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Simplexity – Alain Berthoz **

I am at a loss after attempting to read this book. The experience was not unlike reading a pseudo-science book, where there are lots of sciency-sounding terms flung about with dramatic disregard for the science behind them. But this isn’t a pseudo-science book. There’s plenty of real science in there from a professor of physiology. I don’t know whether it’s the fact it’s a translation from the French or what – but this book was almost unreadable.
To take a simple point – what is the book about? What does this irritating compound word ‘simplexity’ mean? Although the word is used throughout, I never found a satisfactory definition. Alain Berthoz gives us plenty of examples of biological processes he considers to be ‘simplex’ but the examples of themselves don’t define the term. I’m lucky. I have a press release. So I know, according to that, that simplexity means
‘the set of solutions that living organisms find that enable them to deal with information and situations, while taking into account past experiences and anticipating future ones. Such solutions are new ways of addressing problems so that actions may be taken more quickly, more elegantly, and more efficiently.’
That’s okay, then. But I really haven’t a clue what this book was saying. It was impossible to get much from it. The subtitle is ‘simplifying principles for a complex world’ which makes it sound really practical and useful. Sorry. Baffled. I need some complicity.
(Please note this is a different book to the remarkably similarly titled Simplexity: the simple rules of a complex world by Jeffrey Kluger.)

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Review by Brian Clegg

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