The Merits of Simplicity


We’ve conjectured that there’s a dark side to the seeming perfection of our equal opportunity system – our great meritocracy. If there is a dark side, it’s the sword of complexity wielded by the meritocrats. I thinke there are two reasons. The first is Blaser’s Second Law:

The complexity of a system expands to match the brainpower of its designers…
…and no one can manage a system they’re smart enough to design.

The second reason is that we just love to complicate things. We make computers more complicated than they have to be. Employee manuals are unnecessarily dense (yeah – like this blog). As George Gilder put it in 1996,

In every industrial transformation, businesses prosper by using the defining abundance of their era to alleviate the defining scarcity. Today this challenge implies a commanding moral imperative: to use Internet bandwidth in order to stop wasting the customer’s time. Stop the callous cost of queues, the insolence of cold calls, the wanton eyeball pokes and splashes of billboards and unwanted ads, the constant drag of lowest-common-denominator entertainments, the lethal tedium of unneeded travel, the plangent buffeting of TV news and political prattle, the endless temporal dissipation in classrooms, waiting rooms, anterooms, traffic jams, toll booths and assembly lines, through the impertinent tyranny of unneeded and afterwards ignored submission of forms, audits, polls, waivers, warnings, legal pettifoggery.

And it’s only worsened since then. The meritocrats’ inscrutable processes empower the clued-in and disenfranchise the rest of us – the Procedurally Advantaged vs. the Procedurally Disadvantaged (The Dissed?). When we see how pervasive and intentional this growing complexity is, (even though that intention may not be conscious), we can feel Gilder’s rage.

Most of us have almost no freedom in designing our lives, just as most of our ancestors were serfs indentured to a landowner who took most of the produce grown on his land. We have more toys and the appearance of owning our own homes, but the disparity in life choices and styles is similar. Aristocracy and meritocracy look remarkably alike to people who missed the boat. Even though they’re still too complex, computers have come a long way. Some Unix geeks still insist that you’re feeble if you don’t work from the command line, but we collectively abandoned that system because the system grows in value by the number of its participants, not by the average IQ of its participants. We’re about to make that breakthrough in economic matters, provided we can pry the meritocrat’s hands off the controls of our economy – the proprietary data structures that lock in their relative advantage.

As we design our microeconomy, the high order bit is its evenhandedness, possible only through the distributed shared-custody data architecture we’ve been discussing.
8:29:12 AM    

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