Occam’s Razor (also spelled Occam’s Razor) cuts through complexity with no-nonsense style. The philosophical maxim “Numquam ponenda est pluralitas sine necessity”, written in the 14th century by the Franciscan monk William of Ockham, translates to “Numquam ponenda est pluralitas sine necessity”, written by the Franciscan monk William of Ockham in the 14th century, translates to “Numquam ponenda est pluralitas sine necessity”. In other words, all else being equal, simple is best.
Is this really true? Is the simplest explanation usually the best?
not exactly. Occam never said that complexity is inherently inferior to simplicity, nor did he declare that complex explanations are inherently wrong. Complex scientific questions often require complex answers, and this does not contradict Occam’s code. The principle only states that unnecessary complexity is, well, unnecessary.
Occam’s razor is about finding the simplest solution that works. Jonjo McFadden (Opens in a new tab)He is a professor at the University of Surrey in the UK and the author of the book “Life is Simple: How Occam’s Code Unlocked Science and Shaped the Universe (Opens in a new tab)(Basic Books, 2021), per Live Science in an email: “It never fails as long as you remember the imperative condition.”
Ockham was Not the first (Opens in a new tab) to enhance simplicity. Aristotle held that “the more limited, if adequate, is always better”, and Ptolemy considered it best to “explain phenomena by the simplest possible hypothesis”. About three centuries after the genesis of Ockham’s razor, Isaac Newton declared that “we must admit no other causes of natural things than are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.” About 200 years after that, Albert Einstein agreed that “everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler” (which is actually his simplification. original quote (Opens in a new tab)).
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When used correctly, Occam’s razor works. If two computer programs accomplish the same task, the program with less code will inevitably be more efficient. The simpler medical diagnosis is usually correct; Hospital interns are often taught to think of horses, not zebras, when they hear hoof beats. One of the effects of The second law of thermodynamics (turbulence increases for any automatic process) is that such processes always use the least possible energy.
“Copernicus came up with the heliocentric model of the solar system solely on the grounds that it was simpler,” McFadden said. “The existence of a single Higgs boson was the simplest solution to the equations of particle physics. And between these points there are a thousand scientific advances based on simplicity.”
However, when misused, Occam’s razor can become a blunt tool for overgeneralization. This principle does not mean, for example, that we blindly follow the simplest theory, whether it is true or false. “The simplest hypotheses are often very simple,” Elliot Super (Opens in a new tab)Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of the bookOccam’s Blades: A User’s Guide (Opens in a new tab) (Cambridge University Press, 2015), he told Live Science in an email. “Simplicity of a hypothesis One consideration is, among other things, relevant to assessing whether a hypothesis is valid.”
When it comes to data science, Occam’s code may cause more problems than it solves. In this case, “the simpler approach is usually wrong” Pedro Domingos (Opens in a new tab)Professor Emeritus of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle. When Domingos studied the possibility of applying Occam’s razor to machine learning in the early 2000s, he found that simpler (Opens in a new tab) Model (Opens in a new tab) It only beats complex if it is good at predicting new data.
“As modern machine learning has shown time and time again — in model ensembles, deep learning, etc. — usually the more complex approach is correct, and that’s not surprising; it’s always the phenomena we model that are more complex,” Domingos told Live Science in an email. The complexity of the models, and the closer to their true complexity, the more accurate the models.”
Still, Occam’s razor remains a useful tool for trimming the fat from bulky assumptions, at least in our everyday lives. “The universe is a complex place, but sometimes it is made more complex by inventing complex explanations that fit a particular ideology, philosophy or political persuasion,” said McFadden. “Occam’s Razor tells you to forget all of those.”