Often, if you ask a human to optimize something, they'll make it orderly: straight lines, simple layouts and clean divisions, but when nature (or evolutionary algorithms) optimizes things, it produces redundancy, gradients, tangles, and complexity -- ironically, robots produce systems that look like nature designed them, while humans produce systems that look like robots designed them.
In an essay called The Efficiency-Destroying Magic of Tidying Up, Uber product manager Florent Crivello lays out a thesis about the value of complexity, a subject that will be familiar to readers who enjoyed Tim Harford's 2016 book "Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Lives."
Crivello suggests a three-part test that "messy" systems should be subjected to before anyone attempts to tidy them:
1. How much information is contained in the system’s current state? What constraints are expressing themselves through it?
2. How old is the system? How malleable is it? How strong are the forces put on it?
3. Finally: who is complaining about the chaos?
Finally: who is complaining about the chaos? If outsiders complain, but people living inside the system seem happy with it, it probably means that the chaos is serving them right, and that it’s just foreign eyes who are unable to perceive its underlying order.
This is a special case of Chesterton’s Fence, which states you should never take down a fence before knowing why it was put up. Here, I propose Scott’s Law: never put order in a system before you understand the structure underneath its chaos.
The Efficiency-Destroying Magic of Tidying Up [Florent Crivello]
(via Four Short Links)
Solid objects turn out to be mostly made of empty space and whirling particles, but we act as though they're solid, because we rarely have to interact with them in such a granular way that involves their underlying complexity.
Joi Ito has published the "1.0" version of his October essay, Resisting Reduction, which makes major advances on the earlier draft. He's soliciting revisions and comments here. Here's what I wrote about it then:
University of Lausanne biologists chipped hundreds of ants and digitally tracked them to see how they form social groups and work collectively to get stuff done. Based on the data, they created heat maps and visualized the ants’ trajectories. From Nature: The biologists… have found that the workers fall into three social groups that perform […]
Everyone’s got their nose in a phone these days, and that doesn’t seem like it’s going to change anytime soon. With the increase in mobile device and e-commerce reliance comes increased need for developers who can build the apps we’re all so glued to. In fact, employment of devs is expected to grow up to […]
Whether you love cooking at home or you swore this was going to be the year you curbed your DoorDash addiction, you know you can’t get the job done well without the proper tools on hand. For all your recipe and meal prep needs, this 3-piece Sukasu Osami Chef’s Knife set will do you right […]
It may not rank up there with climate change or personal debt, but confess…isn’t it the worst when you’re trying to put a food container in the fridge, but can’t find the right lid to fit? Hey, not everything has to be a global crisis to be irritating to the core. But still…it’s even more […]