The Universal Tendency Toward Over-Complication

One description of entropy is a universal tendancy toward chaos. Building on that, I coined the term enhancetropy, the universal tendency to enhance and thereby over-complicate otherwise perfectly desirable and robust solutions.

Examples of Enhancetropy (no particular order)

  • Microsoft Office
  • iPhone "Live Photos"
  • Instagram
  • Electric Pencil Sharpeners
  • Christmas
  • Televisions in Gas Pumps
  • Website Advertising
  • Salutations > Emoticons > Emoji > Animoji
  • Product Line Extensions ("Fire-Roasted Hatch Chili Sriracha Nacho Chipotle Cheese...")
  • Patterned Yoga Tights
  • Programable Appliances
  • Connected Appliances
  • Shampoo Fragmentation ("for short hair, long hair, no hair")
  • Toothpaste Fragmentation ("for bad gums, bad breath, 'whitening'")

Applauding Sufficiency

No one ever won an award for sufficiency. But instead of rewarding the most capable, the invaluablist appreciates and honors the reliably good enough. Enhancing the "reliably good enough" is where developers complicate, fatten, and otherwise compromise otherwise fully-baked ideas.

Not For Luddites

An antipathy for enhancements should not be confused with an aversion to improvements. Product development is most certainly invaluable. But developers need to be cognizant of the concept of terminal goodness. Otherwise, at some point, enhancements lead to user confusion, unreliability, unfavorable economics and a general unwelcome contribution to unnecessary noise and distraction in our day-to-day functioning. The law of diminishing returns is visible everywhere.

$1.00 Solutions for $0.10 Problems

Enhancetropy also describes a cultural tendency to use overly-complex solutions for simple problems. Invaluable solutions balance problems with commensurate scale. Enhanced solutions, on the other hand, add complexity, cost, and often noise. Why use color when black and white will do? Why use X+1 when X will do?

Why Complicate Things:

Why use the latter when the former suffices:

  • AM/FM
  • Black and White/Color
  • Drawing/Photo
  • Photo/Video
  • Mono/Stereo
  • Static/Dynamic
  • 2WD/4WD
  • Unformatted Text/"Rich" Text
  • Screwdriver/Electric Screwdriver/Drill Driver
  • Wired/Wireless

There is always much to be said for more reliable, less complex, and less expensive solutions. Not to mention less distracting solutions; if everything around you is fabulous, nothing is.