Occam's RAZR: simplicity reconsidered

(above, William of Occam: looks a little severe, no? The sign of a Reductionist.)


"Simplify, simplify, simplify" is a maxim, this one from Thoreau, which I hold close to myself at all times. It's not always the easiest, nor forthright path to choose; sometimes what looks more simple on the face of it ends up requiring more committment or involving more complexity than first thought; other times the more circuitous means result in a simpler end. Simply a part of our complicated, interesting times and minds. What I do believe, however, is that the more examined and unencumbered life allows us to consider and reconsider, over and over again, what the distance is between our beliefs and our actions; the gap between what our ideals are and where our present priorities actually show through.

For years, I've had a love-hate (mostly hate) relationship with emerging technologies. I am interested when something comes on the market as a device which could really, in its uncomplicated and sometimes theoretical form, actually live up to much of that technology's claims to "simplify our lives." Usually, though, my interest turns to disgust and disdain when these technologies quickly lapse into fads, bejewelled gew-gaws and status symbols, and cheap knockoffs which eventually claim to make easy that which the previous, older technology already did just as well.

And usually, I thought I was right.

But recently, I've been considering my needs to keep connected with my wife; my family; and keep up my church committments, all which require I keep in touch with many different people, at sometimes unpredictable times of day. Which is to say, I often had to put off phone calls because I didn't want to bother the co-worker next to me; I'd wait until lunch, and then another co-worker would come back early; I had to make a private call, and didn't have change for the pay phone; or a pay phone was nowhere in sight, when I needed to call home for something.
All the while, I "soldiered" on with my resolve that I'd never give in. I still tried to strike a balance between putting my aversion to faddish technology over my desire to reach out and help people, which should be my primary concern.

But, with time, I realized I had been increasingly complicating my life to make necessary phone calls, and it was taking up valuable time to do so, when the most obvious solution, which Vicki had long been suggesting to me, was looking much more simple.

So, I'm trying it...what did William of Occam say? Don't overcomplicate the solution? If there is an obvious, simple solution that works, don't overcomplicate it; go the simpler route. And that's what I'm trying to do; outside of technology or not. Technology is almost besides the point at this juncture. Hey; the stick that certain birds poke into a tree to get the insects to come out is technology. Remember screwdrivers?

Perhaps I've given in...I'm not sure yet. But I believe part of my stubbornness stems from being in the blood lines of folks who consistently stood firm in the way of new technologies, questioning harshly their neccessity in what was an already simple, wholesome lifestyle, before they decided to accept or reject.

And trust me; if the wheel of simplicity turns the other direction some day...I will dispense with this solution, and follow Thoreau and William of Occam down a different path...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam's_razor

Douglas Witmer  – (Thursday, 02 November, 2006)  

...dude, I'll tell you about this TOTALLY AWESOME site where you can download HUGE AMOUNTS of the latest RINGTONES!!!!!!!!!!!! P-Diddy, Alicia Keyes, you name it..."Who let the dogs out?"...yeah, they have it. Plus, watch your favorite YouTube videos in broadband quality right on your phone with the push of a button. Did I say AWESOME? (yes, I did.....but IT'S TRUE!)

Seriously, you know how I was telling you some months ago that I wanted to throw away my phone? For a while I put on an outgoing message that told people a time when I would be checking messages. Then I screened calls heavily and let a lot of people leave messages. My amount of incoming calls reduced dramatically.

I'm also way more choosey now about giving out my mobile number.

My calls are really manageable these days.

See you tomorrow night maybe?

GIERSCHICK  – (Thursday, 02 November, 2006)  

Very funny...who let the jokesters out...hoo, hoo...

We will see you tomorrow night; hopefully on the earlier side, but not sure...look for us at about 7 at the latest.

GIERSCHICK  – (Thursday, 02 November, 2006)  

BTW, if you don't see us Friday night, our kitchen blew up because I didn't hook up the stove gas line right, tonight...we're gettin' a new stove! I like being a homeowner.

Jason A. Miller  – (Thursday, 02 November, 2006)  

My attempts at simplicity sometimes conflict. I broke down and we got a cell phone this summer because I also made the choice to buy a reliable (old) Mercedes diesel that could run on vegetable oil. Owning a simple car that I am able to work on also means breaking down in Park City, KS, (home of the BTK serial killer) at 11 o'clock at night. Having a cell phone at that moment was helpful (even considering that BTK is now in prison--in El Dorado).

Cell phones still make me mad, though. The real reason I finally gave in is because we decided to get a phone on Mel's family's plan, so we pay only $10 per month instead of the regular arm and a half. I still hate that they have terrible sound quality, they make my ear hurt, people use them to talk at the stupidest possible times, they have no decent-sounding rings, they get hot if you talk very long, and of course they're giving me brain cancer.

I do love my iPod though. I wonder what you think about them?

Dayton  – (Friday, 03 November, 2006)  

Look no further than the new MOTOkrzr from Motorola... Phone, mp3 player, GPS tracking device. Talk anytime, block out the entire world of sounds at anytime, and know where you are, relative to where everything else is - and without the aid of actually hearing what where you are sounds like, or the restriction of having to communicate with those in your proximity - at anytime.

Can I get your number?

the fourth samba  – (Saturday, 04 November, 2006)  

Lynne and I some years back went with a couple of friends to see "Winged Migration" at some theatre. 5 minutes into the film I realized after scoping the crowd that we all had been watching creation through a movie screen. I was dumfounded! Surely we couldn't fly next to those geese without planes or even virtually without this screen, but I was amazed that some of us probably had no interest in these birds had it not been for the fact that they had been captured on tape.

Ipod's though are one of the greatest inventions ever made however. I carry about half of my records in this little black capsule wherever I go. Before it, our car looked like Lynne and I robbed a record store and were on the run for months. Pure genius.

Cell phones though makes me wanna to practice clay pigeon shoooting (and I can't stand guns)...

the fourth samba  – (Saturday, 04 November, 2006)  

"wanna to" = "want to" or "wanna" in the portuguese accent.

the fourth samba  – (Saturday, 04 November, 2006)  

Sorry again, Tim, but I just realized that my latest post has two guys making music from their "laptops" and a dj with some "turntables".

alicia  – (Monday, 06 November, 2006)  

I just have to tell you that I love your title...Occam's RAZR. Perfect.
And that I never thought that the person who swore he would never get a regular phone would ever give in and get a cell phone. :-)

GIERSCHICK  – (Tuesday, 07 November, 2006)  

Wow, look at all the comments...
Jason, I do have more respect for the iPod; some of the reasons I don't have one is that a) Vicki already has one, b) I have a general dislike of foreign plastic objects being crammed into my ears, so that limits when I'd be able to listen to it, and c) they're expensive, and I don't have the tenacity to go through what you did to get one. I might say more on this later...
Alicia, yes, it's true; the premier prognosticator against all forms of artificial communication devices has acquiesced...but, all in the name of simplification, and honoring my wife...and so far I've only called her and a neighbor on it. Like I said, though, I will dispense with it if it starts usurping my time, and reversing its simplification balance.
Rubens...turntables, my friend, are an entirely different proposition...I own two myself. One I bought for eight dollars at a yard sale, the other I found in the trash. I have an unnatural bias towards anything I find in the trash :-)
Douglas...excellent exhibit: I'll get you and Dayton my ## in due time...
BTW, if anyone can find a better picture of William of Occam, let me know...

the fourth samba  – (Wednesday, 08 November, 2006)  

Turntables and a mixer that uses pre recorded music to "make" other music, I think falls into this discourse though. Don't you think?!

Crystal  – (Thursday, 09 November, 2006)  

I'm there too. At school, I could barely stand it when my friends answered their cell phones ANY AND EVERY TIME someone called, and I swore that either I'd never have one or if I did, I wouldn't be nearly as attached to it as they were. Now I do have one since my brother left his here, and I rely on it to talk to good friends in a time when I'm fairly lonely; however, I am a cell phone etiquette nazi and if I cannot give the person on the other line my full attention, I refuse to answer it. I have a love-hate relationship with it now. Angela named it Jenkins. He does make my life considerably easier and fuller, but I am determined that Jenkins will always be my servant (sort of like the polite butler his name implies) and never my master.

GIERSCHICK  – (Friday, 10 November, 2006)  

Thanks, Crystal, for the "servant/master" analogy; it's perfect. I'll be using it. I'd be interested to hear how that balance pans out for you...when does it cross the line between serving you and getting you to serve IT.
How does the name Cuthbert sound for my "personal assistant"? Or "my man" as they say in British film.

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