Dec 07, 2022

Complexity creeps

The thing about complexity is that the cost rarely seems obvious upfront. It usually starts as a reasonable desire, with a reasonable set of initial tradeoffs that make you think the benefit of taking on more complexity is worth the cost.

But then complexity does what complexity does, and creates entirely new problems you didn’t anticipate. So what do you do? Add even more complexity to solve that problem. And so on and so forth, each individual decision seeming perfectly reasonable and uncontroversial.

Hal’s attempt to change a lightbulb perfectly encapsulates how complexity creeps in. It happens so slowly and methodically that there’s no “before” anymore. However long things take, however much friction or maintenance or education something requires, that’s just normal. Meanwhile, you’re taking twice as long to get half as much done.

It’s so pernicious that the only sustainable solution is vigilance. Complexity is sus. Complexity is an iceberg. Complexity is a monkey’s paw.

Read more notes