07 March 2007

Hanlon's Razor

Occam's razor is the well-known adage that "entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem."

In English, that's: entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity. It is often paraphrased as "All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the best one."

But to piggy-back on yesterday's post about drama, I recently came across something called Hanlon's Razor, which goes something like this:

Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

I suspect that a fair amount of the over-drama in our lives is because we attribute peoples actions to malice instead of to stupidity... not because we're trying to be mean ourselves. Just because, well, we're stupid that way. Life is funny that way.

A related maxim combining Hanlon's Razor and Clarke's Third Law was coined in 2002 by Vernon Schryver in a discussion on the newsgroup news.admin.net-abuse.email: "[Any] sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice." (a take-off of Arthur Clarke's statement that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic")

Gotta laugh about that...

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