The phenomenon of artificial complexity is “when a simple solution is made more complex to appeal to someone’s lack of willpower, past failures, or to benefit someone who is selling something.”
We’ve been told artificially complex solutions all our lives. It’s all around us and once you see it, you can’t unsee it.
In fact, “if a problem is physiological, philosophical, psychological, otherwise human or “old,” though, it’s likely that the solution can be distilled to being simple, and even easy if you were removed from modern society.”
- Staying out of debt: spend less than you earn.
- Losing weight: eat less, exercise more for a long period of time.
- Being productive: focus on one thing at a time.
One thing to note is just because a solution is simple, it doesn’t mean it is easy to accomplish. Nat gives the example of completing a marathon is simply running 26.8 miles, but it’s very hard to do.
And because it’s hard, and we’d rather eat whatever we want, buy whatever we want, or do whatever we want, we complicate the solution. We don’t want to take responsibility for not wanting to do the hard thing.
More than that, (and this is what makes me the most angry) industries like finance, fitness, and self-help have made billions of dollars by selling us artificial complexity. They’ve convinced us through ads that the simple way isn’t the best way. The latest trend that pops up is probably just the next version of artificial complexity.
We can free ourselves from the Matrix of artificial complexity by getting to the root of the problem through first principles, and honestly asking yourself whether you want to follow the simple, hard solution.
This is the hard and unsellable process of decomplication.
The more people are experiencing a problem, the simpler the solution should be. “It’s on us to recognize when we’re being over-influenced by artificial complexity, to go through the decomplication process, and then to use our a priori reasoning to arrive at the better, simpler, solution.”
It’s much harder to follow through with a simple solution if you are doing it alone. Failure is inevitable, but that doesn’t disprove the solution.
My job as a coach is to help people stick to the simple solution, and not artificially complicated things. Accountability, empathy, and consistency are ways I come alongside my clients and encourage them to try again, and keep going.