Keep it Simple, Stupid.

Aditya Daria
3 min readJan 28, 2024

Why Basic Model Development Still Rocks in the Age of AI Hype

Alright, let’s be honest. The world of AI can be intimidating. Jargon flies like confetti at a tech conference, everyone’s throwing around buzzwords like “deep learning” and “neural networks,” and suddenly your perfectly functional linear regression model feels about as cutting-edge as a rotary phone. But hold your horses, because amid all this algorithmic excitement, there’s a crucial truth we sometimes forget: sometimes, keeping it simple is simply the best approach.

Think of it like building a house. Sure, you could go all Tony Stark and whip up a self-replicating mansion with built-in jetpacks, but honestly, most of us just need a sturdy roof over our heads. And that’s where basic model development shines. It’s the trusty hammer and nails of the AI world, the duct tape and chewing gum that gets the job done, even if it doesn’t look fancy on Instagram (pun intended).

Here’s why embracing the “Keep it Simple, Stupid” (KISS) principle in model development can be advantageous:

  • Transparency and Interpretability: Complex models often operate as black boxes, their inner workings shrouded in obscurity. This hinders interpretability, making it difficult to understand how predictions are made and diagnose potential biases. Basic models, on the other hand, offer transparency. Their equations are accessible, allowing for a clear understanding of their decision-making processes and fostering trust within the development team.
  • Efficiency and Speed: Training complex models can be resource-intensive, requiring extensive computational power and lengthy processing times. Basic models, in contrast, are computationally efficient. They train quickly, readily adapting to small datasets and delivering actionable insights much faster. This agility helps accelerate iteration and experimentation, leading to quicker advancements in model performance.
  • Generalizability and Robustness: While complex models excel at fitting intricate patterns within specific datasets, they can be susceptible to overfitting, and memorizing training data without truly learning underlying relationships. Basic models, with their emphasis on simpler features and relationships, achieve better generalizability. They perform well on unseen data, demonstrating greater resilience against noise and outliers.
  • A Stepping Stone for Complexity: Basic models serve as an ideal starting point for exploring more intricate techniques. By gaining a clear understanding of fundamental concepts and achieving initial success with simpler models, developers can build a strong foundation for delving into advanced approaches with greater confidence and efficiency.

But don’t get me wrong, complex models have their place. When you’re dealing with messy, unstructured data or highly complex problems, they can be a game-changer. But before you jump on the deep learning bandwagon, ask yourself:

  • Do I really need all that complexity? Can a simpler model get the job done just as well, or even better?
  • Do I have the data and resources to train a complex model effectively? Remember, throwing more algorithms at a problem isn’t always the answer.
  • Can I understand and explain the results of my complex model? If not, you might be building a fancy castle on sand.

Embracing the KISS principle does not imply shunning complexity altogether. Rather, it advocates for a judicious approach, starting with foundational techniques and utilizing complex models only when warranted by the specific problem and available resources. This ensures building robust and sustainable ML solutions that deliver lasting value.

So, the next time you’re tempted to get lost in the AI hype, remember the power of simplicity. Keep it real, keep it basic, and you might just be surprised at what you can achieve. Because sometimes, the best models are the ones that don’t need a million parameters to say something profound.

They’re the ones that whisper, “Keep it simple, stupid,” and then quietly get the job done.