Path of Least Resistance

Jun 15, 2022

Zipf's law says that the frequency of a word is inversely proportional to its rank in the frequency table. Zipf also found that the more frequent a word is, the short it tends to be (Zipf's law of abbreviation, or should it be Zipf's abbrev. law?).

We tend to use short and simple words exponentially more because (1) they minimize effort (easy to use, quick to write or say) and (2) they maximize benefit (easy to understand).

This is the path of least resistance.

In an electrical circuit, more electricity flows through paths of less resistance (current flows through all paths, just more current on lower-resistance paths).

In machine learning, optimizations algorithms often move towards a local minimum (or maximum) by a process called gradient descent that finds the path of steepest descent. In smaller dimensions, this looks a lot like the path of least resistance.

Consumers often choose products that are on the path of least resistance.

You can see this in the long tail of content that the internet and applications have enabled – Spotify, Google, and Amazon all enable us to access the long tail with minimal effort.