On Simplicity

ANIL MITRA © November 2013—August 2014

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The following is just a beginning of some thoughts.

Does Complexity limit Knowledge?

At the limit of our ability, knowledge becomes more complex. Perhaps we are seeing this in the physics and mathematics of the twenty first century. Perhaps here we are reaching human limits—perhaps not. Perhaps we are approaching an impasse. One way out would be to find simple representations (a) at a para-level (b) at a meta-level. The latter seems more likely than the former but that may be the result of ‘blindness’—e.g. not being adapted to some realms of the world.

Simplicity of Presentation

A powerful discipline such as the mechanics of Newton or its modern enhancements may be presented at different levels of depth. At the lowest level the ideas can be presented for popular reading. Presentation at this level gives a reader appreciation but does not put the reader in a position to use the powers of the discipline.

To present a discipline at any depth effective communication is enhanced by competence in understanding and communication. However, communication at any significant level of depth—a level that imparts power—also requires an irreducible minimum of effort from the learner. Thus the statement ‘when a discipline is understood it can be explained simply’ is a half truth. It conceals the fact that real understanding requires effort from the learner.