Mental Models

There are many models we can use to understanding the world. When I took college history my professor told us that there were several paradigms for interpreting the events of history: economic, philosophical, national, geographical, and religious. He would say that some of these paradigms are more appropriate to a situation than others, but that none of them were right or wrong because every major human event involves all of these paradigms. Outside of academics there is still significant need for good mental models. Most of us just use one.

It’s important to have more than one model because if we try to simple view things as they appear to us we’ll inevitably reduce our experiences to the model most convenient to us or believe whatever our brains make up to bring sensibility to a world too big to interpret.

What I mean by a mental model is a sort of simplified way of interpreting things that, alone would be a distortion of reality, but is necessary to think of exclusively in order to see the insights it offers. An example would be seeing the world as a machine. The world is manifestly not a machine. But to see it as a machine helps physicists find efficient and material causes of things.

Other models include:

  1. Everything is sales.
  2. Everything is tribal.
  3. Everything is sex.
  4. Everything is true or false.
  5. Everything is economics.
  6. Success is having energy.
  7. Everything is moral.
  8. Everything is spiritual.

None of these are complete and life is more than each of them. But your brain cannot interpret the whole universe at once. But it can interpret more of the universe at once through an incomplete filter.

What mental models have I left out?

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