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)

10 questions for thinking in games (Mental Models VII)

It is fair to say that playing video games have a number of positive cognitive and attentional effects (see this metastudy of 116 different papers), but one thing that is rarely highlighted is the fact that video games in some cases offer mental models that can be applied cross domains and used to think through complex scenarios and problems. It seems almost frivolous to suggest … Continue reading 10 questions for thinking in games (Mental Models VII)

What kind of explainer are you? (Mental Models VI)

This article discusses a subject that increasingly has caught my interest: what is a good explanation? This is an old question in philosophy – and deciding that something is an explanation of some fact or phenomenon is not as straightforward as it seems. Explanations can operate at different levels and we may decide that different explanations are more or less relevant for different kinds of … Continue reading What kind of explainer are you? (Mental Models VI)

The relative rate of change (Mental Models IV)

One of the things that we hear all the time is that everything is accelerating. It is the core theme of everyday commentary on politics, but also a seriously treated idea in the works of philosophers like Hartmut Rosa or Paul Virilio. This acceleration is described, at least in Rosa’s work, with dimensions of change, but not the rate of change. Just that it is … Continue reading The relative rate of change (Mental Models IV)

Resolution (Mental Models III)

A useful way to think about problem solving is to think about the diagnosis or description of the problem as coming in different resolutions. And here it is important to remember that it is not always helpful to aim for higher resolution – since what you gain may not be much, and the time and effort it takes to increase resolution may be significant. An … Continue reading Resolution (Mental Models III)