Mental Models

Writing provides a map of a mental model.

Literature is a map of a mental model.

If you want low resolution mental models, read a summary.

If you want high resolution mental models, read a book.

Summarizing the contents of a landscape is fine if you are navigating from above, and only require low resolution.

But you will never know the terrain until you’ve lived it, until you’ve explored all the contours yourself, and met those also inhabiting it.

Books are the closest thing to living the landscape. They are confessions of the inhabitants divulging their mental models, laying out the maps they’ve devised as they’ve explored the terrain.

Summaries will never replace books, just as books will never replace experience.

Summaries are a guide, but they fail to contain all the interesting features.

A quality experience requires presence, so the senses and reason can observe unperturbed by past ideas, and the bias and inclination it produces. You must stop and be still, open to what’s before you. Otherwise you will miss it, and fail to appreciate the character of experience, which informs us with understanding.

A book requires this same presence. Reading is an experience. Lifting the contents of a map into the mind, and recreating the mental models for personal use, require imagination, reflection, and patience.

No summary can capture the idiosyncrasies of a book, just as no book can capture the idiosyncrasies of a landscape.

But in order to understand, we need to take the time to observe. This requires patience.

Low resolution maps have their place for crude navigation. But they tell us nothing of the character of experience. There is no substitute for living in the landscape. But quality books get close.

Writing teaches you to create mental models. Mental models rule the world. They are the programs that govern the collective.

When you learn to write effectively, and create mental models others can utilize to solve problems, you are programming minds.

When you learn to program software, you are learning to program minds.

Read books only from those that are living in the landscape you wish to understand. Those bumping into the terrain, solving the thorny challenges of navigating the geography, in all its gloom and glory.

Summaries are poor substitutes for acquiring mental models.

“What I cannot create, I do not know.” —R. Feynmann

We must experiment. We must write. We must build. We must not be passive. We must not delude ourselves into thinking the work can be done for us.

To acquire a robust mental model, we must do, as intimately as possible.

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