Understanding the world through mental models
A few months ago, the world seemed reliable, but now it is changing so fast and has so many unknown dimensions, it can be hard to try and keep up.
Mental models can help us understand the world better, especially during times of confusion. A mental model is simply a representation of how something works. It is a way to simplify complexity and provide direction for our choices.
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As we watch the pandemic and its consequences unfold, we see that leadership and authority are not the same things.
Disasters expose the cracks in our leadership. We also see people that display strong leadership without needing any authority.
Using mental models will help in understanding the dynamics of the large-scale social response.
We are currently seeing first-order negatives (closing businesses), and 2nd- and 3rd-order positives (reduced transmission, less stress on the healthcare system.)
We need to encourage the thinking, analysis, and decision-making that considers the effects of the effects of the decisions made. Then we need to use a feedback loop. This will give us a better chance of making good decisions.
Compounding is exponential growth. We tend to see the immediate linear relationships in the situation, e.g., how one test diagnoses one person.
The compounding effect of that relationship means that increased testing can lead to an exponential decrease in disease transmission because one infected person can infect more than just one person.
One quality of an ecosystem is its resilience - the speed at which an ecosystem recovers after a disturbance.
In the absence of enough testing, we need to use probabilistic thinking to make decisions on what actions to take. Reasonable probability will impact your approach to physical distancing if you estimate the likelihood of transmission as being three people out of ten instead of one person out of one thousand.
When you have to make decisions with incomplete information, use inversion: Look at the problem backward. Ask yourself what you could do to make things worse, then avoid doing those things.
Once you know where you want to be, work backwards to where you are now. Carefully consider all the steps in-between in reverse order.
Once you identify your requirements, you can use that list to evaluate opportunities.
After a particularly stressful event, most people prepare for a repeat of the same challenge they just faced. From the micro level to the macro level, we succumb to the availability bias and get ready to fight a war we’ve already fought.
We learn that one lesson, but we don’t expand that knowledge to other areas. Because we focus on the specific details, we don’t extrapolate what we learn to identifying what we can better do to prepare for adversity in general.
Risk protection is normally done to minimize the harm a particular activity can do to us. There are various things we do to reduce our risk, to make ourselves safer.
Behaviour scientists point out that taking measures to reduce the harm we can do to ourselves, can actually make us take more risks, with the added knowledge that there is a safety check in place. This is known as Risk Compensation.
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