Less or More?

As I was saying, last week, my close buddy Julius invited me to his research presentation on zoom.  He has an exciting project to mine data from social media and websites as well as conduct online games. Julius’ aim is to understand how human beings make decisions when doing online shopping. His analysis entails more than 100 variables explaining human behaviour and decision making while shopping online, booking tickets or ordering food.

Although Julius received useful comments from the audience, someone asked him a simple question that kept lingering in my mind after the presentation. ‘did you need 100 variables to explain human behaviour?’ posed a guest. I couldn’t help but ponder on the sheer logic behind the question. Truly with the emergence of big data and more data becoming readily available as technology advances, there is an academic pressure to utilize this information. Many organizations and ambitious individuals want to be associated with big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science. This is a movement happening now in the world of computing, statistics and possibly other disciplines such as Agriculture and Economics. But do we really need thousands of variables, high volume and velocity data from thousands of sources to explain simple phenomena like farm production?

Julius’ presentation reminded me of my previous talk with my former flatmate, Frank. We had planned our time to be cooking our food together every evening because unlike our other flatmates, we preferred cooking rather than buying food to cut cost. This day, he found me cooking and he hit me with his noble plan of becoming a minimalist. He envisioned minimalism as the idea of living with few possessions and being intentional with subscriptions. This, in his wisdom, is loosely translated to owning more of what matters and less of what doesn’t. He opined that in today’s world, people ate a lot of food rather than taking what the body needs. To crown his idea, he expressed the desire to focus on eating right proportions of nutritious foods, have a limited circle of friends, own a few electronics and belonging in general and subscribe to important updates only. He told me that people nowadays have allowed themselves to be controlled by technology and social media. “Mwungu, can you imagine having 40 applications on your phone giving you notifications? Will you have time to focus on essential things?”, he fired.

Honestly, I was spellbound. I read sense in his ideal and slowly started to warm up towards minimalism! It seemed attractive and I was excited to become one. I mean who wouldn’t want to save cash and hit the envied travel destinations while keeping it simple and pursuing happiness? Your guess is as good as mine. Travelling would give you experience that would last a lifetime instead of buying unnecessary stuff. I have been wondering if this is possible in the current world. While in the Economics and Statistics world I would wish to have a few variables that would explain a phenomenon, I don’t know if it is possible to own a few kinds of stuff and limit subscriptions. Who can’t live without a phone, laptop, fridge, cooker, heater for winter, fan for summer, bed, carpet, fashion, car etc.? Who in this age doesn’t have an email account, Facebook, Twitter, What’s app? For instance, I always make sure my work email is on so that I can respond to urgent emails as soon as I can. Indeed on face value, life can be sophisticated more than it needs to be. There is a thin line between essential stuff and needs making it a tall order to define minimalism. Although it sounds cool, I don’t subscribe to the idea.

My Learned brother from the Lake, Oscar Kula, will tell you that life is short. You must make sure you enjoy life before you die. Own a big car, buy the latest iPhone model, build a big house, travel more and eat good food. What makes someone happy? Is it living a simple life, have and do things that make you happy or hoard as much stuff as possible?  Some will say less is more while others will say more is more. Which school of thought would you support? What are the trade-offs? I would like to know your thoughts in the comment box below.

Featured image by: Photo by Hutomo Abrianto on Unsplash

29 thoughts on “Less or More?

  1. Very interesting post. Trying to understand human behavior can be very difficult if we personalize it or very straightforward if we generalize it. I do have to admit a minimalistic approach to life is my goal, however, I tend to go away from that goal from time to time and having to readjust again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have gone through this and kept on thinking, identifying with both schools of thought. Getting to a 50-50 is quite a thing. You don’t have to be do hard on yourself and also, you don’t have to be so “generous”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good, keeping writing.
      Either ways apply depending with different people. Positive minimalism is good, you get what you need and the rest is left out at free will. In the African context we have financial responsibilities that’s essential in our budgeting, from our families to the society, at times this limits one from having more. If you can pull it through it’s either gonna choke your finances at some point. Somehow life creates it’s own balance, we only have to know what gives us utmost fulfillment and know how much is enough.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have no problem with number of variables that the guy used in that study. The most difficult thing to understand is human behavior. It is complex, changes with situation, environment, and among other factors.

    Several factors often stand out within a group of people

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’d love to tackle the issue of variables in an analysis. Human behavior is very complex and a huge challenge to model. In many cases, analysts may need many variables (a lot) because they are not even sure which one could be strong in explaining a particular behavior. It not like production n productivity analysis. If u doubt this, ask those who have attempted to understand women/men n their thought processes

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful piece Chris…I personally look at it in a two sided way.Firstly I feel living a luxurious kind of life is a gift you can endow to yourself.Having those expensive stuffs is good to some point only if they meet the needs you have for them besides maintaining your lines of limit…the problem is when you ram into impulse buying because at the end of the day whatever is bought impulsively strains your budget a factor that may cough you economically.
    Secondly, being a minimalist is also good as long as you dont enslave yourself to it.sometimes minimalistic road at times tends to confine somebody’s mind such that he/she looks at luxury from a negative economic point of view.So in choosing variables it is ideal for anyone to go with that which best suits him/her as long as he/she lives within their comfortable lines of limit.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s a thin line to weight between, but do what your heart is comfortable in sailing along not what the society demands.
    We have so many variables to choose from and really depends on choices we make that are custom to our own taste and preferences and what pushes us to strive forward without limiting ourselves but living happily individually and people within you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A great piece my brother Miyinzi,,a very practical concept in almost all spheres of life,,now,it is generally good to focus on what makes you happy and spend as much time and resources on them as possible. Even the Bible asserts that where your resources are spent is where your heart is. Now, with a world full of several choices, dymanics,and opinions, it is only imperative to focus on what ignites your heart,. Like for your friend, he could have done with fewer variables, this would enable him to interrogate individual variables more comprehensively than even they are a hundred of them. Similar understanding your core happiness variables would enable you to invest more of your energy, money, resources, and time on the right things. So yes, in a way, being a minimalist is a great idea!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. In our African setting, finances have a great impact in the way we live currently. Including responsibilities that we shoulder especially in the Household and clans that we come from. Which can push us into a minimalism life. And yet you would want to “enjoy”. But Perhaps you can’t as well have all that you want and enjoy coz of “twists” and “turns” of life anyway. When I read your paper that has 100 variables just explaining human behavior, this makes me sick. Honestly do you really need all the 100 variables to drive your point home? Pick a few key ones to capture my attention and keep me thinking. So according to me, life is all about striking a balance. We don’t live a constant life on a straight line. It’s either that the curve is sigmoid or not. Everything decision we make in each second depends on trade offs. But the theory of consumer choice explains it best. In so doing we either choose minimalism or not.
    Kudos for this piece.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Interesting read! It also poses a difficult question to answer with objectivity. I would however submit that both paths are good as long as they get one to their intended destination (happiness or whatever it might be).

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I think life is full of shifting perspectives depending on seasons, not just climatic seasons but also financial seasons, minimalism can be used to train people to deal with life during such times like this one of Convid-19. Or rather to specific target audience like people who are depending on other people like orphans, Campus students, the middle class living in slums etc. Actually, as an educational, I can introduce Minimalism 101 as a unit in campus and as a topic in high school.

    A good read. I’ve stolen something.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Having read through your thoughtline, I strongly believe most of us would be tossed between living simple or living a good life hence they will opt to strike a balance.

    Living a simple life doesn’t necessarily mean you deny yourself what you can afford, it simply means living within your means which gives alot of happiness and is the key to good life.

    If you can afford the best electronics, best meals and best adventures without running into debts then why be constraint? On the other hand, you have to be careful not to have so much than what you need.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I support minimalist….though thresholds for what is minimal and what is more varies between individuals…

    A minimalist must intentionally forego things they would want but not need.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Although at personal level i subscribe to the school of minimalism, I hold the view that a good research should be as comprehensive as possible. We risk omitting the would be most important factor when we focus on fewer variables

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting! Very interesting! IMO, and as I read, I kept thinking to myself; Less is more yet still less and more is relative 😀 …. What’s less for me might actually be more to you…. Very thought provoking indeed! Finding a balance and doing/attending to more of what matters is ideal.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I’d say maintaining a balance is what’s necessary (not too much, not too little). Get what you need if you can afford it. Do we need too many variables to explain phenomenon? No

    Liked by 1 person

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