On Magic and Models 6
Fragments from imaginary dialogues
“What are the most useful mental models you’ve learned from Magic the Gathering?”
“Two of them especially stand out: Modularity, and Synergy.”
“What is the essence of Modularity?”
“The basic elements that make up the game of Magic can be combined in a variety of ways. The fact that they can be combined can be thought of as an inherent property of those elements. I call this inherent property, Connectivity. I call the elements that have this property, modular-elements.
Some modular-elements can connect with more elements than others. We might say each modular-element has a certain connectivity-potential.
Now, imagine that you find some Magic cards without knowing the rules of the game. Would you be able to combine them?”
“I guess not. The cards can be combined only within the context of the game.”
“Magic is a modular-system. The modular-elements that make up the system can be combined only within the system. I call these, contextual modular-elements.”
“Can you give some examples of modular systems?”
“One classic example is Lego. Another, less obvious example, is language. The most profound example is the Universe. Everything in the Universe is made up of combinations of the same basic building-blocks. The chemical elements are modular-elements. What we call “reality” is a modular-system.“
“What is the essence of Synergy?”
“Modularity refers to a certain kind of elements – modular-elements.
Synergy refers to a certain kind of connections between those elements – I call these, synergistic-connections. In Magic terminology, a synergistic-connection is called a Combo.
The essence of synergistic-connections is Emergence. Two elements synergistically combined produce a higher-order structure or effect that is different than the sum of its parts. Viewed in terms of value, I call this, emergent-value.
We’ve talked a while ago about my love of playing with making connections between things – what I called the Connections Game [<link; short length]. We might say the essence of the Connections Game is the discovery of emergent-value.”