Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Occam's razor, expressed as "Of two equivalent theories or explanations, all other things being equal, the simpler one is to be preferred", emphasizes simplicity over complexity. Yet, what is simplicity ? I suspect that there can be no answer to the question (or, rather, no simple answer to the question).

Simplicity is a concept that is dependent on the viewer, and different viewers would have differing ideas of the simple. Unfortunately, due to the mental and psychological similarities between most humans, this fact is not immediately obvious. Given two differing items, most people would agree on which is simpler. For example, most people would find the equation "2 X 2 = 4" as a simpler variant of the phrase "Integral of 2 over the bounds of 0 to 2". And yet, for a hypothetical person who was taught calculus before arithmetic, the reverse would be true. Hence, simplicity is really dependent on the viewer.

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