On Simplicity

I just watched a YouTube video on P vs. NP and the computational complexity zoo inspired by the Complexity Zoo Wiki. Despite the title, the video ended with a couple of quotes about simplicity. The first was Attributed to Frederic Chopin:

Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.


The second one was from “Some of the Dharma” by Jack Kerouac. It was actually paraphrased from the original:

Soon I’ll find the right words, they’ll be very simple.

I didn’t know either of these before but they reminded me of a couple of favourites. One from Antoine de Saint-Exupery, French writer, poet, aristocrat and pioneering aviator:

A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

And finally one which is widely attributed to Einstein:

A scientific theory should be as simple as possible, but no simpler.

(According to Did Einstein Really Say That? there is no evidence that he did – it may have originated as a compressed version of something he said in a 1933 lecture).

So there you have it, four people from different walks of life, from literature science and music, all saying essentially the same thing.

I guess I should add something about the KISS Principle, an acronym reportedly coined by Kelly Johnson, lead engineer at Lockheed Skunkworks, who transcribed it as “Keep it simple stupid”.

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