We all have problems. There seems to be a direct correlation between the time spent on earth and the problems encountered. In a way, this seems logical: the more time “t” you spend in your life, i.e. the older you get, the more the number of variables (for example, first you are single then married , then children the same as you are a student, then you start working, etc.) and their interaction and interaction (for example, it was easy to manage life as a single student, it may not be not the case when you have a spouse, child, office, job, etc.).
Therefore, the golden principle for being at peace with these irritants in your life is simple: simplify it.
From another perspective, the more time you spend here, the more you should have a growing learning curve as well. However, we tend to learn mostly in retrospect; therefore, a gap would always exist between the problem(s) and the solution(s). Moreover, we learn by trial and error, and this has been the basis of most human knowledge, as recognized by Nassim Taleb in his collection of books, Incerto.
To solve these persistent and perpetual problems that carry over into professional and personal life, the use of mental models is very useful (and I have continued to emphasize this throughout my articles here). They help us deconstruct and see the knots that matter. Think of them as tools. One of these tools is Occam’s razor. Simply put, Occam’s razor, also known as the law of parsimony, says that the simplest explanation is better or preferable to the more complex one. He posits that we should strive for simple rather than complex solutions. Look around you, the world is full of examples related to the latter.
The name relates to William of Ockham, whose distinct way of making decisions stems from this approach. This goes back even to the time of Aristotle, who said: “we can suppose the superiority, all other things being equal, of the demonstration which results from fewer postulates or hypotheses”. William of Ockham said something beautiful about problem solving which would later become the basis of this heuristic: “Plurality should not be assumed unnecessarily – it is vain to do with much what can be done with little. “. The theologian and scientist Libert Froidment used this term for the first time in 1649.
This approach is widely used in professional and personal life. For example, in medicine, doctors now try to diagnose the smallest number of possible causes for a multiplicity of diseases in a patient. Even Newton used it to form his brilliant but simplest laws. Think of this razor as a tool that can help you remove excess fat from a problem so you can see its probable solution. Einstein said that “…the supreme goal of any theory is to make the basic irreducible elements as simple and as few as possible without giving up the adequate representation of a single datum of experience”.
Even if we take climate change and the solutions proposed, the fact that nearly 70 million people represent more than 15% of global emissions, more than the poorest 50%, or 3.5 billion! I’ve always postulated that instead of complex theories and models, why not make a list of these (70 million) people or their habits and then work on reducing their carbon footprint? Often the simplest advertisements are the best and the simple designs the most graceful. Even in the world of marketing and business, we tend to see companies stripping extra layers of functionality from their products to make what’s on offer more visible and usable.
Ray Dalio also has “Simplify” as one of its principles. Quoting that famous saying “Any fool can make things complex. It takes a genius to make things simple. When it comes to investing and saving, it can also mean that you ditch the extra or complex details and try to focus on the big picture. This can also be related to Daniel Kahneman’s book Noise where he mentions how important it is for us to tell the difference between this and the signal. any stock market keep changing every minute (if not a second), but do you decide every move? Or are you just following one or more signals? Like the future direction of the Fed’s monetary policy! investment also includes the abandonment of additional details that create noise.
Source: Ray Dalio, Principles
However, as with any mental model, this Occam’s razor is not universal – we must always remember domain specificity. We live in a very complex world and we have to embrace it to make the right decisions. In the example above, targeting those 70 million people might be a good idea, but what if the businesses they operate have to close to meet our goal of putting hundreds of people out of work? Similar concerns arise when talking about energy transitions and the political economy of this company, as millions of workers are attached to the oil and gas sector. It also has a huge share in global stocks related to a financial crisis.
However, Occam’s razor seems like a very nifty tool for many areas and in many areas. As with everything, you just have to be careful not to cut yourself with it.
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