This is going to be a very short post. I believe the drive for simplifying life can be explained by the stress of exceeding certain capacities.

  1. First, the individual human brain can handle certain levels of complexity. Much like with IQ which strongly correlates with the ability to simultaneously being able to juggle things in short term memory—the average person can handle 7, smart people around 9, slow ones, about 5—there has to be some inherent ability to handle complexity. Before anyone get their hair in a knot, all I’m saying is that different people have different tolerances for complexity.
  2. When it comes to complexity, we interface with the world with specific organizing principles. This typically allows us to handle more complexity by abstracting some of the details. A very easy example. Consider a closet. It is a container, which can organize clothes in stacks. All you need to remember now is: (closet, stack). and you can conveniently forget about where each specific item of clothing is located. In other words, we have certain tools at our disposals. If you have better tools, you can handle more complexity.

Now going back to the closet, if you overfill it, the organization breaks down. This immediately requires more brain power (1). If there is no such reserve, the limit has been exceeded and this causes stress. To avoid the stress, complexity must be reduced.

Now, seeing that it is nigh impossible to become more “intelligent”, there are two ways to do this.

  1. Reduce the number of items in the system. — This is the trivial solution and the main drive for downsizing and “simplicity”.
  2. Increase the organizing methods. I do not know what this is called, because few seem to be doing it(*). This is a drive for controlled complexity. I believe it is superior to downsizing.

(*) Those methods, however, are described in chapter 5 of my book which will come out at some point, one way or the other, much as it is not moving much currently.

Additional updates: I am currently at 80000 words 95% of which is entirely new content (this corresponds to about 200 average posts). This particular book will NOT be a collection of blog posts or collection of items in general. It is heavily integrated, which makes it much harder to write, and complete, which means much more thinking (also hard) on my part, unlike my blog which is all over the place, full of holes, and written according to what the muses tell me. In general, I spend about 30-45 minutes on a blog post. Writing the book is about 4 times slower.

Originally posted 2009-07-31 01:47:07.