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In a previous workplace we had a system that had a potential for failure - as many systems do.

Two solutions were proposed:

  1. Reduce the potential for failure. (Build a more robust system.)
  2. Provide a way to recover from that failure. (a.k.a. Reboot.)

At first, rebooting was considered a last resort and only there to protect the company. Having that option even available was contentious as it would be quite disruptive. Nonetheless, it was left in because it was considered a last line of defence.

As the system progressed, people in the company became used to having that option available. It became common to reboot the system every 24 hours rather than spend the time fixing aspects of the system that would make it more robust.

Is this behaviour just called "falling to the lowest common denominator"?

Simplifying this down, the rather obvious argument can be summarised as:

If one brings a tool, then one is more likely to use that tool than look for a better tool.

(Note that this isn't the same as "If you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail." because it's not that they don't know better, but that laziness or pressure guides them away from the better solution.)

Is there a philosophical law/razor that describes and unifies these behaviours?

(Or that, conversely, if we remove the opportunity then we effectively force people to consider "better" options.)

UPDATE

To expand on this, the razor I'm thinking of has to do with avoiding providing "easier" false solutions over true solutions.

You can see this theoretical "razor" also in things like people's attitude toward credit card debt. For example, a person is more likely to think "I need it." if they have a credit card than if they don't. The human failing is one part, but not providing the credit card in the first place would have avoided the false "solution" entirely, forcing them to save and therefore not become encumbered with the additional fees and drag on their finances.

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I'm not sure this is about philosophy (maybe it's about psychology), but I would call this taking the path of least resistance, or least effort. From the Wikipedia article:

The principle of least effort is a broad theory that covers diverse fields from evolutionary biology to webpage design. It postulates that animals, people, even well-designed machines will naturally choose the path of least resistance or "effort".

This "principle", together with the fact that some people weigh some kinds of immediate gratification (restarting the server, in your example) over delayed gratification (permanently fixing the problem and avoiding other potential disasters down the road) would explain the behavior you observe. I mentioned this point about immediate vs. delayed gratification, because in some cases it's actually more effort in the long run to do the easier thing in the short term. It's not about what is really less effort, it's about what is perceived as being less effort.

P.S. I'm glad I only answered this question now instead of earlier; I wouldn't want to deprive you of the coveted Tumbleweed badge :)

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  • Good idea, but the path of least resistance is more like a acceptance of nature and is still a path to a solution. In my example restarting the server is not the solution because it leads to a disadvantage both in the short (outage) and long terms (more work). I'm trying to draw attention to the somewhat-selfish (possibly egotistical in the sense of not taking responsibility for a proper solution) behaviour of long-term vs short-term and therefore a more negative-leaning reference which is why the razors seemed like they might have something. Jun 11 '19 at 23:28
  • For example, in Heinlein's Razor we see a natural human tendency to put ourselves at the centre of the universe and so therefore anything that happens to us must be deliberate. Back to this question, if we create a system with an easier false solution then humans seem to gravitate towards that false solution over a true one. Jun 11 '19 at 23:40
  • You can see this theoretical "razor" also in things like people's attitude toward credit card debt (e.g. A person is more likely to think "I need it." if they have a credit card than if they don't). The human failing is one part, but not providing the credit card in the first place would have avoided the false "solution" entirely. Jun 11 '19 at 23:41

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