Tesler’s law of the conservation of complexity - Deepstash

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Why Life Can’t Be Simpler

Tesler’s law of the conservation of complexity

"The total complexity of a system is a constant. If you make a user’s interaction with a system simpler, the complexity behind the scenes increases."

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When technology bites back
When technology bites back

In many ways, technology improves and enriches our lives. Yet, there is a sense that we have lost control of our technology in some ways and end up victims of its unintended consequences.

Author Edward Tenner coined the term "revenge effects" to describe how technologies can solve one problem while creating other worse problems, new types of issues, or shifting the harm elsewhere. In other words, technology bites back.

Considering the bigger system when introducing new technology

When we introduce a new piece of technology, it is wise to consider if we are interfering with a bigger system. If we do, we should reflect on it's wider consequences.

But, if the factors involved get complex enough, we cannot anticipate them with accuracy. Understanding revenge effects is mostly a reminder of the value of caution and not of specific risks.

Types of revenge effects
  • Repeating effects: This occurs when more efficient processes end up making us do the same things more often. Better appliances have led to higher standards of cleanliness, tempting people to spend the same amount of time on housework.
  • Recomplicating effects: As technology improve, the processes become more complex. A lighting system that needs to be operated through an app, making it difficult for a visitor just to flip a switch.
  • Regenerating effects: Attempts to solve a problem end up creating additional risks. Pesticides can create superbugs that are resistant to harm.
  • Rearranging effects: When costs are transferred elsewhere, so risks shift and worsen. Vacuum cleaners can blow dust mite pellets into the air, making it easier to breathe in.
The quality of our decisions
The quality of our decisions

We all make decisions. However, few of us realize that the process we use to make decisions is more important than the analysis we put into the decision.

A McKinsey Quarterly survey pointed out that 60 percent of executives thought that bad decisions were as frequent as good decisions.

Analysis doesn't always lead to good decisions

When it comes to decisions, organizations rely on gathering data and analyzing the decision. People believe that analysis reduces biases, but most business decisions made this way turned out to be poor decisions.

Research shows that good analysis from managers who have good judgment won't necessarily produce good decisions.

Process over analysis in decision making

Analysis alone does not yield good decisions as the people who put it together have a subconscious bias and interest in a particular outcome.

Instead, a disciplined decision process involves guarding against decision-making biases by exploring and discussing major uncertainties or discussing contradictory viewpoints.