This week, we discuss oversimplification, why it is dangerous, and how to avoid it.
Table of Contents
- What Is Oversimplification?
- An Example Of Oversimplification
- How To Avoid Oversimplifying Complex Issues
- There Are No Benefits To Oversimplifying Life
What Is Oversimplification?
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius
Oversimplification is reducing complexity so severely that a distorted impression is given.
Reducing complexity loses the nuances of an issue. When subtlety is lost, people arrogantly believe they can resolve a layered issue with simple “solutions.” Unfortunately, simple “solutions” fail to tackle the layers within a complex issue. Thus, the layered issue is not resolved.
People oversimplify issues to avoid humility. When we are humble, we avoid simplified “solutions” meant to relieve us of individual responsibility. Also, humility ensures we are patient and empathetic to the layers of a problem.
An Example Of The Oversimplification Fallacy
Let’s take income inequality.
Income inequality is a net negative as the rich become richer, and the poor become poorer. The oversimplified version blames corporations. Corporations rig the system with lobbying efforts, tax breaks, and other methods to give them an edge in society. Fair enough.
But the government complies. Government officials accept bribes and corrupt lobbying proposals. Also, the government has complete control over money through printing, as well as a standing army and the ability to write laws. No corporation can claim any of these awesome powers.
Lastly, Americans buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have. This overconsumption grows the wealth of corporations while preventing Americans from saving and investing.
The Dangers of Oversimplifying Complex Issues
“Simplicity is a great virtue but it requires hard work to achieve it and education to appreciate it. And to make matters worse: complexity sells better.” – Edsger Wybe Dijkstra
I described how individual choice, governmental irresponsibility, and corporate greed creates income inequality. Yet collectivists, such as socialists, will oversimplify income inequality by declaring, “capitalism is bad.” This basic thinking removes the web of incentives, history, and decisions.
And that’s the problem with oversimplification. All societal and personal problems are nuanced and multi-layered. Socialists have missed the layers of the issue by providing a simple “solution” that will fail to solve anything.
How To Avoid Oversimplifying Complex Issues
Now, we will discuss how you can stop oversimplifying large and local issues. By avoiding oversimplification, you can solve personal problems and productively contribute to social change.
Here are the best techniques to help you avoid oversimplification:
- Study history and philosophy
- Admit your ignorance and your bias
- Never seek loud, stupid voices
1. Study History and Philosophy To Humble Yourself And Earn Wisdom
This humility can cut through your desire for oversimplification. For example, income inequality has existed throughout time, whether in monarchy or socialism. This historical reality should give us pause. Maybe income inequality, like other social issues, isn’t solved with childish aphorisms and one-sided “solutions.” History shows income inequality lies in our economic systems, our government, and individual actions. In other words, the issue is layered.
Ancestral wisdom was earned through trial and blood. When listened to, this wisdom gives us a deeper appreciation for humanity’s struggles for a better life. We are humbled. Through this humility, we respect the complexities we have to face.
2. Admit your ignorance and your biases, so You’re Less Arrogant
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” – E.F. Schumacher
Simple solutions do not challenge our ignorance or confront our biases. Ignorance requires no effort, thinking, or humility. Biases provide emotional highs when we give them credibility. Both are addictive to weak individuals.
For example, most people do not know how the Fed and inflation add to income inequality. Therefore, they cannot provide an effective solution to income inequality because they don’t fully understand all the contributing factors.
Also, most people are biased against successful and hardworking individuals. Thus, they rally against capitalism, an economic system that rewards virtue. Blaming income inequality on capitalism allows weak individuals to attack their enemies. This attacking pleases weak individuals but does not produce an effective solution.
As individualists, we should never allow ignorance and biases to undermine our ability to reason. Therefore, you should check your emotions. Also, you should consider ALL the factors of societal issues, such as government abuse, corporate power, and individual action.
Lastly, avoid oversimplifying issues to cover your insecurities. If you are struggling with a personal issue, such as losing weight, then avoid blaming society for your health. Your weight is created by a web of actions, incentives, trauma, and lack of discipline. Blaming society for “fat-shaming” only covers your insecurities while failing to help you lose weight.
3. Never seek loud, stupid voices
For example, loud voices offer a simple solution to income inequality: “capitalism is bad, and we have to end/control it.” This oversimplified “solution” ignores individual responsible and government involvement. Weak individuals do not want to believe they are at fault for their life’s problems. Thus, they are pleased to blame outside factors for their overconsumption. Also, weak individuals love the handouts provided by the government. They are happy to absolve their free ride of any blame for income inequality.
We have, however, an ungodly amount of regulations, tariffs, and taxes. Conducting business in the modern world is legally impossible without the government’s involvement and sanction. Thus, the state apparatus enables income inequality.
Loud, stupid voices cannot define the problem nor can grasp the solution. They offer fog. This fog may please the worst aspects of yourself, but you must reject this siren’s call.
Problems are complex. To solve complex issues, you must offer the best of yourself. Also, you must remain honest, even if honesty disrupts your comfort.
There Are No Benefits To Oversimplifying Life
“Your subconscious is like a computer—more complex a computer than men can build—and its main function is the integration of your ideas. Who programs it? Your conscious mind. If you default, if you don’t reach any firm convictions, your subconscious is programmed by chance—and you deliver yourself into the power of ideas you do not know you have accepted. But one way or the other, your computer gives you print-outs, daily and hourly, in the form of emotions—which are lightning-like estimates of the things around you, calculated according to your values. If you programmed your computer by conscious thinking, you know the nature of your values and emotions. If you didn’t, you don’t.” – Ayn Rand
Oversimplification means misidentifying a problem before shouting nonsensical solutions.
- What’s a personal issue you struggle to resolve? Losing weight? Controlling your emotions? What are the different layers involved in this problem? How can you overcome these different layers?
- Who do you listen to when gathering your news? Why do you listen to this organization? Do you believe they oversimplify certain issues?
- What are you biased against? How can you control your biases?
- What’s the last book you read? What wisdom did it provide to you? How did this book reveal the struggles of humanity to you?
Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.