The Model Thinker - What you need to know to make data work for you
How much do I want to read more? 8/10
I have this idea in the back of my mind to read more and study about models. Charlie Munger is famous for having promoted them.
There are a few good books on this topic, and I believe this one is one of them.
It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.
—- ALBERT EINSTEIN
To me success means effectiveness in the world, that I am able to carry my ideas and values into the world—that I am able to change it in positive ways.
—- Maxine Hong Kingston
At semester’s end, rather than see the world from a particular angle, students would see the world through many lenses.
They would be standing in houses with many windows, able to look in multiple directions.
improving education, reducing poverty, creating sustainable growth, finding meaningful work in an age of artificial intelligence.
I resurrected the course. I contemplated rebranding it as Thirty-Two Models That Will Turn You into a Genius.
But I stuck with Michael’s title: An Introduction to Modeling.
The first offering of Model Thinking drew 60,000 students. That number now approaches a million. The popularity of the online course led me to abandon the book. I thought the project unnecessary, but, over the next two years, my email inbox began to fill with requests for a book to complement the online lectures. Then Michael Cohen lost his battle with cancer, and I felt that I needed to finish the book. I reopened the manuscript folder.
Writing a book requires large blocks of time and spaces that allow for clear thought.
The poet Wallace Stevens wrote, “Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake.”
The book before you is as complete as it can be at this moment in time. Doubtless, new models will be created, and old models will find new uses creating gaps.
I feel that my efforts will have been repaid if you, the reader, find the models and ideas within to be useful and generative, and that you are able to carry them out into the world and change it in positive ways.
1. The Many-Model Thinker
To become wise you’ve got to have models in your head. And you’ve got to array your experience—both vicarious and direct—on this latticework of models.
—- Charlie Munger
Models are formal structures represented in mathematics and diagrams that help us to understand the world. Mastery of models improves your ability to reason, explain, design, communicate, act, predict, and explore.
You will reason better. You exhibit fewer gaps in your reasoning and make more robust decisions in your career, community activities, and personal life. You may even become wise.
The models in this book offer a good starting collection. They come from multiple disciplines and include the Prisoners’ Dilemma, the Race to the Bottom, and the SIR model of disease transmission. All of these models share a common form: they assume a set of entities—often people or organizations—and describe how they interact.
With many models, we build logical understandings of multiple processes. We see how causal processes overlap and interact. We create the possibility of making sense of the complexity that characterizes our economic, political, and social world.
In sum, when our thinking is informed by diverse logically consistent, empirically validated frames, we are more likely to make wise choices.