DRMacIver's Notebook

A thing I’ve been noticing a lot recently in how I think about problems is what an essential role switching between different models of the system has.

For example, when thinking about groups of people, it’s important to think about the systems - what incentives are at play, how does the group response to events, etc. You treat the group as an abstracted object that is not made up of complex individuals but instead has a few very simple variables in play.

It’s also important, both ethically and practically, to think about the group as a collection of individual people. People are complex and will surprise you, and if you neglect their individual needs then you will usually treat people badly.

It might be tempting to think that the ideal is a single unified view of the system which accounts for everything, but realistically that’s almost always impossible, and switching between multiple very distinct models can often work nearly as well.

One thing this does is it combats the problem of legibility - the thing where the easiest way to understand something simply is to make it simple enough to understand, destroying much of its essential complexity and causing massive damage - but this seems to be true even without that. e.g. in mathematics it is often useful to switch between different representations because they make different features more salient.