Is A Slavish Devotion to Simplicity and Easy Everything a Good Thing?

There are two things that have been circling around in my head the last few months –

1) This Quote from Graham Greene (or was it Orson Welles?) –

In Italy, for thirty years, under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder  and bloodshed. But they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the  Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, and they had five hundred  years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.


2) A Video of a Cat playing with an iPhone and the user absolutely impressed that the iPhone is so easy to use a cat can use it.

Here’s my question – If everything in life is super simple, when do we get to develop our cognitive abilities? What do we do when persistence and perseverance and patience are needed to accomplish something?

The Rising Cult of Simplicity and Political Correctness

There are two trends that are getting stronger and stronger –

  1. The first is a Slavish Devotion to the notion that EVERYTHING in life should be simple and easy.
  2. The second is the concept of Political Correctness in everything – no one should ever feel bad if they suck at something. We should just applaud them for sucking – at least they tried.

The combination results in a world where we’re painting a beautiful and intricate illusion –

  1. Everything in life is simple. If something is hard then it’s wrong and unfair – it should be made easy.
  2. You are entitled to whatever you want without effort on your part.
  3. Losing is OK. If you lose, then instead of focusing on how to win you should take refuge in the political correctness of ‘trying’ and ‘participating’.
  4. The difference between winning and losing isn’t huge. Everything in life shows us it’s huge – Just compare the profits of Apple and HTC or the profits of Google and Yahoo. Yet, we keep pretending that there’s little to no difference.
  5. It’s OK to be mediocre. This is the strangest thing – suddenly, you’re supposed to be happy if you’re mediocre in what you do.
  6. It’s OK to be unskilled and unaware of how things really work.
  7. If someone is bad at something you should still encourage them. That them just doing something badly is them winning.

Of course, it’s the extreme that is the problem. We aren’t saying – Things shouldn’t be easy. Just that there shouldn’t be an expectation built up that everything in life is easy and simple.

Simplicity where it is needed Versus Simplicity Everywhere

We aren’t saying – Simplicity is Bad OR Everything should be complex.

Quite the opposite – That things should be simple. However, we shouldn’t pretend that complex things are simple. We also shouldn’t pretend that everything can and should be made simple.

For example, take the concept of becoming good at something – It’s never simple.

If you want to create something beautiful, or you want to become very skilled at some skill, it takes an inordinate amount of time and effort.

If we create an intricate illusion that everything in life is simple, and if we let everyone exist in that fantasy world, we are going to have some very interesting results –

  1. People will be used to a lot of things being very simple.
  2. People will believe that everything should be simple.
  3. People won’t have enough experiences of overcoming adversity.
  4. People will get used to ‘easy everything’.
  5. People will run into an area they really love and start on learning real skills and creating valuable things. They will then hit an incredibly painful wall of ‘REAL LIFE’. That things are not simple. That sometimes you have to give everything and work really, really hard.

Here’s an article that talks about this exact thing – How Karate Kid ruined the world for everyone.

We are taking the concept of ‘things should be made simple when possible’ and trying to extend it to everything. That leaves us in a very confusing situation –

  1. We’d like to believe that there’s an Easy Button for everything.
  2. Everything and Everyone around us is busy convincing us that there really is an Easy Button for everything.
  3. Reality is shaking its head and hitting us with painful lessons that not everything is simple.

Is Life always simple? Is everything in Life easy?

Perhaps. Perhaps everything is simple and we just haven’t realized it yet. Perhaps we are the Kings & Queens of Wishful Thinking.

Are we now undergoing De-Evolution?

Perhaps this is how the Dinosaurs went extinct. They found their equivalent of the Easy Button. Grew too lazy and relaxed and used to endless plains filled with endless food. And then the ice ages or a meteor or some other ‘Real Life Event’ hit their intricate illusion of perfection and they just weren’t adaptable enough.

What if things get hard?

You have one kid who grew up fixing his own bike and working hard on a paper route. You have another kid who complains because the game on his iPod doesn’t have buttons in the right places.

Who’s better suited to survive?

If an iPhone or an iPad is so simple that a cat can use it, then is that the best use of our human brains? Is it good for us or is it the equivalent of exchanging vegetables for Diet Coke?

It’s not just Apple. Every technology company is focused on dumbing down things and making things simple. Microsoft, Google, Amazon – they are all playing the same game.

We’re experiencing a lot of very interesting things right now –

  1. More and more of a detachment from reality.
  2. More and more of a focus on instant and easy gratification.
  3. More and more of a shift towards ‘how we wish the world were’ instead of ‘how it really is’.
  4. More and more of a focus on – It should be super easy. You shouldn’t really have to work hard.
  5. More and more of an acceptance of giving up. Now it’s becoming OK to be to be mediocre, to try half-heartedly, to not give your best.

What else is this, if not a sort of De-Evolution?

Or is it what Evolution should be.

Basically, it’s very simple. There are two possibilities.

Possibility 1: This is EXACTLY how things should be. We are transitioning to a world where humans have just completely taken over the planet and need to do nothing except relax and throw virtual birds at virtual pigs. This is our state of permanent perfection.

Possibility 2: This is EXACTLY how we wish things were and it’s COMPLETELY UNREAL. That it’s a function of too much feeding of ‘fantasy’ and ‘how we wish things were’ and illusions and dreams.

Who wants to live in a world where things are hard? Where the winner gets the prize and the loser gets nothing? Where you have to practice for 10 years to learn to play the Guitar? Where it takes 12 years of 5 hrs a day practice to make it to a sports team? Where you have to go and fight real wars and risk your life for family and country?

So, when someone suggests a different world, it seems so compelling.

A world where you don’t really have to work hard in school to do well. No one is ever given bad grades. A world where there’s no homework. It puts kids with disinterested parents at a disadvantage. A world where college is a 4 year vacation your parents pay for. A world where your employer understands that you need a few years to get out of the college mindset. A world where working 25 to 30 hours a week seems the right thing. A world where you can’t call a spade a spade because at some deep level the spade wants to be a flying broom.

A world where everything is easy. A world where losers get better prizes than the winners. A world where being mediocre is prized above being excellent. A world where everything is like Guitar Hero and Call of Duty. A world where the only wars fought are in video games.

The latter (The Easy Button World) is infinitely more appealing than the former. It’s so appealing that our brains have a natural incentive to imagine it as our reality – regardless of what Reality is actually telling us.

Here’s the thing though –

What if after living for years and years in this beautiful world full of Easy Buttons and Everything Easy we were to discover a completely different world where things were hard? What would we do then?


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