Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘simple

Spoiler: One quick takeaway from this Build For Tomorrow podcast episode is that the simplest action you can take is to embrace complexity.

How did podcast host, Jason Feifer, arrive at that conclusion? 

He investigated “the complexity of simple things” by examining what seems like a simple hobby — knitting. In doing so, he uncovered that knitting:

  • likely originated in Africa in the 11th century
  • was a way for women to make a living
  • had guilds where only men could be master knitters
  • was feared by clergy because the sexes could mingle as they knit

What is the relevance of these factoids? They worked against the assumptions that knitting was: 

  • a white or Western thing
  • merely a simple hobby
  • mostly what women did
  • free from controversy

The narrative that linked these concepts was a black woman who became a champion for challenging the assumptions that fuelled sexism and racism. 

The same woman also fought against the idea that politics or other complexities should not be part of the conversations around knitting. Why? In the eyes of those simpletons, knitting was pure and simple.

The fact of the matter is that knitting — for that matter, just about anything else — is not simple.  Whether we are knitting or creating content, we bring our biases and perspectives with us. To ignore that is to wear blinders.

That is why Feifer suggested that the simplest thing we can do is to embrace complexity. It is a fact of life. To ignore that is to blind ourselves to reality.

One of the simplest forms of digital curation is teaching YouTube algorithms what videos to suggest.

Curating by informing YouTube algorithms.

I do this by marking videos that I have no wish to watch with “not interested” (see screenshot above). I also remove some videos from my watched history listing.

Sometimes I watch videos based on a suggestion or a whim, but I find them irrelevant. If I do not remove them from my watch history, I will get suggestions that are related to those videos the next time I refresh my YouTube feed.

These simple steps are an example of cooperating with relatively simple AI so that algorithms work with and for me. This is human-AI synergy.

I get it. Why do complex when you can go simple? I even created an image quote a while ago of someone else sharing the same sentiment.

Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity. -- Charles Mingus.

However, any “truth” of “principle“ is subject to context — what applies to one does not to another.

Simpler is not necessarily better. Simpler is likely not nuanced or one-size-fits-all. Case in point? Take how the linked article began:

Do straight-A students make good policymakers? … Some have leadership qualities and interpersonal skills and others are only good at studying and doing well in exams.

The simple approach is to boil a complex issue down to a false dichotomy. Dig just a bit deeper and you might rationalise that good EQ and good IQ are not mutually exclusive.

This is not a criticism of the article. It does good job in providing examples of oversimplifying problem-solving and overcomplicating policies.

My thoughts turn to Singapore schooling instead. Academic streaming is simpler than subject-based banding (SBB). Yet we are moving on to SBB despite how students, parents, and enrichment tuition centres might interfere with the policy implementation.

The adoption and implementation of SBB has downstream impact on what is now the O and N-level examinations. What combinations and levels of subjects students take as well as their examination results will determine where they go next. The polytechnics and junior colleges will likely have to adjust their admission criteria.

There is no simple approach when a problem is systemic. The pathways are not just winding, they are multiple and rhizomic. We can do our best to simplify, but we must embrace complexity and nuance if we are to move forward.

It is time for a curmudgeonly rant.

Some schools and parents here seem to have forgotten to teach kids the basis. I am not referring to the three Rs.

What happened to speaking in hushed tones when in a shared or public space?

We already live in cramped environments in Singapore. This alone is a good reason for not talking loudly during conversations over a meal or when packed on public transport. A lack of volume control reveals a lack of self-awareness and is inconsiderate to others who do not want to be audience to your conversations.

What happened to taking care of personal property?

People routinely leave their bags and computing devices in fast food joints or coffee places. The onus is not on others to look after your stuff; it is yours to care enough to leave someone behind or to take your things with you.

There is a reason why they are called valuables — someone had to work hard to make the money so that you have that personal property. Be grateful, not careless.

What happened to taking care of shared property?

There is no learning if kids know how to return food trays in school but do not consistently do this at a mall eatery. There is no care if you use a toilet properly at home but somehow lose your aim and decency in a public restroom.

And yes, this rant is fresh. I am drafting this at a Starbucks while surrounded by people who talk loudly and who have left a handbag and two computers at their tables. There is no toilet at this establishment, but there is one a stone’s throw away. Someone decided to pee in a sink.

Maybe I should create an option in my education consultancy called Human Decency 101. But here is the sad news: If you need it, it is probably too late.

My QQ series took a break last Sunday at it was Singapore’s 50th birthday. Whee!

It is back with this quote about creating simply.

As an adult, creating simply can harder than leaving things in their complex state.

When I had to write papers or book chapters, I felt the academic pressure to use big words or to be high-sounding. It was as if I had to live up to the saying: If you can’t convince them, confuse them.

But leaving things in their complex state or over-complicating things prevents people from accessing information or ideas. There is a purity to simplicity that all can relate to.

A problem with such a quote is that it might be misinterpreted to read as a call to oversimplify. Many teachers internalize this as a need to build from simple to complex (if at all), hence leading to the misuse of Bloom’s “taxonomy”. Other teachers might choose not to present an issue, problem, or task in its complexity. Doing this takes the authenticity out of learning.

No, I believe that the quote is about being creative enough to make something complex as simple as it needs to be, not more, so that it can be appreciated and unpackaged by the learner for learning in all its complex glory.

How I created this quote image: I used Haiku Deck and this was the originally CC-licensed image.


Usage policy

%d bloggers like this: