Elegance Is a Heuristic Guide to Truth

It seems that the best explanations are often the most elegant. Sometimes it’s in the simplicity, sometimes it’s in the obviousness. Looking at some of the biggest discoveries in math and science (e.g. relativity, DNA, calculus, evolution, computing) and thinking, “how could it not have been so?”

It happens so often that it might be a useful heuristic for finding objective truth. If explanations require major contortions and gymnastics, it’s probably a sign it’s not objectively true.

From The Beginning of Infinity.

  • Alcohol Is Technology for Cooperation

    The paradox of alcohol consumption is that it’s bad for our health and costly to society yet continues to thrive. There is no evolutionary reason for humans to have evolved to enjoy the taste of alcohol (in fact certain Asian gene pools like mine have developed allergies to it). However, alcohol provides an extremely important benefit, down regulating the pre-frontal cortex and thereby improving cooperation.

  • Clarity Is One Number

    Making complicated things seem simple involves abstracting over reality in such a way that is clear and actionable. Often times, that means reducing things down to one number going up or down. People are drawn to (fixated even) clarity of a single number going up or down.

  • People Don’t Expect Much from Simple Ideas

    People tend to think impressive results must come from impressively complicated means and effort. We underestimate the power of simple ideas and overestimate complications.

  • Connected Work

    It used to be an anomaly, now it’s common place. It’s not remote work, it’s just work. We will surly laugh at ourselves in 20 years the same way we laugh at seeing people with big car phones in movies from the 80s—there are no car phones or house phones just a (cell) phone.

  • Enthusiastically Rehire

    A simple heuristic for whether or not to let someone go is to ask yourself, “Would you enthusiastically rehire this person?”