English Bias: Overcomplicating Things.

Just last night someone wrote about an electrical outage, “The apparatus on the feeder pole has an issue”. It annoyed the hell out of me because the only thing on that ‘feeder pole’ is a transformer with it’s fused connections. Why not just say it’s a transformer problem rather than making the issue more complex than it is? It confuses people, it doesn’t inform them, and it only gives the appearance of information to quell those with questions. They might as well have said, “You’re stupid, you won’t understand, so we can just say gobbly-gook to you and you’ll like it. If you ask about it, we’ll just give you more complicated bullshit.”

I take it as a symptom of bureaucracy, and before you say technologists do it too, technologists do have bureaucracy. I know. Some people consider me one, but I consider that a bit of an insult through pigeon-holing.

Bureaucracy confounds me. It likely confounds you to. It comes up a lot when I write (both here and here) because it just doesn’t make sense to me how we can make the simple so difficult.

I read something this morning that floored me. Hidden in this article, “Unnecessarily Complicated: Hidden Bias Influences Everyone – Even AI Chatbots“, I was a bit boggled to read the following:

…Language that deals with the idea of “improvement” is often associated more with enhancement, rather than reduction. This can prompt us to take actions that unnecessarily complicate the things we aim to enhance…

The research also finds that other verbs of change like ‘to change’, ‘to modify’, ‘to revise’ or ‘to enhance’ behave in a similar way, and if this linguistic addition bias is left unchecked, it can make things worse, rather than improve them. For example, improving by adding rather than subtracting can make bureaucracy become excessive...

I drilled down and found the study, “More is better: English Language Statistics Are Biased Toward Addition“. The authors were kind enough to make the paper available under a Creative Commons License, so you can actually read the paper which I did, and I’m fortunate that I understand enough of the math to understand how it was done. If you’re into math and can handle Bayesian probability and binomials, I encourage you to read the paper.

Suddenly, much of what I have seen and continue to see around me makes sense, and the science looks right to this layperson, so I’ll fold this into my brain though I had it banged into my head long ago, “Simplify, Simplify, Simplify”.

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