Watch out for the simplest answer

Today I read a critique of an industry (economists) who have a tendency toward using Occam’s Razor as explanation for everything, from Tyler Cowan. “If anyone is trying to tell you it’s not complicated, be very, very suspicious. The inclination of economists is Occam’s razor. That’s a harmful tendency in today’s world.”

I’ve read or listened to 5 different people saying related things over the past 24 hours.


The world is growing so complicated that much of the decision-making that we used to pay people a lot of money to do will now be made the responsibility of machines.

Marketing agencies, for example, used to use creative services as a loss leader and make their money from planning and executing ad buys in media — but that’s largely automated now. Now agencies charge for their deep expertise in specific subjects, instead, says Drew Mclellan of the Agency Management Institute.

That’s consistent with a development that one leading Machine Learning entrepreneur (Ben Vigoda) advocates for as well: to leave Big Data to the machines and move humans toward large scale collaboration on the creation of Big Models, instead.

Even design and refinement of those models will be made challenging by an environment moving towards autonomous machines that make their own decisions, based on rules that humans can revise on the fly at best. That according to the US Army’s vision of machine-human collaboration on the battle field of 2050.

That work for humans may be even further reduced by the trend toward deep learning and genetic algorithms, which can rapidly perform millions of experiments and figure out the most effective way to do things, with little to no cost to being wrong almost every time until it gets it right.

So, complexity. Watch out for the simplest answer to questions, because that’s not the direction the world seems to be moving in.

Hat tip to one of the most influential people online in big data, Hillary Mason, whose “best books and links of 2015” was the source for a number of these links!