Artificial complexity

15 January, 2021
Productivity; Self-improvement
If more information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs” – Derek Sivers

More knowledge sometimes leads to fewer results.

Artificial complexity is one reason for this. Artificial complexity is where we make topics more complex than needed.

Some things I have a tendency to overcomplicate include:

  1. Fitness training and strength gain
  2. Sleep
  3. Productivity
  4. Dieting and weight loss

There are several interesting reasons for artificial complexity:

  1. The health, fitness and sleep industries make billions of dollars by selling us complex solutions to simple problems. The market for sleep aids is on track to reach $76.7 billion dollars with the diffusion of sleep trackers, special pillows and mattresses, supplements, sound machines, cooling blankets, you name it. Having used the Oura Ring, Whoop Band, Apple Watch, ChilliPad and Dreem2 Headband, I sure am a prime customer.
  2. Overcomplicating things gives us a handy excuse for inaction. This perhaps derives from the fear or discomfort associated with taking action.
  3. Artificial complexity is a way to avoid cognitive dissonance. Our desire to not feel personally responsible causes us to seek alternative explanations. We’d rather think that we need some whiz-bang dieting approach than blame ourselves for the second bar of chocolate for the day.

To escape artificial complexity, the trick is to recognise when the problem is simple. Ask yourself if you are falling prey to any of the causes for artificial complexity mentioned above. Are you creating complexity as an excuse for inaction or to prevent cognitive dissonance? Does anyone profit from this being complex? Do you secretly know the simple solution?

Being aware of artificial complexity equips you to recognise when it arises, and seek out simple solutions to escape it when it does.

“Life is really simple but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius

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