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Is Complexity Good?

Complexity is the amount of information it would take to fully describe something with accuracy. People tend to have a philosophical response to complexity whereby some embrace it as advanced, thrilling and intelligent while others embrace simplicity much the same way. The following is an overview of complexity related to the question of whether it is good or bad.


Minimalism is the philosophy that all complexity should be removed. This is related to principles such as form follows function that states that anything non-functional adds no value. Minimalism can also be associated with simple living and a sense of humility and environmental consciousness.

Ornament and Crime

Ornament and Crime was a 1910 essay and lecture by modernist architect Adolf Loos that equates decoration with primitive moral decline. This was an incredibly biased and mostly illogical essay and that basically suggests that supposedly primitive cultures are decorative and therefore decoration is primitive. Nonetheless, the essay made arguments that greatly influenced minimalist thought -- particularly the idea that decoration causes things to go out of fashion and is therefore wasteful.

Industrial Minimalism

Minimalism perfectly aligns to the needs of industrial firms to scale production to the masses and to reduce materials and costs in order to maximize profits. For example, if you make products with decorative designs, you will end up with excess inventory as unpopular styles sell less quickly.

Bleak Minimalism

Minimalism was pushed hard by industrial-era education and corporate mantras such that an entire generation of designers tended to assume it was a standard and unshakable principle. The world subsequently filled with white rooms, white boxes and unadorned concrete infrastructure.

Less is a Bore

Less is a bore is a criticism of minimalism that simply suggests it is boring, uninspired or that the culture surrounding it is bland and self-righteous.

More is Different

More is different is a challenge to minimalism that suggests that complexity can either have value or not and isn't inherently bad. For example, art that is something more than a single solid color may have some value somehow.

More is More

More is more is a reaction against minimalism that, like minimalism, is philosophical. More is more embraces complexity and seeks it out as found in aesthetics such as maximalism and new complexity.


Emergence is a process that isn't centrally planned and controlled but rather shaped by the forces of chaos and self-organization. For example, a city that is shaped by the individual choices of homeowners and businesses as opposed to standardized by a bureaucracy. Generally speaking, emergent processes are known to vastly outperform central planning. For example, a market economy versus a planned economy.

Essential Complexity

Essential complexity is the pragmatic approach to complexity that states that you add complexity to the point that it still adds value.


Elegance is the simplicity on the other side of complexity. Anyone can make things simple without any talent whatsoever. You can dig a hole in the ground and call it organic, sustainable, holistic architecture but this isn't function. Where simplicity has value is where it beats complexity -- this is elegance.

Decoration is Complexity

Decorating things is unnecessary to their function and is therefore needless complexity unless you somehow value that complexity for some aesthetic, cultural or traditional reason.

Culture is Complexity

Culture is the self-organization of groups to form common meaning based on shared experience. This overlaps in countless ways is far more complex than standardizing things such as having global or national rules for every aspect of life.

Individualism is Complexity

It would take more information to describe a society where everyone is strongly individualistic as compared to a society where everyone strongly conforms to some type of order.

Humans are Complex

The human brain is often cited as the most complex known object with estimates of the number of synapses in the brain in the 100s of trillions. With the capacity of our brain for complexity it would seem odd for us to dwell in simplicity. However, as noted above, forms of simplicity such as elegance are certainly advanced uses of the mind.


Entropy is the principle that isolated systems move towards disorder. This can be interpreted to mean that all things move towards greater complexity as disorder takes more information to document than order.

Aging Creates Complexity

Entropy can be interpreted as a process of aging whereby disorder tends to increase with time in all things. As things age they also become more complex as disorder takes much information to document. The Universe itself becomes more disordered as it ages and expands outwards such that complexity ever increases.


This is the complete list of articles we have written about complexity.
Abilene Paradox
Complex Things
Dark Data
Quality Of Life
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A definition of complexity with examples.

Things That Are Not Matter

A list of things that are not matter.

Systems Perspective

An overview of systems perspective with examples.

Complex Things

A list of complex things.

Systems Examples

An overview of systems with a list of examples.

Systems Thinking

A guide to systems thinking.

Examples of Problems

An overview of common types of problems.


The definition of context with examples.

Working Backwards

Full examples of working backwards.

Physical System

An overview of physical systems with examples.

Real World

An overview of the real world with examples.

Common Sense

An overview of common sense with examples.

Fluid Intelligence

An overview of fluid intelligence with examples.


A general, reusable solution to a commonly occurring problem.


The definition of self-organization with examples.
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