A rule of thumb
There are several razors that make thinking about problems rather easy. Here are a few.
In philosophy, a Razor is a rule of thumb or a principle. It helps you eliminate unlikely explanations. Knowing them makes certain that you will be able to poke at a problem with the right mental model.
When you are faced with a situation where you are trying to explain something complicated, you often have to make assumptions. All of the information is rarely available to you and it is important to assume those things that are now known.
Occam’s Razor says “when confronted with competing explanations, often the explanation with the fewest assumptions is the correct explanation.” It is often misdefined as the ‘simpler the explanation, the truer.’ It is actually, ‘the fewer the unknowns, the truer.’
Hanlon’s Razor simply states “Never Attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.“
We have a tendency to attribute many things to malice when they don’t go our way. Often they are not. Even Charles Ponzi thought he would make a lot of money with the stamp scheme that he had come up with. He did not start out thinking, let me swindle money. When his plans went sideways, he chose to keep them going. He had never been taken seriously in life and this time he was. The power blinded him and rendered him stupid.
Hitchen’s Razor states ‘What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.’
Christopher Hitchen wrote a book about god titled ‘God is Not Great: How religion poisons everything.’ Unfortunately, a lot of the book is backed by personal experiences and stories. And therefore Hitchen’s Razor was born.
Carl Sagan has stated the very same thing in a slightly different way when he said “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” This is known as Sagan’s Standard.
Hume’s Guillotine states that "If the cause, assigned for any effect, be not sufficient to produce it, we must either reject that cause or add to it such qualities as will give it a just proportion to the effect."
His reasons were in relation to morality. There is often a debate about what ought to be. His objection was that; there is no way of knowing what ought to be based on the knowledge of what is. He implied, if a reasoner only has access to non-moral and non-evaluative factual premises, the reasoner cannot logically infer the truth of moral statements.
Alder’s Razor states “If something cannot be settled by experiment or observation, then it is not worthy of debate.”
In its weakest form, it says that we should not dispute propositions unless they can be shown by precise logic and/or mathematics to have observable consequences. In its strongest form, it demands a list of observable consequences and a formal demonstration that they are indeed consequences of the proposition claimed.
Popper’s falsifiability Principle states “For a theory to be considered scientific, it must be falsifiable.
Every religion claims that God exists. But there is no way to verify if God really does exist. If the proof of anything is “because I said so” then it is not scientific. You need to be able to verify and falsify it for true proof to exist.
Hobson’s Choice is a free choice where only one choice is offered.
Thomas Hobson was a stable owner in the 16th century. He would offer those who came to buy a horse the choice of buying the horse in the stall closest to the door or none at all.
This kind of power play is often used to manipulate people into a corner where they feel they have a choice where they actually have none. If you “have” to buy a horse, do you really have a choice?
Chesterton’s Fence is a principle that states Reforms should not be made until the reasons behind the existing state of affairs is not understood.
The story goes, a hand hired by Chesterton came up to him at the farm and told him that the fences around the farm were broken and served no purpose. He asked if it would be okay to remove the fence altogether. He was told that he could do whatever he wanted to the fence, just as long as he could tell why the fence had been put there in the first place.
Maslow’s Hammer - In 1966, Maslow said “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”
There is a tendency to use the tool that one is familiar with in circumstances that often require a different kind of tool. An attorney who specialises in litigation would not suggest arbitration and reconciliation, their suggestion would be to litigate because that is more familiar.
Lindy Effect suggests that the longer something has survived to exist or be used, it is also likely to have a proportionately long remaining life expectancy. This often applies to design, ideas and things.
Take the design of the spoon, it has survived for thousands of years in its current form. In all likelihood, it would survive thousands of years more amongst us. It is highly unlikely to undergo a massive transformation in a decade or even a century.
Bitcoin will probably be the longest surviving cryptocurrency.
Shirky Principle states that “Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.”
TurboTax is an Intuit company that is able to make money only because filing taxes is like wading through a marsh. They put in all the lobbying possible to keep things that way, they do not want tax filing to become easier under any circumstance.