People find their level

“Water finds its level” is a beautiful compression of an engineering concept. As John Lienhard says about the common perception of the expression:

“Few said anything about hydrostatics. Most saw it as a metaphor for how things equalize in society. The principle actually says that the water levels in two basins, connected by a pipe, must be the same. That had to’ve been known long before Aristotle; but Aristotle articulated it and wrote it down.”

But this expression can be transformed. Water finds its level, but so too do individual humans. Specifically, over a lifetime people gravitate towards their preferred level of complexity. A person’s desired level of complexity is, to me, a combination of their informational tolerance and their temporal tendencies.

A small amount of information with a high signal:noise ratio delivered at a slow pace is easier to deal with than a flood of information of indecipherable quality rushing in with great speed. Between those two poles our preference sits and as we live and learn, we make choices designed to take us to environments composed of less or more complexity.