Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Book Review: Simplexity

Simplexity by Jeffrey Kluger promises to translate "newly evolving theory into a delightful theory of everything" which virtually guarantees failure. The "evolving new theory" is simplexity, a theory that posits complexity and simplicity are complementary. The "theory of everything" will apparently come later. It's not in this book.

Kluger's approach is to devote eleven chapters to questions such as "Why is the stock market so hard to predict?" and "Why do we worry about the wrong things?". But readers looking for something deeper than a light, fluffy discourse steeped in trivia will be disappointed. Each chapter is disjointed from the others, except for some vague hand-waving at how "complexity" is responsible for some puzzling behaviors.

This is not to say the book doesn't have its moments. Chapter 5 on "Why do people, mice and worlds die when they do?" is an interesting discussion of scaling problems and Klieber's mass to 3/4 power rule. Simplexity does entertain and is a great source of tableside trivia that should lead to some thought provoking conversations. However, readers looking for a solid introduction to complexity science should look elsewhere. I think this book is for people who want to read about "science" without actually reading Science. Other books in this shelf include "Blink" and "Freakonomics".

1 comment:

  1. I haven't read this, but it sounds like your comparison to "Freakonomics" (which I have) is dead on -- analyses so facile that on has to conclude that either the authors are geniuses that can see the simple solutions that nobody else can (as their publicists probably would say), or that the authors are just grossly oversimplifying things.