Preparation for Recitation 2
Read the following sections from the Simon paper (The
Architecture of Complexity):
Introduction through page 471.
You may skip the sections on
"Problem Solving as Natural Selection" and "The Sources of
Selectivity" on pages 472 and 473.
Read from "On Empires and Empire Building" (page 473) to "Conclusion:
The Evolutionary Explanation of Hierarchy" (page 473)
titled "Nearly Decomposable Systems" (end of page 473 to beginning of 477)
Skim from "The Description of Complexity" to the end of the paper,
trying discover Simon's point, without necessarily reading every
paragraph in detail. Skimming to find the main ideas (and deciding
when skimming is appropriate) is a talent worth acquiring! You will
find it useful in other 6.033 papers and more generally in reading
At first read, this paper appears to have very little to do with computer
systems. As you are reading it, try to figure out why it was assigned. It may
help to notice that it was written in 1962 and to know that Herbert Simon is one
of the founding figures in artificial intelligence, a winner of the Turing
Award, a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics, and a co-founder of the
School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. Simon contends that
hierarchy is a principal organizing force in social, biological, and physical
As you are reading the paper, try to think of three examples of
hierarchies that you have encountered in computer systems or networks.
For each example, consider whether the hierarchy is useful in reducing
the complexity of the system.