantilism and physiocracy, of the liberalism of Adam Smith, and of the trade unions; nor did I fail to mention the ideas that had not materialized, such as Georgism, syndicalism and anarchism. For his life he could not understand how it was possible to imagine so many things concerning such a simple thing as life."

"You over-simplify" is in the same category of put-downs as "it is only a conspiracy theory".

Both (over-complication and conspiracies) do exist and have existed in abundance through human history.

Yet, when people are accused of these 'crimes' they often cringe and shut up. People ought to trust their common sense more!

There is a LOT to be said for focusing on the defining structural elements (in politics as well as in architecture) and refusing to get lost in detail.

It wasn't the paint job on the Titanic that destroyed it, once it hit the ice bergs. It was the basic flaw in structural design (not making the bulkheads separating sections of the ship go all the way to the top, sealing one compartment from the other.

Engineers are often looked down on as 'techies' but we all depend on them with our lives.

Now, if only we had some competent social engineers, applying the scientific method for problem solving in the arena of human co-existence, maybe we would not be in such a mess.

Competent social engineers would concentrate on the structural, defining elements of human society, go back to basic principles and apply rigorous logic to different models of social organization to see which way we could maximize overall happiness.

Instead, we keep going around and around the same circle, being lost among the irrelevant details.
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29-01-2012, 11:52 AM
RE: 'Over-simplify' or 'Over-complicate'
You have caught me in the middle of my Sunday devotional, sane alien, so I'm afraid all I have to offer is aphorisms and maxims from my priests.

"What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult to each other?" - George Eliot, Middlemarch

"Birth, and copulation, and death
That's all the facts when you come to brass tacks:
Birth, and copulation, and death
I've been born, and once is enough." - T.S. Eliot, Sweeney Agonistes

"It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience." - Einstein

As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
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29-01-2012, 03:53 PM
RE: 'Over-simplify' or 'Over-complicate'
So the question remains: why do humans (as opposed to animals) so overcomplicate everything?

Life could be so incredibly simple and pleasant: We produce what we really need (food, clothing, shelter, energy, transportation, communication, healthcare and education), and distribute it according to needs.

Our technology would provide enough of everything in abundance, for everybody. Beyond that we can indulge in individual luxury, according to individual taste, from all the extra time, resources and manpower left over, involving only those who want to participate.

We leave each other alone, as long as nobody is harming others, everything is cool. Nobody is hungry, nobody is homeless, practically no crime, everybody can have all the education and health care they need.

Instead we waste 90% of our resources on fighting over distribution, constantly harass and push each other around, tie ourselves into knots over self-made complications.

We could stop today and live in a Utopia, yet we can’t figure this simple thing out century after century?

Why are human beings so incredibly stupid?
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29-01-2012, 04:07 PM
RE: 'Over-simplify' or 'Over-complicate'
Big brain overcomplicates as a natural consequence of its pattern-recognition function.

It sees pattern even where there isn't one. It can connect dots, even if some of them are invisible, as in the constellations. It can conceive of, conjecture, theorize, imagine, invent pattern - as in conspiracy, atomic structure, wallpaper, a musical score.
Some perceptions of invisible complexity are brilliantly apt and useful, while others are fanciful, superfluous, often counterproductive.
Sometimes it's hard to decide how much complexity realistically and usefully applies to a situation.

If you pray to anything, you're prey to anything.
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29-01-2012, 04:12 PM (This post was last modified: 29-01-2012 04:18 PM by Zat.)
RE: 'Over-simplify' or 'Over-complicate'
(29-01-2012 04:07 PM)Peterkin Wrote:  Sometimes it's hard to decide how much complexity realistically and usefully applies to a situation.

There is a simple test: if billions are hungry, cold, homeless, frightened, bleeding, being shot at, bombed and tortured -- there is something drastically wrong with our complexity. Big Grin
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29-01-2012, 05:10 PM
RE: 'Over-simplify' or 'Over-complicate'
Zet it is so complicated because there are a few on top who are super-greedy and power hungry.

If it were for me, I am with you on that topic. Produce what you need, do what you have to do, spend the rest of the time however you want to. But sadly it doesn't work like that in a society like this.

"Freedom is the freedom to say that 2+2=4" - George Orwell (in 1984)
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29-01-2012, 05:46 PM
RE: 'Over-simplify' or 'Over-complicate'
My suspicion is that while individual humans can be incredibly intelligent and sane in every respect, the human species, as a whole, is functionally insane and self-destructive. I believe it is a genetic defect and a basic design flaw, to which many of us are immune, while the majority is, woefully, susceptible.

And believers call it an intelligent design!

Give me a break! Rolleyes
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29-01-2012, 10:04 PM
RE: 'Over-simplify' or 'Over-complicate'
For every complex problem there is a simple solution and it’s wrong.

See Tim Hartford explain the God Complex. He's quite good.

http://www.ted.com/talks/tim_harford.html

The old gods are dead, let's invent some new ones before something really bad happens.
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30-01-2012, 05:56 AM
RE: 'Over-simplify' or 'Over-complicate'
(29-01-2012 10:04 PM)Thomas Wrote:  For every complex problem there is a simple solution and it’s wrong.

For every simple problem (healthy survival) there is a complex solution (what we have now) and it is insane. Big Grin
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