Lately there have been at least two nodes (If it's not broken, don't fix it and Design Patterns Considered Harmful) where the basic notion could be reduced down to the ever familiar acronym KISS. Which in turn got me to thinking about the origins of the idea of simplicity as a shield from complexity, which in turn reminded me of William of Ockham. Sort of a connections thing. To explain a bit:
- “Keep it Simple Stupid”
- William of Ockham
- Frustra fit per plura quod potest fieri per pauciora or “It is futile to do with more what can be done with less”
While it is hard to avoid the KISS principle, not everyone has heard of brother Ockham, let alone his famous razor.
Briefly William of Ockham was a 14th century (c. 1285-c.1349) logician and Franciscan friar. Ockham was the village in the English county of Surrey where he was born. For those interested in alternate spellings, Occam is the latinized version of Ockham. One of the more influential philosophers of his time, his ideas (referred to as Occam's Razor) are still quoted today:
- “Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate.” which translates to “plurality should not be posited without necessity.”
- “non sunt multiplicanda entia praeter necessitatem.” or “entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.”
- “Quia frustra fit per plura quod potest fieri per pauciora.” “For it is pointless to do with more what can be done with less.”
More than 600 years later, he is still influential:
- What can be done with fewer [assumptions] is done in vain with more—Ernest A. Moody
- Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler—Albert Einstein
- The research worker, in his effort to express the fundamental laws of Nature in mathematical form should strive mainly for mathematical beauty. It often happens that the requirements of simplicity and beauty are the same, but where they clash the latter must take precedence—Paul Dirac
For those who want to read more, here are some URLs:
Some of you may wonder why I didn't list his most famous quote: “non sunt multiplicanda entia praeter necessitatem” or “entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.” Easiest answer is that I'm not entirely sure that he actually said it. I've run across at least one reference that suggests otherwise. I haven't been able to track it down so I don't know for certain. Any way I just managed to sneak it in as a note, so no problem!
Update: Fixed bracket typo.
"Never try to teach a pig to sing…it wastes your time and it annoys the pig."