on Occam’s Razor

by davidnielsen

It strikes me that there’s a general need to revise ones logic skills from time to time so to ensure they are in the best of shapes so I figured I’d introduce the basic concept of Occam’s razor:

“Entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity.”

Also known as the law of parsimony, what we strive for is the simplest theory that explains all the observations. This is often boiled down to “All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the best one”.

Now let’s do an example:

Of the two explanation, which does best explains why Fedora doesn’t include patented codec support even in countries what don’t currently acknowledge software patents.

a) The issue has been debated to death and no solution allows us to do this for legal reasons.

b) Fedora is a reigme of neo-nazis who are constantly looking for new and better ways to harm it’s users.

What is Fedora’ interest in constantly getting bad reviews for not doing this? If there was a legal way to do this don’t people think we’d have bend over backwards to aid our users get this, today, crucial bit of functionality by default? It would serve our users, who we love, and it would serve us.

Naturally it’s prudent to ensure that one does not reduce the solution below the required complexity for a given problem. The solution needs to be sufficient for all observations to be explained by it. This concept is known as the law against miserliness:

“Entities must not be reduced to the point of inadequacy”

Between these two simple concepts we should be able to approximate a good solution to any given problem.