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Before we bash complexity too much, let’s first talk about its alternative – Simplicity. As discussed in a leading document regarding the issues of Simplicity and Complexity published in 1948 by Warren Weaver titled Science and Complexity, there are also “Problems of Simplicity” (Warren p.1).

Simply put, Simplicity, as discussed by Weaver, refers to an age prior to the discovery of multiple interacting variables, an age where each issue only concerned two variables.

For example, in the 18th Century, the medical procedure of bloodletting was still popular. Disease was caused by bad blood, so less blood was equal to less disease, and to the end of maximizing the beneficial effects of such, helpful tools such as the Lechstamp were created.

Because medical knowledge was Simple at the time, bloodletting was an adequate method to cure the most potent of ailments; obviously, by today’s complex understanding of medicine, this would be a major issue, as bloodletting is known to drain the patient of energy, leading to an even higher chance of infection and death. Hopefully never practiced by doctors in the 18th Century and earlier with malicious intent, their only sin was falling prey to the Problems of Simplicity.

Limited by their understanding, knowledge, and technology, looking back, one could make the argument against the popular saying “ignorance is bliss;” perhaps instead, we should be saying, “bliss is complex.”

Jack Potter is an Associate working to connect the dots at the Food and Drug Administration. He has traveled the world, learning at each step how to make complexity simpler.