Rewarding complexity

Clay Shirky wrote an insightful article recently entitled The Collapse of Complex Business Models. The last line of the article contains the observation

… when the ecosystem stops rewarding complexity, it is the people who figure out how to work simply in the present, rather than the people who mastered the complexities of the past, who get to say what happens in the future.

It’s interesting to think how ecosystems reward complexity or simplicity.

Academia certainly rewards complexity. Coming up with ever more complex models is the safest road to tenure and fame. Simplification is hard work and isn’t good for your paper count.

Political pundits are rewarded for complex analysis, though politicians are rewarded for oversimplification.

The software market has rewarded complexity, but that may be changing.

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9 thoughts on “Rewarding complexity

  1. That’s certainly true.

    What probably hurts is that teaching, blogging and industry consulting are not rewarded in academia. So, people can build nonsense unhindered.

  2. He is wrong.
    The reason for nation’s collapse is not complexity but sins.
    Material oriented minds will not understand that life is a very short period in which we will be judged according to our deeds ,

    good deeds = simple happy life ,
    bad deeds = complex miserable (collapse) life.

    Thanks,
    Ahmed.

  3. human mathematics

    I am not an expert but I thought Windows’ bloat was just a matter of expediency rather than purposeful choice. I thought I’d read that since XP at least it was a goal of MS to shrink the codebase down.

  4. Somewhere along the line Windows did cut out some code. They did a thorough security review and along the way found some code was unnecessary. I forget when that was. And there may have been more recent efforts that I haven’t heard of.

  5. One broadly-familiar related phenomenon: engineering reviews–a few-line or three-bolt or …–which are small engage reviewers, and yield extensive, pertinent comments. Large-scale engineering reviews–of a nuclear power plant or all of Windows NT or …–notoriously result in ridiculously microscopic attention to some peripheral element like the color of a logo or how many spaces to indent paragraphs.

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