Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Why is everything so complicated?

[Qenny saddles up one of his many political high horses, and sets off ...]

There are lots of things that make modern life complicated. However, I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that this is a statement that has been true of human life since it began.
... so now Ug is expecting to me to learn how to use tools. Tools! I ask you. I'm still getting the hang of this opposable thumb thing, now he wants tool-use. It will be fire-tending next.

Just get one of the kids to do it. That's what I do.
We have the option in many areas of life to make things less complicated for ourselves. To outsource the complexity of life, if you like. Trouble is, when we do that, it costs us, either in money or in power.

We can get accountants to sort out our finances. We can simplify our debts by getting a consolidation loan. We can get a cleaner. All of these things cost us money.

We can accept Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) as a fair exchange for easier access to digital music. We can register all our software products in return for easy access to updates. We can give all service providers direct access to our bank accounts (via direct debit) so that we don't have to worry about paying bills. All of these things cost us power.

What frightens me is that when it comes to politics, a lot of people want all the complicated stuff taken care of for them, so they are willing to give up having to think about something as long as someone else will put the bell on the cat.

Scariest of all is the huge number of people who are happy to elect "leaders" who think it that being simple and wrong is somehow better than tackling the complexity and getting it right. Sure, getting it right in the context of a complex situation is never just "getting it right". It is more likely to be an involved process that generates an optimal set of outcomes. But an optimal set of outcomes is surely preferable to just plain wrong.

Too often, people are seduced by the simple-but-wrong guy because his answer has the appeal of being definitive. The simple-but-wrong guy is the kind of person who will ask you: "Give me a straight yes/no answer - do you still physically abuse your partner?"

They don't want to hear you explaining that their question makes an implicit, incorrect assumption, and that in fact you have never physically abused your partner (except in a consenting sexual context in a back room in Berlin). They think that if you don't give them the "yes" or "no" that they have asked for, then you are being overly complex, overly clever, and are "unable to give a straight answer to a straight question".

It's all too complicated. I'll vote for Simple Butt Wrong, because at least I know where I stand with him.

[ ... and dismount]

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