My mental models: 2020 edition

List of the 10 mental models I most frequently use. This is a subjective list, and might not apply generally.

  1. Most people don’t deeply understand they're talking about, me included. On the flip side, you can almost always learn from a statement something about the person who said it.

  2. My brain is a neural net and it was trained on a series of images and audio over 26 years. I have to think about the conclusions it gives me in the context of the images and audio I’ve seen.

  3. Images and audio can subtly replay in your head, and influence your behavior, without you wanting them to. 

  4. Hollywood has no idea how entrepreneurial or scientific genius works. Popular stories have memetic qualities that have nothing to do with what it takes to do great work. 

  5. Combination of 3 + 4 = be very, very careful what you let go into your head. Particularly if it’s engineered to be salient and play on your emotions.

  6. There is a feeling towards science that combines deep levels of awe with a sense that you are encountering indescribable beauty and power. It’s really sad more people don’t get to experience this. Feeling that way doesn’t mean you’re good at science, but it pretty strongly incentivizes doing more of it. I’m not sure if it’s useful, but I have a lot of it.

  7. People think in very different styles, related to how they use their senses while thinking. For example, some people see images during a conversation for each concept, others ‘feel’ concepts in their body, others have explicit models that they update, and many have some combination. Also, some people can’t imagine in images, and others can't store faces. It’s very strange that we enter adult life without a shared understanding of this.

  8. If you’ve read something, it definitely doesn’t mean you understand it. Empirically, I’ve never understood important things on the first, second or third read. And normally, I’ve had to come back to the same thing years later. I’m not sure if this is true for everyone.

  9. From a friend: you can never spend too much time improving your fundamentals. Work done there feels ‘slow’, but it makes everything else a quick step away. Also from this friend: use mental pictures/images/compressed representations of a concept, and refine those ‘toys’, to learn the thing.

  10. Don’t do things you don’t believe in.