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Simplicity

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Written by   41
1 year ago
Topics: Thoughts, Reality, Life

We desire it

Humans desire simplicity. If you don't believe me, I'll try to prove it to you in this article. A lot of human emotions - such as nostalgia - and even political ideologies can be easily boiled down to the human desire for simplicity.

Politics - why do people support authoritarian dictators, why do people vote for populist demagogues, why do people fetishize totalitarian governments? When 63 million people voted for Donald Trump and voted for his slogan "Make America Great Again!", what they were really voting for was "Make America simple again" - or more precisely: "make politics simple again". A return to a simpler time, when Americans had the evil Soviet boogeyman to project everything bad onto, when there was a clear good and bad. Likewise, people put up with tyrannical rulers, because having a single ruler - a father figure of sorts, albeit a highly abusive and corrupted one - to obey makes life so much simpler, than having a multitude of choices.

Nostalgia - Why do millenials wear Zelda T-shirts, and other shirts that feature characters from video games they have been playing since childhood? Not because they are so enamored with the game's gameplay that they feel a compulsion towards turning themselves into walking advertisement boards for that specific game - it's because the game reminds them of simpler times, when their biggest worries were school grades and "What will my parents think?".

As I grew from a kindergarden child into an elementary school student, then to a high school student, then to a college student, then from a failed college student into a wageslave, I always lamented that life constantly got more complex.

Desire for simplicity, does not a simpleton make

People like my older brother like to associate a distaste for complexity and complex bureaucracy with low intelligence, but in truth, it's the opposite. People who are cursed with too high intelligence (I'll talk about it later) tend to have an obsession with reducing everything to models and patterns, which is the pinnacle of desire for simplicity. Not to mention, intellectuals and philosophers have Occam's Razor, which also betrays a desire for simplicity.

There is no shame in admitting, that all the Byzantine bureaucracy that haunts every adult in their day-to-day life makes your head hurt.

But what do I precisely mean by having too high intelligence? Is there really such a thing as being smart for your own good? Yes, there is. Now, I don't mean to tout my own horn in this little segue, but when I was an elementary school child, I easily aced every class without having to waste a single second at home studiyng. I was considered a gifted child. Then, as I grew older, my luck started running dry, until college came, where I simply failed, being completely unable to get myself to face the book for more than half an hour. Unfortunately, I was lucky in my early childhood, and this early success deprived me of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn how to study, to learn discipline. Meanwhile, children less lucky - and less intelligent - than me had to struggle hard, and they actually reaped the rewards. So yeah, let that be a lesson for you kids: smart people don't necessarily prosper in life - disciplined people do.

The same is true for all the complexity in our life. It doesn't take a particularly intelligent person to get through all the complexities of the Byzantine bureaucracy that plagues our daily life. It takes a disciplined person to navigate through the harsh waters of the devilish office oligarchy.

Point of view

Now, complexity and simplicity are not only relative, but also matters of points of view. I work as a software developer, and I know this more than anyone else.

From the programmer's point of view, simplicity basically equals the least amount of effort spent coding something, or clean code. From a programmer's point of view, a "simple" program is one that required the minimal amount of coding and programming to be done by the programmer, which is coincidentally a program that'll be considered "complex" by most users.

A program that is simple from the programmer's view doesn't try to guess what the user wants - it straight-up asks the questions, asks for parameters.

In contrast, from a user's point of view, a "simple" program is one where the user has to input the least amount of parameters, where the user has to spend the least amount of time navigating the GUI, where the program remembers the user's previous actions, or better yet: where the software reads your mind and already knows what you. Needless to say, all these features add complexity to the actual implementation from the programmer's point of view, so clearly, we have a clash of two opposing points of view.

The user doesn't want to input parameters that he thinks should be self-evident, while the programmer doesn't want to write thousands of lines of code in a desperate attempt to create a program that tries to read the user's mind, remember all the clicks, etc.

From a programmer's point of view, a simple program means one that responds well to a specified type of input, provided that said input is provided in the exact format that was specified with zero tolerance for deviations - from a user's point of view, a simple program is the exact opposite: the user inputs data, and the program tries to interpret it, validate it, mine out the relevant information, etc.

Obscurity through complexity, weaponized bureaucracy

So, it's obvious that people aren't really fond of unnecessary complexity, and generally desire simplicity. Why is our modern world so needlessly complex then?

There are three answers to that question, albeit they aren't mutually exclusive, and all of them stand up to scrutiny in my mind.

The first, more innocent answer is, that many of the complexities of our world are necessary evils. Refer back to the previous paragraph, just substitute the two actors: the government is the programmer, the ordinary citizen is the user - what we consider simple is complex to them, what they consider simple is complex to us. It's frustrating for an average citizen - regardless of their intelligence - to be forced to fill out an exact form in a specific manner, and send it to a specific building on a specific date, with little tolerance for deviations - but for the government and its bureaucracy, this is the fastest way to do it, and the only way to receive documents that are qualified to go through computer-aided processing, etc. Individual human beings might be implicit in their thinking, and operate on fuzzy logic, computers of every kind - both electronic computers (computers as understood in everyday language), and biological computers (the bureaucratic system made up of human bureaucrats) - think only in the explicit, and typically operate with strict boolean logic.

The second, somewhat more innocent answer is, that many of these complexities are there for legacy reasons. They are no longer necessary, but humans are creatures of habit, and there is no desire for reform - or rather, people who consider it an inconvenience aren't hurt by it to the degree that causes them to scream for reform. Humans are creatures of habit, after all.

The third, much more sinister answer is, is that it is by design. Just like the Corporatese language, the Byzantine bureaucracy was possibly intentionally designed to screw people over. It's hard to fight back against a lawsuit, when the legal system is so complex, and there are so many laws that make it difficult to prove one's innocence. If you are proven innocent on one count, you'll be proven guilty on another. Having to go through a bazillion laws and rights discourages small people who wish to sue others, as well as small people who wish to defend themselves against and accusation of a crime they may or may not have committed. The government already has its armada of goons (police, military) to make it impossible for people to violently contest the laws - the Byzantine bureaucracy serves as a secondary layer of defense to make it impossible for people to nonviolently contest the laws. Instead of having a few simple laws that cover most things, they intentionally chop them up to a million regulations, that each have to be contested one by one.

The Byzantine bureaucracy is so big, that you don't even know who are the ones actually standing above you. That's terror. Terror built into the system.

What is there to do?

I originally intended this article to be more of a philosophical one, than a political one. Yet, as I'm a creature of habit, it quickly got political.

There is no such thing as a flawless, ideal political system. Every political system in existence has its flaws. A libertarian society is arguably the best thing ever (no one likes being censored, overregulated, their rights curtailed, etc.), until disaster strikes you and makes you unable to support yourself through no fault of your own. An authoritarian society is not without its advantages either, as a dictator could potentially do great things for his country with his dictatorial powers - but most dictators simply abuse their power and become tyrannical. The flaws within libertarianism can be solved by compensating for the lack of social security with a strong culture of solidarity and families sticking together - likewise, the flaws within authoritarianism can be solved by having a strong culture of vigilance, where rulers are made to understand that they role by the people's grace. However, all societies eventually descend into decadence and stop compensating for the system's shortcomings, allowing for the system's weaknesses to "shine" through.

Where was I going again?

Right, so... There is no such thing as a perfect political system. If we reduce the bureaucracy, we also reduce the government's and corporations' ability to automate data-processing. The only way to reduce the complexity of our society without reducing the quality of life, would be to improve Artificial Intelligence to the point where it can handle all the bureaucratic mess, and leave humans to do what they're good at - or leave humans to do nothing.

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Written by   41
1 year ago
Topics: Thoughts, Reality, Life
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