Something I've been trying to express concisely recently is the concept that using (or making) something that is too complicated/complex for the user to understand/fix can be a bad thing. Is there a short phrase or analogy that expresses this concept?

An engineer may choose to make a device that is "fool proof", something that can't be adjusted incorrectly, won't succumb to environmental conditions, recovers from several failure conditions, etc. The problem is that eventually that device becomes be a sealed container, using custom parts, with no possibility of disassembly and repair by the user. This could easily apply to software as well.

The goal may be reduced materials, lines of code, reliability, elegance, etc. The problem is that the complexity becomes a barrier to entry for the user to understand it, and the user becomes dependent upon the creator. Nothing lasts forever, but if failure is sufficiently delayed the user(s) may outlive the creator. I've seen this concept in science fiction (e.g. the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov, nuclear reactors still exist, but no one knows how to repair them).

  • 3
    Perhaps...............KISS...... Keep it simple, stupid Apr 22, 2014 at 3:05
  • See also Occam's Razor, which says, in Latin, that the simpler solution is the way to bet. It may not always be right, but experience shows it wins over the long term. (Lamba and Amharic, mentioned in the link, can be found here.) Apr 22, 2014 at 4:25
  • also related: "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler" --usually attributed to Albert Einstein although not his exact words. See en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein
    – skiggety
    Nov 29, 2016 at 18:11

3 Answers 3


A phrase that I've heard a lot in engineering is KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid. It is often referenced as the "KISS Principle," and was first noted by the U.S. Navy in 1960.

"Less is more," is a much more general statement that can convey the same idea.


Gonkulator: gon'kyoo-lay-tr/ (From "Hogan's Heroes", the TV series) A pretentious piece of equipment that actually serves no useful purpose. Usually used to describe one's least favourite piece of computer hardware.

  • AKA 'one of those machines that go ping!'. Apr 22, 2014 at 4:24

Two lines from The Zen of Python by Tim Peters seem appropriate:

Simple is better than complex.

Complex is better than complicated.

There's also the following aphorism (usually attributed to Albert Einstein, though it's not clear that he ever said it in exactly this form):

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.

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