On Models and Reductionism

Belief formation process:
– We hear something.
– We believe it to be true.
– We MAY think about it and vet it, determining whether it is, in fact, true or false.

(Annie Duke,
Thinking in Bets)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“When you hear something about someone, you’re essentially building a simplified mental model of that person. This is an instance of reductionism.”

“Are all models reductionistic?”

“All models are approximations. We can think of models in terms of fidelity. Based on how well they approximate, they can range from high to low fidelity. Low-fidelity models are reductionistic – too much information is lost.

Forming a model of someone based on hearsay is highly reductionistic. The model is nothing more than a caricature. Yet it’s a tendency we all have.”

“To me it’s fascinating how certain we are of our caricature models.”

“I’ve identified two mechanisms at work here: reification and synecdoche.

Reification: mistaking the model for reality.

Synecdoche: identifying the whole with one of its parts.

Whatever you know of the person is just a tiny piece of the whole.”

“How do you counter this tendency?”

“I’m working on building a model specifically to counter this. I call it Wholeness. The model is meant to evoke the whole of something, even though I do not see it. To remind me of the limits of my knowledge, and the limits of our models.”

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About Dani Trusca

Life-Artist, Thinker, Mover (Traceur)

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