Occam's Razor

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Occam said that when you have two competing hypothesis, one should always choose the one with the fewest assumptions.

Today, then, when Facebook and other social media sites exploded with footage of a UFO over the protests in Brazil, we are confronted with (at least) two competing theories:

  1. The object was a UFO.
  2. The object was a surveillance drone. 

Occam would tell us that the assumption that aliens exists is too great and it would be more rational to go with other theory, and this is especially true when we consider the evidence; Governments do sometimes survey their people but aliens have never landed.

This UFO story did get me thinking because during times of organisational change, which I am often right in the middle of, suspicions run high. Those at the top suppose a grass-roots conspiracy. Those at the bottom suspect a despotic leader. Occam would say, there is no great conspiracy, nor is there a despot, since the evidence doesn’t point to either. Rather, Occam would tell us that change is continually frustrated by foot-dragging, quiet sabotage, communications failures and of course stupidity.* **

In my experience of change, this is mainly right.

* I am shamelessly paraphrasing MacGregor Burns here, from his book, Leadership.

** I point no fingers here, I am not immune to bouts of stupidity.


One thought on “Occam's Razor

  1. Wouter Lagerweij

    Myself, I subscribe to Hanlon's razor (though I know it from Heinlein's books):

    "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

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