Mental models

In ancient India, 6 blind men were begging by the side of the road. They felt the ground tremble as a rider and his elephant walked past.


Curious what it looked like, the blind men asked the rider if they could touch the elephant. The rider agreed.


The first blind man happened to put his hand on the elephant’s side. He said, “This feels like a wall.”


The second grabbed a tusk and said, “My brother, you are mistaken. It is long and sharp like a spear.”


The third felt the trunk. He said, “Both of you are wrong. It is flexible like a snake.”


The fourth wrapped his arms around a leg. “Nonsense. It is round and tall like a tree.”


The fifth brushed the elephant’s ear. “This feels nothing like a tree. It is more like a big fan.”


The sixth fumbled around until he grabbed the tail. “Brothers, you are all blind. Clearly, the elephant is like a rope.”


As the rider and elephant walked on, the 6 blind men kept arguing. Each was convinced he knew how the elephant truly looked. And each made fun of the others for being foolish and stubborn.


If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is: Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.

-William Blake


Latticework of mental models

Reality is infinitely complex. Your brain uses mental models to simplify things and understand how they work. For example, “supply and demand” is a simplified way of understanding the economy.


Understand reality better by assembling a toolbox of mental models. This section contains the following tools:










…what you need is a latticework of mental models in your head. And you hang your actual experience and your vicarious experience (that you get from reading and so forth) on this latticework of powerful models. And, with that system, things gradually get to fit together in a way that enhances cognition.

-Charlie Munger

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