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Simplexity: Why Simple Things Become Complex (and How Complex Things Can Be Made Simple)

3.22  ·  Rating Details ·  526 Ratings  ·  98 Reviews
Why are the instruction manuals for cell phones incomprehensible?
Why is a truck driver's job as hard as a CEO's?
How can 10 percent of every medical dollar cure 90 percent of the world's disease?
Why do bad teams win so many games? Complexity, as any scientist will tell you, is a slippery idea. Things that seem complicated can be astoundingly simple; things that seem simp
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 1st 2008 by Hachette Books (first published January 1st 2007)
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Sep 28, 2008 Audrey rated it did not like it
God knows why I even thought I would like this book. I probably picked it up for Marc, actually. I got about 30 pages into it and realized that I did not give a rat's ass about anything I had read so far.....ugh. So I put it down and moved on.
Jul 03, 2008 Tripp rated it it was ok
In the late 80s, James Gleick wrote Chaos: Making A New Science, an entertaining book that described the rise of the study of chaos. The book also helped popularize fractals. I recall going to an early 90s Lollapalooza where a fellow attendee pointed to a fractal t-shirt and said "woah, chaos theory." In Simplexity, Time science writer Jeffrey Kluger aims to repeat Gleick's success and detail the rise of a new line of inquiry that explores the inter-relationship between simplicity and ...more
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
Interesting concept, lackluster execution. You're probably better off reading Fooled by Randomness and Freakonomics if this sounds interesting. (And if it does, you probably already have.) The theme is poorly articulated and the author jumps from topic to topic, without making the connections clear. There are numerous typos that should have been caught by the spell-checker.
Aug 29, 2008 Cris rated it did not like it
Composed of 11 chapters each chapter tackled the complexity of a specific situation. For example, chapter 8 was called, "Why is a baby the best linguist in any room?" and considered the complexities involved in learning language. Overall the book wasn't very cohesive with each chapter standing almost alone.
Sep 29, 2016 May rated it really liked it
This book gets 4 stars because it is entertaining, informative, and brief enough to not be laborious. If you like books that deal with a conceptual idea and then provides many examples so that you can have stuff to talk about afterwards, this should fit the bill. Is it the best in the genre, no. But is it not bad, and fairly interesting. Yes.

It did not get 5 stars, because it is not the sort of book that all lovers of this genre will enjoy, namely because of the book's structure and the wording
Oct 06, 2015 Thom rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This book takes a really good idea, describes it and analyzes it, then applies it to a too-wide range of topics. In some it isn't mentioned at all. In this way, a book which could be comparable to Gleick's Chaos or The Black Swan ends up going astray.

The really good idea is graphing complexity as an arc, with low complexity for highly ordered and completely chaotic systems, and high complexity in between. This idea comes from the Santa Fe Institute, and turns out to be really interesting when co
Dec 31, 2008 Todd rated it liked it
So it turns out that lots of stuff in the world is simple, but also complex. Stock market - simple but complex. Personal biases - simple but complex. Sports - simple but complex. Technology - simple but complex. You get the idea. Now, I don't mean to sound condescending but Kluger's book is little more than a collection of essays with neat little tidbits here and there. There's an attempt to string the essays together using the idea of simplexity but it's a stretch and ends up reading like ...more
Aug 29, 2015 Neil rated it liked it
Frankly I was hoping for more from this one. Interesting? Yes. Compelling? No. A single idea repeated in every chapter.
Aug 04, 2008 Martin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The ideas presented are good enough but it is let down by poor writing
Steven Peterson
Mar 07, 2010 Steven Peterson rated it liked it
Early on, author Jeffrey Kluger notes the difficulty of pinning down what we mean by simplicity and complexity (Page 15): “Trying to distill all of this down to a working definition of just what simplicity is and just what complexity is has always been difficult.” One approach—pure chaos and pure robustness at ends of a continuum. As one observer notes (Page 29): “It’s the region between order and disorder that gives you complexity, not the order and disorder at the ends.” That said, we still ...more
Pam ☼Because Someone Must Be a Thorn☼ Tee
Take a pencil. On one scale it is a very simple thing. The youngest of children can use it and by function it can easily be replaced by a pen, paint, chalk or even charcoal from the grill. And yet, on another scale the pencil is a piece of incredible complexity. Bits of it - rubber, wood, bauxite (and it's final product aluminum), coal (and its final product graphite) -- come from all around the world, and are assembled in a huge factory, which in turn has it's own complex underlying structure.

Jamie Barringer (Ravenmount)
Chaos and complexity are my 2 favorite science ideas, and I have read a lot of books on these topics, so I was expecting to enjoy this book a lot more than I did. There was just too much in this book, at too shallow a level, to be engaging. Kluger introduces concepts and subjects every few paragraphs, never developing most of them, and not laying out the connections between them, at least not well enough that other people could follow the logic that made sense to him when he strung those topics ...more
Dec 21, 2008 Gordon rated it it was amazing
Here's a quote from the book's introduction:
“The human brain is a real-time machine… [that assembles] information quickly into impressions and actions. That kind of cognition may have been the only way for the species to survive in the wild, but it can mislead us now, causing us to overfocus on the most conspicuous features of a thing and be struck -- or confused -- by that quality. Thus, we are confused by beauty, by speed, by big numbers, by small numbers, by our own fear, by wealth, by eloque
One is an ever-expanding universe of quasi-psychological, quasi-business books that doesn't seem to add very much. In the past year, I've read "The Tipping Point," "Blink," "Freakonomics," "The Social Atom," "The Black Swan," and "The Wisdom of Crowds." Now this. It feels a little bit like cashing in, actually. At one point, I felt as if I had entered some sort of vortex, as I read points and examples I had already encountered elsewhere, and was finally hit over the head with a direct quote from ...more
Sarah Sammis
Sep 22, 2008 Sarah Sammis rated it liked it
Shelves: released, review-copy
Simplexity by Time magazine senior writer Jeffrey Kluger tries to explain eleven chapters the complexities of the world and how they can be understood in simple terms. Most of the chapters deal with human systems: the stock market, evacuations during emergencies, social structures, business, sports, technology and the arts.

Kluger's book is a potpourri of topics with enough information to lead to further reading if one is interested. He thankfully keeps himself out of the picture making the book
Mar 19, 2011 Richard rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes light science.
Recommended to Richard by: I read a review.
I thought it was mostly fascinating...just enough science to make me feel smart to be able to understand everything he was telling us about. The stories about what Bill and Melinda Gates and ex-presidents Carter and Clinton, as well as others have been able to accomplish throughout the world are stunning. It amazes me how so much good can come from a little: such as the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Muhammad Yunus using $27. in Bangladesh to create the micro-loan system with loans to entrepreneurs ...more
Feb 15, 2011 dgw rated it it was amazing
Shelves: technology, science
Simplexity was one of those books that I read cover-to-cover with the least number of stops possible. The subject matter is intriguing; the prose, captivating. I found the book hard to put down, much to the detriment of my sleep schedule. (It kept me up all night until past 05:00 one day.)

The only real complaint I have is that I was left wanting more. Many good examples were provided in the book, but not enough to sate my curiosity. I could have read a book five times the length on the subject.
Nancy McKinley
I am adding again that this was NOT the book I read. I read "Simplexity" Why simple things become complex and how complex things can be made simple by Jeffrey Kluger. This is ironic because the system here generated this other book with the same title and would not let me edit it. This goes to show how some simple things can become complex and how just trying to simplify it can make the whole thing more complex.
The book I AM referring to was OK. It showcased various subjects and ideas but it did
Dec 15, 2008 David rated it really liked it
This book is a collection of 11 essays, related only by the overall theme of how simplicity and complexity interact. A few sections were a little dry for me, but others were fascinating and the changing topics made the book very readable. Some examples of the topics: Why is it hard to leave a burning building (as in World Trade Center)? Why do different animals have different life spans? In what way is skill level related (or unrelated) to pay level in the workforce? How are we dealing with ...more
Donivan Taylor
Dec 11, 2013 Donivan Taylor rated it liked it
I found this book interesting but did not really feel that it answered the question in its subtitle. THe author gave some very good and interesting examples of complex systems that seem simple but did not really explain WHY they are that way. There was alot of discussion about the complexity curve at in the earlier chapters in the book but I did not feel that the model applied to the example. THe bottom line is that may things are more complicated than they may first appear and sometime things ...more
Bryan Beaty
Jun 29, 2010 Bryan Beaty rated it it was ok
I hate to rae the book low because it was interesting. Sadly, the contents just didn't live up to the title. The whole book was a collection of stories which sometimes had something to do with something that was complex. It was not a good book and the to make complex things simple which is what I was hoping for. I don't think this is a spoiler but stating that a fish seems simple but is actually complex and a star seems complex but is actually simple is all that Earth-shattering.

To top it off t
Aug 18, 2008 Schnaucl rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who liked Freakonomics
Recommended to Schnaucl by: early reviewer
I thought this book was very interesting, but the subtitle is misleading. Klugar does a good job describing where things fall on the simple to complex arc, but he never really explains how simple things become complex or vice versa. He explains why he's placed things where he has on the simplicity/complexity arc but he never goes any deeper than that. There's no real explanation of why a given thing has evolved to be simple or complex.

Still, it was an interesting read. It reminded me a little of
If you're a fan of Malcolm Gladwell's "Tipping Point," you'll enjoy Jeffrey Kluger's take on complexity and simplicity or as he calls it Simplexity. Like many other books focusing on popular topics such as connectivity, complexity, and chaos, Kluger uses examples and anecdotes to explain his thoughts on today's world. The book is well-written and easy to read. however it lacks concrete statements about his theories and scientific evidence to support his thoughts. I'd recommend Simplexity for ...more
Jul 04, 2011 Adil rated it it was amazing
This book begins with the story of John Snow, a physician who helped pinpoint the source of a cholera outbreak by creating a map of the infected and their daily activities. The culprit in this outbreak? An infected water pump which was being used by almost all of the sick people.

The book doesn't stop there. It answers questions like "why do ten percent of all healthcare cases consume ninety percent of the budget?" and "why is a CEO's job simpler to perform than the jobs of the workers employed a
Sep 03, 2008 Kristi rated it liked it
Simplexity by Jeffery Kluger is denser than some of the more popular non-fiction books that have generated a lot of talk, like The Tipping Point and Freakonomics, but it is just as fascinating. Simplexity deals with the idea that what at first may seem enormous and complicated can actually be quite simple and the simple things can contain amazing complexity. For instance, a star seems large and hard to understand, but it's really quite a simple object whereas a guppy is layer upon layer of ...more
Aug 29, 2014 Stephen rated it really liked it
Again, I can't remember when, exactly, I read this book. (Though it was for work/book club).
Off the top of my head, I don't remember much detail.
One of the guiding quotes in the book:
page 29:
'It's the region between order and disorder that gives you complexity,' says Gell-Mann,'not the order and disorder at the ends.'

Part of the thesis is that so much interaction happens that it's actually quite difficult to analyze all that's going on. But that interaction is happening and some kind of 'bal
Earl Veale
Jan 04, 2015 Earl Veale rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading this book. The book introduced me to several new concepts, including two billion heart beats. I did the math, and "yes" cardiovascular exercise is worth the effort.

The 9/11 effect was another interesting concept, illustrating our inability as humans to differentiate between real risks and perceived risks.

The book is broken into very distinct chapters. If for some reason a particular chapter isn't doing it for you... skip it, and read the next chapter.

You're bound to find some
Alexandra Chauran
Apr 01, 2014 Alexandra Chauran rated it it was amazing
This book was not what I was expecting, but it did provide plenty of tidbits that will supply me food for thought for a lifetime. It turned out to be sort of like Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, with interesting statistical data causing you to simultaneously have hope for the future and lose all hope for humanity.
Jun 25, 2010 Joshua rated it liked it
I was expecting the subject to be more mechanically oriented. How things like the phonograph, for example, started out with Edison's hand cranked, foil covered cylinder and evolved into the iPod. Instead it brought me into the world of Complex Adaptive Systems; an interesting but, ironically, complex subject itself. Still, I found the writing to be accessible and informative and it prompted me to read a book on the subject that I had bought more than ten years ago, started and put down. Perhaps ...more
Jul 17, 2011 David rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
This book is analogous to "The Tipping Point", in that each chapter explores a fascinating topic. The first several chapters describe, tangentially, the interplay of simple and complex concepts. But as the book continues, there seems to be no overriding theme. The book is a great collection of essays, and if that were all that was promised, it would be fine. But the book promises to contrast simplicity and complexity, and show how they interact in human endeavors; I see no coherence, and no such ...more
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Jeffrey Kluger is a senior writer for TIME. He joined TIME as a contributor in 1996, and was named a senior writer in 1998. He has written a number of cover stories, including reports on the connection between sex and health, the Mars Pathfinder landing, the loss of the shuttle Columbia, and the collision aboard the Mir space station.

In 2002, Mr. Kluger along with two other colleagues, won First P
More about Jeffrey Kluger...

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