So Simple We Cannot Yet Understand It

Here’s a quote from David Deutsch’s masterpiece The Beginning of Infinity on the relationship between complexity, simplicity, and our level of understanding:

The solution of the fine-tuning puzzle is going to be in terms of an explanation that will specifically explain what we observe.

It will be, as Wheeler put it, ‘an idea so simple… that… we will all say to each other, how could it have been otherwise?’

In other words, the problem has been not that the world is so complex that we cannot understand why it looks as it does, but it is that it is so simple that we cannot yet understand it. But this will be noticeable only with hindsight.

Things are simple, once you understand them.

The Dunning-Kruger effect shows how novices underestimate the complexity of a subject while also overestimating their understanding of it. But, as they progress and learn about it, things flip.

The more you learn, the more overwhelmed you get by all details and nuance. But that, too, is temporary.

Once you’ve put in the work and digested all the different parts of a subject, things become simple again. But there’s a different flavor to this newfound simplicity. It doesn’t make things look trivial. It inspires awe and appreciation.

Next time you find yourself overwhelmed by complexity, don’t let it discourage you. Remember, it’s only a function of your partial understanding. If you can level up your mental representations, you’ll get to the overarching simplicity.

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