Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Definition of Complexity

I notice that I tend to view things differently than a lot of people -- in particular, I seem to be a real computer nerd when it comes to whether or not something is complex. I'm always giving some idea that to me seems simple and everybody says "that's way too complex, such complex things rarely work", etc. And they are right (about the lack of practicality).

OTOH, they will come up with some idea that may or may not be any more practical than what I would come up with (generally it won't work either -- I'm no better than anyone else, but I'm not that much worse either), but which they claim is very simple. But to me, such ideas seem way too complicated.

I guess I do need to develop a better intuition about what people, especially those who've been good at coming up with good ideas, consider "simple" vs. "complex", but I fail to see how my understanding is so un-intuitive to others. My working definition of "complexity" is "how many lines of code will it take to impliment this idea in an appropriate computer language" ... I fail to see how there really could be any other definition of how simple or un-simple ("complexity" has other uses in Comp. Sci., e.g. run-time and space complexity ... ) a method for approaching a task is than how long it takes to explain it in a fully flushed out manner (e.g. how you'd have to explain it to your overly left-brained spouse in order for him/her to "get it", cf. my mom having to explain something to my dad). Something that human of even average intelligence can "grasp" easily but requires some intelligence to understand its description is hardly "simple" (at least until there is a perfect AI language) and something that, even if the math or philosophy behind it is something you cannot grasp unless you've taken a sufficient number of grad courses, takes 10 lines of code to impliment is hardly complex, even if you don't fully grasp intuitively why or how it works.

What am I missing? Is it just a language issue conflating the notion of complexity with intuitiveness?

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