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Simplexity Paperback – Import, April 17, 2008

39 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray Publishers Ltd; First edition & printing in this form edition (April 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719568137
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719568138
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,110,357 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Ken Palmer on July 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book starts with a bang, and contains occasional flashes of brilliancy. The cover artwork, title, and premise are very appealing. Unfortunately this book doesn't live up to it's parenthetical subtitle of "how complex things can be made simple."

I picked this up at an airport for a good cross-country airplane read. Initially I was very happy with this purchase.

The first two chapters are very interesting, and propose some brilliant insights into human behavior. These insights, like all of the interesting facts in this book, are disappointingly unsupported by any bibliography or source references. Hopefully the publisher will consider adding a bibliography when the edition goes into paperback.

This book fizzles out around chapter 4. There are a few interesting tidbits of information in the sports-centric 6th chapter. But it never seems to pick up the momentum created in the first two chapters.

As a senior software developer I was keenly interested in reading chapter 9, which is technology centered. It's titled "Why are your cell phone and camera so absurdly complicated? Confused by Flexibility." This is where I expected Mr. Kluger to shine on the book's subtitle "How Complex Things Can Be Made Simple." In that respect this chapter was a complete let-down.

The chapter provides an overview of the development of TVs, cell phones, and software, with dips into washing machines and other gadgets. Ultimately it boils down to a list of complaints about the complexity in technology, and a suggestion that simplification will eventually come as a result of market forces.

My expectation was that some insights would be offered on HOW to make the technology simpler.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Jijnasu Forever VINE VOICE on June 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In a well-narrated and thought provoking book, Kluger raises some interesting questions about how we define or tend to view and experience complexity. Organized as a series of (essentially independent) 11 or so chapters, each one focuses on one aspect - herd mentality, instincts, equilibrium, payoffs, scale, objective, fear, silence, flexibility, false targets, and loveliness. A motivating title in the form of a paradox starts the discussion in each chapter. The titles (and the short sub title) alone are interesting enough to provoke one's imagination. The chapters that deal with instincts (analogy of fluid dynamics in traffic management and evacuation procedures) and scale (discussion on Kleiber's observations on animal mass, energy consumption and life spans) stood out the most.

Despite all the interesting discussions, the chapters are so autonomous, a common thread leading to some substantial conclusions is not apparent. Moreover, it is disappointing to see that the author does not provide a detailed citation list or a reading list for the more curious reader, despite the references to work done at Santa Fe Institute and some books. The chapters do full justice to the main title, though the sub-question in the parentheses of the title doesn't get the attention it deserves..

Overall, an entertaining book that introduces the reader to a very interesting research domain.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Djembedrummer on September 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
There are many agreements that I would have with other reviewers who found the book appealing enough to open its cover, but not deeply satisfying - indeed, slipping into the disappointing range the further along I read. I thought that it would reveal something to chew on, to elucidate complexity and simplicity and the relationship of the two, but other than its first chapter with its discussion of a complexity arc, it had no more to add than diluted observations of what happens in complex and non-complex settings. Interesting perhaps, especially in the context of each chapter's probing questions, but basically not much more than storytelling of contrarian conditions (ie, why did the unbeatable team get beat by the pushover). Nice antidotes, but I felt a sportswriter would reveal more and in doing so, be more entertaining to read.

It did succeed, however, in one major area: it got me to buy the book. The cover and table of contents, as Amazon allows, were intriguing enough to order it. It just didn't have the right stuff of Apollo 13 (the author's other noteworthy book).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By K. Lueders on September 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Based on the second half of the sub-title (How Complex Things Can Be Made Simple), I was expecting a "how to" approach for finding the underlying simplicity in apparently complex environments. However, the book was more of a collection of articles that "report the news" versus a "how to" approach for practical application. "Freakonomics [Revised and Expanded]: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything" by Levitt & Dubner has a similar flow, but did a much better job of providing insights on the analytics and approaches used to substantiate the causal relationships they assert.

I did find the book enjoyable from an philosophical/entertainment point of view. If you agree with Claude Levi-Strauss' that, "The wise man doesn't give the right answers, he poses the right questions," then you should read the book. In my opinion the real value of the book is that it may open your mind to asking better questions about the nature of complex environments. I specifically enjoyed the chapter on Cell Phone/Camera complexity and believe it's a must read for any manager of software engineers. In addition, I have high hopes that the references to other books will provide the pragmatic material I'm seeking.

In summary, if your are looking for a thought provoking piece on the nature of simplicity and complexity you will enjoy the book, but if you are tasked with making complex environments simple and looking for guidance the book won't further your journey.
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