Complementarity (Mental Models XVII)

Niels Bohr proposed that one fundamental insight of quantum physics was that some phenomena or systems could be described in two or more mutually exclusive ways and that it would be a mistake to pick one description as the “right one” – both could be accurate. This violates the logical dictum of the excluded middle, in a sense, since it suggests that when we ask … Continue reading Complementarity (Mental Models XVII)

Thinking in indices (Mental Models XVI)

The idea of an index in economy is simple: find a way to measure a change in an ensemble of values in a single value, and then track that single value over time. The challenges are many: how do you pick the values in your basket, and do you weight them differently? Do you update them, and if so with what periodicity? And then – … Continue reading Thinking in indices (Mental Models XVI)

Deep uncertainty(Mental models XV)

The concept of deep uncertainty is intriguing and important – as defined it is: Deep uncertainty exists when parties to a decision do not know, or cannot agree on, the system model that relates action to consequences, the probability distributions to place over the inputs to these models, which consequences to consider and their relative importance. Deep uncertainty often involves decisions that are made over … Continue reading Deep uncertainty(Mental models XV)

Magic and miracles (Mental Models XIV)

One key problem for the church in medieval times was to explain why raising the dead, defying the elements and conjuring things was not magic. The challenge here was that Jesus did all of those things, and if they were interpreted as magic, then Jesus would be a wizard or sorcerer, not the son of God. So – being human, and hence really brilliant about … Continue reading Magic and miracles (Mental Models XIV)

Is it a competition or a race? Building scoring structures (Mental Models XIII)

Metrics are dangerous. You manage what you measure, as the old saw goes, and you want to make sure that you are not measuring the wrong thing – or things. We need to take great care when we set up metrics for anything we want to accomplish in order to make sure that we do not get the wrong outcomes. One way to approach metrics … Continue reading Is it a competition or a race? Building scoring structures (Mental Models XIII)

The study of failure mode (Mental Models XII)

In John Gall’s peculiar Systemantics: The Systems Bible the reader will find a wealth of often funny but always deep insights. One of these insights that has occupied me lately is this: The important point is: ANY LARGE SYSTEM IS GOING TO BE OPERATING MOST OF THE TIME IN FAILURE MODE What the System is supposed to be doing when everything is working well is … Continue reading The study of failure mode (Mental Models XII)

Limiting factors (Mental Models XI)

One interesting way of approaching a problem is to identify the limiting factors – what is that sets the ultimate limits for progress on a particular issue? In many cases it will be time – there are some things we could do in theory, but where the time needed exceeds the calculated time available to us individually or cosmologically. This means that time is a … Continue reading Limiting factors (Mental Models XI)

Practicing predictions (Mental models IX)

Predicting is hard, especially the future, as Yogi Berra supposedly pointed out. But it is interesting – but not necessarily for the reasons we originally think. Predicting the future is interesting not because you want to find out if you are right, but you want to use the predictions you make to tease out the narratives that are organizing your understanding of the world. I … Continue reading Practicing predictions (Mental models IX)

On not knowing (Mental Models VIII)

Is String theory true? Has Latin America seen a political polarization in the last ten years? Is a keto-oriented diet dangerous for your heart? The only reasonable answer to these questions – for the absolut majority of us – is that we do not know. If you are a physicist working in String theory, a deep political expert with years in studying Latin-American politics or … Continue reading On not knowing (Mental Models VIII)