Safety Blanket Theory

For all their angry rhetoric and now, overtly political violence, I maintain that it is the right wing that is profoundly insecure, anxious, and in need of soothing. They are panicking at the idea that the world can possibly change without their approval, and deprive them of their stolen superiority — they do not want the party to end for white male dominance of this entire planet.

Right-wing authoritarian adults latch on to symbols and ideologies and demagogues as “surrogates” for the childhood safety blanket they once needed — these are the “adult-acceptable” pablum substitutes.

🎯 Core Models and Concepts 🎯

We all have learnings in our lives we consider more precious than others — explanations and predictions that endure and keep on giving, versus those that fade away. Our core models form the backbone of our thinking and decision-making throughout our lives; it’s our grab bag of problem solving tools — and we want to have a resilient Swiss Army Knife at the ready at all times. These mental models help us understand a complex world, and prepare for all the changes that are inevitably ahead.

This set of core models below is my personal “desert island” set of model thinking concepts. These are the ones I really wouldn’t want to be caught dead leaving the house without.

Once these are on lock, head over to the unabridged models section for more model thinking goodness!

ConceptDateFieldPersonDefinition
absolute value1806MathJean-Robert ArgandThe value of x, regardless of its sign (or, its distance from zero).
activation energy1889ChemistrySvante ArrheniusThe amount of energy required to get two or more compounds to react, in chemistry or physics.
adverse selection1860sMoney
"All the world's a stageβ€œ1599ArtsWilliam ShakespeareShakespearean metaphor likening culture to a theatrical performance: "And all the men and women merely players;They have their exits and their entrances ..."β€”William Shakespeare, As You Like It
annuity1970sMoneyA series of payments made at equal intervals.
antifragile2012MathNassim TalebThings that can benefit from disorder, and grow stronger amidst chaos.
antimatter1928PhysicsPaul Dirac
appreciationMoney
a prioriStrategy
arrow of time1927PhysicsArthur Eddington
assetMoney
asymptoteMath
availability bias1973PsychologyKahneman and Tversky
averageMath
bank reservesMoney
Base Rate FallacyPsychology
Bayes' Theorem1763MathReverend Thomas BayesA mathematical method of determining the updated probability of a certain event or case, given new information
Big Bang1949PhysicsFred Hoyle
black holesPhysicsStephen Hawking
Black Swan2007MathNassim Taleb
blockchainMoney
boiling frog syndromePsychology
broken windows theoryPsychology
Butterfly Effect1963PhysicsEdward Lorenz
bystander effectPsychology
capital gainsMoney
carbon dating1940sPhysicsWillard LibbyA method of determining the age of an organic sample by radioactive decay.
carpe diemStrategy"Seize the day!"
catalystChemistry
cause and effect
caveat emptorStrategy
Central Limit Theorem1733MathAbraham de Moivre
ceteris paribusStrategy"all other things being equal"; holding the effects of other variables constant to determine the effects on a single variable of interest
Chesterton's Fence1929Strategy
chilling effect
compound interestMoney
Condorcet Jury Theorem1785MathMarquis de Condorcet
confirmation biasPsychology
consent of the governedPolitical philosophyConcept of political philosophy in which a government's legitimacy and right to use state power is only justified if consented to by the people over whom said power is wielded.
correlation is not causation
counterfactuals
creative destruction1942MoneyJoseph Shumpeter Economist Joseph Shumpeter's idea for how the business cycle works: by innovation disrupting established processes and industries and forcing change into markets, often destructively and swiftly
crossing the RubiconHistoryJulius CaesarMaking a decision from which there is no turning back; a reference to Julius Caesar's overthrow of the Roman republic to found the Roman Empire in 49 BCE
cryptocurrencyMoney
dark matterPhysics
dead hand of the pastPolitical philosophyThomas JeffersonProblem inherent in constitutional political philosophy, where eventually a people becomes ruled by "masters" no longer alive, who rule by "fiat" via a document, from beyond the grave.
decision treeStrategy
depreciationMoney
distributionMath
diversityStrategy
divident paymentsMoneyPeriodic, usually quarterly, payouts to stockholders of the company when posting profits. Along with capital gains, one of the 2 primary reasons to invest in stocks.
Doppler Effect1842PhysicsChristian Doppler
Drake Equation1961PhysicsFrank DrakeEstimation of the number of technological civilizations that might exist in the universe.
Dunbar Number1990sRobin Dunbar
Dunning-Kruger EffectA cognitive bias in which people mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as higher than it actually is, because they cannot recognize their incompetence in comparison to others.
Duverger's Law1940sPolitical philosophyMaurice DuvergerHolds that plurality-rule elections within single member districts β€” such as the structure found in the U.S. β€” tend to favor two-party systems
edge case
elasticityMoneyThe ability of pricing mechanisms to respond quickly or less quickly to changes in prevailing conditions
electromagnetic spectrumPhysics
emperor's new clothesStrategy
entropy
equilibrium
event horizonPhysics
evolution
exit strategyStrategy
false negatives
false positives
falsifiabillity
fiduciary dutyEthics
fifth columnStrategyA group who unites in secret to undermine a larger group from within.
first mover advantageStrategy
force multiplierStrategy
fractals1975MathBenoit Mandelbrot
fractional lendingMoney
fundamental attribution error
general relativityAlbert Einstein
general willPolitical philosophyJean-Jacques Rousseau
Golden MeanMathAristotleAristotelian theory of an ideal balance point between the many extremes we face in life; he advocated harmony between the various spheres of life for an experience of happiness
Golden RuleEthicsAncient"Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you" is the essence of this ancient wisdom, often used as a shorthand version of Jesus's core teaching.
Goldilocks Zone
gravityPhysics
Heisenberg Uncertainty PrinciplePhysics----- Heisenberg
heuristicsPsychologyMental shortcuts that we do as a matter of routine, especially when we're stressed or under other types of cognitive constraints.
inflation
inflection point
intellectual propertyMoneyIP
iron law of ligarchyPolitical philosophyPolitical theory positing that no matter how democratic a group may start out, over time it will develop into a bureaucracy ruled by a small handful
keystone
Laffer curveMoney
Law of Large Numbers1713MathJacob BernoulliAs the number of coin tosses approaches infinity, the number of heads encountered will converge on 0.5; helpful in calculations of probability.
least-barricaded gateStrategyLeon TrotskyMetaphor about how social revolutions can take hold more easily in already weakened societies.
length contractionPhysics
lifeboat ethicsEthics
limiting factor
long tailMath
loss aversionPsychology
Lost EinsteinsMoney
map is not the territory
margin of errorMath
Maslow's PyramidPsychology---- Maslow
meanMath
medianMath
Median Voter Theorem
mens rea
Moore's Law
moral hazardMoney
Narcissus & Echo
Nash EquilibriumMath
natural selectionCharles Darwin
negative interest ratesMoney
Newton's Laws of MotionPhysics1st, 2nd, and 3rd laws
normal distributionMath
null hypothesis
observer effect
Occam's RazorStrategy
oligarchy
opportunity costMoneyWhat you miss out on by using a resource in a certain way -- what you would have done with the resource otherwise; what alternative use you would have put it to.
outlierMath
paradoxMath
Pareto PrincipleMoney----- Pareto
path dependentMath
Pavlov's dogsPsychology
pearls before swine
permutations
Peter Principle
phase shift
Plato's cavePhilosophyPlato
point of no returnStrategy
Polyanna PrinciplePsychologyTendency for people to remember pleasant events more accurately than unpleasant ones
Potemkin Village
Prisoner's DilemmaStrategy
probabilityMath
Procrustean BedStrategyProcrustes
proxy warStrategy
Pyrrhic VictoryStrategy
quantum physicsPhysics
quid pro quoStrategy
ReagonomicsMoney
received wisdom
red shiftPhysics
redundancyStrategy
resilienceStrategyAbility to bounce back into shape after having been pressed or stretched; elasticity. The capacity to recover quickly.
ripple effect
riskMoney
root cause
Rosetta Stone
roundingMath
rounding error
rule of law
SchrΓΆdinger's CatPhysics
selection biasPsychology
Single point of failure (SPoF)A part of a system that, when it fails, brings down the entire rest of the system or stops it from working properly.
singularity
six degrees of separation
skin in the gameEthics
social contractPolitical philosophyJean-Jacques Rousseau
social contractPolitical philosophyJohn Locke
Socratic methodSocrates
special relativityAlbert Einstein
speed of lightPhysicsApprox. 300 million meters per second
standard deviationMath
stare decisis"It has been decided" β€” terminology used by a judge or court to indicate that the matter before them has already been decided by a previous ruling.
state of naturePolitical philosophyThomas Hobbes
status quo
Streisand Effect
supply and demandMoney
sword of Damocles
tabula rasaStrategyblank slate
tilting at windmillsStrategyMiguel de Cervantes
time dilationPhysics
tipping pointMath
Tit-for-TatStrategy
too many cooks in the kitchenStrategy
tragedy of the commons
trickle down economicsMoney
trolley problemEthics
turtles all the way down
twin paradoxPhysicsAlbert Einstein
tyranny of choice
usuryMoney
variance
veil of ignorance1971Political philosophyJohn Rawls
Venn diagramMath
vulnerabilityPsychologyBrene Brown
wave-particle duality
wisdom of crowdsStrategyDerived from the Diversity Prediction Theorem: the average prediction of a group of individuals will be more accurate than the prediction of one average member
wolves and sheepStrategy
worst case scenarioStrategy
zero sum gameStrategy

Top Mental Models for Thinkers

Mental models are different ways of mapping or viewing a system or a problem. They are frameworks that help explain what’s going on, and predict what’s likely to happen next.

Model thinking is an excellent way of improving our cognition and decision making abilities. Thinking in models helps us understand how new concepts fit with older observations, and what theories and metaphors are likely to endure.

I will continue to add to this list over time as well as fill in the number of holes that remain in the set. Learning about new mental models is one of my favorite activities — it’s the closest thing to a superpower I can think of.

TermTypeTopicDefinition
80/20 ruleModelEconomicsAlso known as a power law, or the Pareto Principle
absolute advantage
absolute valueTermMaththe value of a function irrespective of its sign (positive or negative)
accessibilityPsychologyHow easy something is to call to mind
acquittalLegal precedent
activation energyTermScienceA chemistry term that describes the minimum energy required for a chemical system to react
adverse selection
a fortiori
akrasiaTermA state of mind where someone acts against their own better judgment due to weakness of will.
alea iacta estMetaphorMetaphorIn Latin, "the die is cast" -- attributed to Julius Caesar as he crossed the river Rubicon, leading an attack on Rome: a metaphor for a point of no return
allocationMethodEconomics
"All the world's a stageβ€œMetaphorArtsShakespearean metaphor likening culture to a theatrical performance: "And all the men and women merely players;They have their exits and their entrances ..."β€”William Shakespeare, As You Like It
Amara's LawTheoryScience & TechnologyWe tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run
annuityTermEconomicsa series of regular payments
antifragilityModelEconomicswhen something grows stronger under stress; when there is more upside to downside of experiencing a shock to the system
antimatterTheoryScience & Technology
a prioriPhilosophy
arbitrageModelEconomics
archetypesSymbolPhilosophyAn ideal type; a model after which others are fashioned.
arrow of timeScience & Technology
artificia docuit famesAncient WisdomPhilosophyLatin saying meaning, "sophistication is born out of hunger" -- a metaphor for innovation and genius being awakened by challenge, difficulty, and constraints
ASCIITermScience & TechnologyAmerican Standard Code for Information Interchange: a standard character translation table used by computers to convert numerical representations into printable characters
asking a fish about waterMetaphorMetaphor
astroturfingMethod
asymmetric encryptionTerm
asymptotesTermMathA line is approaching a limit, but never quite reaches it.
autophagy
availability biasModelPsychology
averagesMethodMatha measure of central tendency of a set of data, whether the mean, media, or mode
balance sheetMethodEconomics
balancing loopSystems theory
Baldwin EffectModelScience & TechnologyAs organisms learn to shape their environment, they can alter the path of evolution. For example, with the advent of dairy farming, selection pressures began favoring lactose absorption genes in humans.
bank reservesEconomics
bank runEconomics
base conversionMath
Base Rate FallacyPsychology
base weighting
Bayes' TheoremMethodMathan algebraic method of determining the updated probability of a certain event or case, given new information
bend the kneeMetaphorSocial psychology
betaEconomicsIn finance, a term that refers to investments tracking the broad market performance of an exchange or industry sector
The Big BangTermScience & TechnologyThe massive explosion which spawned our entire universe, back at the beginning of time.
The Big CrunchTheory
binary numbersTermMath
binomial distributionTermStatistics
Binomial TheoremTheoryMath
black holeTheoryPhysics
Black-Scholes modelModelEconomics
Black SwanModelEconomics
blockchainTermScience & Technology
boiling frogMetaphorPhilosophyA metaphor for the common occurence of slow, gradual changes over time not being noticed, like the (contested) legend of a scienfitic experiment that boileg a frog alive by starting with tepid water and slowly turning up the temperature.
bondEconomics
Boyle's Law
boundary object
bounded rationalityPsychologyA central challenge to the c. 1776 ideas of Adam Smith regarding the Invisible Hand of markets, this 20th c. psychological theory posits that rather than making optimized rational decisions, at most times the average person is "satisficing" or making the most expedient choice under considerable constraints and lack of available information
bricolageMethodArtsCombination of many types and forms into one piece; a pastiche or mashup of style and cultural referents
broken windows theoryTheoryLaw
Butterfly EffectModelScience & Technology
bystander effectSocial psychology
cadenceArts
camel's nosePhilosophya metaphor describing how allowing a smaller innocuous act may lead to larger acts that are undesirable
capital gainsEconomicsMoney that is earned as a result of a stock investment appreciating in value β€” the capital "gains in value"
capital requirementsEconomicsActual cash on hand for banks to theoretically offer at a given time, with the rest lended out as leverage
carbon-14Science & Technology
carbon datingScience & TechnologyA way to scientifically determine the age of an object
carpe diemPhilosophyin Latin, "seize the day" -- a reference often used to motivate oneself and others to act boldly and live vigorously in the moment
cartelEconomics
catalystScience & Technology
categorical dataStatistics
causa-sui projectPsychology
cellular automataMath
central limit theoremStatistics
central tendencyStatistics a measure of the midpoint of a data set; includes mean, median, and mode
ceteris paribusEconomics"all other things being equal"; holding the effects of other variables constant to determine the effects on a single variable of interest
charge preservationScience & Technology
charlatanPsychologyone who aspires to wealth &/or fame through trickery and deception
Chesterton's FenceMetaphor
chilling effectHistory
cognitive biasPsychology
collapseSystems theory
comparative advantageEconomics
composite eventsStatisticsin probability
compound interestEconomics
conditionalsMath
Condorcet Jury TheoremStatistics
confidence intervalStatisticsthe range of values over which a predicted outcome may lie; the amount of certainty one has about the predicted value falling within the estimated range
confirmation biasPsychology
conflationPsychology
consent of the governedPoliticsConcept of political philosophy in which a government's legitimacy and right to use state power is only justified if consented to by the people over whom said power is wielded.
consequentialismPhilosophy
constraintsMath
Consumer Sentiment IndexEconomics
continuous vs. discrete variablesStatistics
Copernican theory of the solar systemScience & Technology
correlationStatistics
correlation coefficientStatistics
cosineMath
counterfactual
countervailing powerEconomicsEconomist John Kenneth Galbraith's concept for how collective worker power is needed to balance against growing corporatism in the economy
creative destructionEconomics Economist Joseph Shumpeter's idea for how the business cycle works: by innovation disrupting established processes and industries and forcing change into markets, often destructively and swiftly
credo quia absurdum"I believe because it is absurd" β€” Tertullian's defense of belief in the miracles attributed to Christ
critical massScience & Technology
crossing the RubiconMetaphorHistoryMaking a decision from which there is no turning back; a reference to Julius Caesar's overthrow of the Roman republic to found the Roman Empire in 49 BCE
cross-sectional dataMath
crowdfundingEconomics
crowdsourcingSystems theory
cryptocurrencyEconomics
dead hand of the pastHistoryProblem inherent in constitutional political philosophy, where eventually a people becomes ruled by "masters" no longer alive, who rule by "fiat" via a document, from beyond the grave (Thomas Jefferson's concept)
death spiral
decision theorySystems theory
decision treeSystems theory
de minimisLaw
depreciationEconomics
derivativesMath
diminshing marginal utility (DMU)Economics
directory structureComputers
dispersionStatisticsthe amount of variation within a set of data; how spread out the data points are from each other
distributionsStatistics
divergent thinkingPsychology
diversity
Diversity Prediction Theorem
dividend paymentsEconomicsPeriodic, usually quarterly, payouts to stockholders of the company when posting profits. Along with capital gains, one of the 2 primary reasons to invest in stocks.
Dodd-Frank Act of 2010Economicsdefinitive financial regulation of the financial industry following the 2007-8 financial crisis
domain dependence
double helix
doxaSocial psychologycommon belief or opinion
Drake EquationScience & Technology1961 estimation of the number of technological civilizations that might exist in the universe, conceived by Dr. Frank Drake
dualismPhilosophy
Dunbar numberPsychology
Dunning-Kruger EffectPsychologyA cognitive bias in which people mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as higher than it actually is, because they cannot recognize their incompetence in comparison to others.
Duverger's LawPoliticsHolds that plurality-rule elections within single member districts β€” such as the structure found in the U.S. β€” tend to favor two-party systems
economies of scaleEconomics
edge case
elasticity; price elasticityEconomicsthe ability of pricing mechanisms to respond quickly or less quickly to changes in prevailing conditions
elasticity of demand
elasticity of supply
electromagnetic spectrumScience & Technology
electron cloudScience & Technologyrefers to the true nature of an electron's existence around an atom, wherein its location in space is not a definite point, but a fuzzy region of probable occurence
elephants and fliesEconomicssales concept to quickly segment leads into size buckets, from elephants > deers > rabbits > mice > flies
elephant and riderPsychology psychological idea about how our unconscious and semi-conscious desires dominate us, but can be directed by reason (Jonathan Haidt et al)
embargo
emperor's new clothes
encryptionMath
ensemble learningScience & Technology
epistemologyPhilosophy
e pluribus unumPoliticsLatin: "one out of many" β€” one of several phrases on the American dollar bill, it refers to the unity of the nation as made up of its many peoples and as such, signifies the republic.
equilibriumScience & Technology
equityEconomics
equity crowdfundingEconomics
error-embracingPsychology
event horizonPhysics
exception handling
exchange ratesEconomicsThe value of one country's currency as measured against another
existentialism
exit strategyEconomics
externalitiesEconomics
extrapolationStatistics
factorialMath
factum tacendo, crimen facias acriusPhilosophyHe who does not stop a crime is an accomplice.
fact /value problemPhilosophy
fake newsMedia
false positivesScience & Technology
false consensus effectSocial psychology
falsifiabilityScience & Technologyability to be proven untrue; a requirement for a theory to be called scientific
Feynman TechniqueScience & TechnologyA method of learning and remembering difficult concepts by simplifying them until you can explain it to a new student or layperson who knows nothing about that concept.
fiat money
fiduciary dutyEconomics
fifth columnPoliticsa group who unites in secret to undermine a larger group from within
file systemMetaphorComputers
filter bubbleMetaphorSocial psychology
first principlesPhilosophy
fishing expeditionMetaphor
fitness functionTermScience & Technologyin AI, refers to a set of selection criteria applied to a set of potential solutions to a problem to allow only the better candidates to survive to the next generation
flΓ’neurTermArts
force multiplierScience & Technology
fractalsMath
fractional reserve bankingMethodEconomics
fractionsTermMath
fragilityPhilosophy
framingPsychology
free tradeMethodEconomics
free willPhilosophyPhilosophy
freshwater vs. saltwater economistsEconomics
Friend of the Court filingLaw
FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt)Social psychology
fundamental attribution errorPsychology
future valueEconomics
gainTermArtsin audio recording, a control that allows more or less of the source sound into the channel being recorded
game theoryMath
Gates' LawTheoryPhilosophythe idea that software development speed halves every 18 months, negating the acceleratory effects of Moore's Law and preventing computing from leaping greatly forward
Gaussian distributionTermStatisticsthe Normal distribution
GDP (Gross Domestic Product)ModelEconomicsthe sum of all public and private goods produced within a given period; a measure of a country's economic health
generalists and specialistsPhilosophy
genetic algorithmsScience & Technologyan approach to AI based on evolutionary models, in which multiple candidate solutions to a problem are generated randomly by mutation and recombination, then iterated over thousands of generations through fitness functions to weed out the best of each generation
Gettier problemPhilosophy
GOFAIScience & Technology"Good Old-Fashioned Artificial Intelligence" β€” reference to the style and general algorithmic approach of early artificial intelligence work, which fell out of popularity over the decades in favor of more organic neural net and evolutionary approaches
Golden calf
Golden MeanTheoryPhilosophyAristotelian theory of an ideal balance point between the many extremes we face in life; he advocated harmony between the various spheres of life for an experience of happiness
Golden RuleAncient Wisdom"Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you" is the essence of this ancient wisdom, often used as a shorthand version of Jesus's core teaching.
Goldilocks ZoneModel
gold standardLegal precedent
gravity wavesPhysics
habeas corpusLegal precedentLaw
habitusSocial psychology
Hanlon's RazorModelPhilosophynever attribute to malice what is adequately described by carelessness
hard determinismPhilosophy
harmonicsArts
hearts and mindsPolitics
hedge fundsEconomics
hedonismPhilosophyPhilosophy
Heisenberg Uncertainty PrincipleTheoryScience & Technology
hexadecimal numbersTermMathbase 6
heuristicsPsychologyMental shortcuts that we do as a matter of routine, especially when we're stressed or under other types of cognitive constraints.
hormesisScience & TechnologyWhen a small dose of a toxic substance is actually beneficial to the living thing that ingests it
hydraMetaphor
iatrogenicsHealthharm done by the healer
ice core datingScience & Technology
id, ego, superegoModelPsychologyFreud's psychological model of the conscious and unconscious mind.
implicit costEconomics
Imposter SyndromeModelPsychologyA psychological pattern in which one doubts their own accomplishments and has a generalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.
index number; indexingStatistics
inferior goodsEconomics
inflationEconomics
inflection pointMathThe point of a curve at which a change in the direction of the curve occurs.
interestEconomics
interest rateEconomics
internal rate of return (IRR)Economics
Internet of Things (IoT)TermScience & Technology
intersectionMath
interventionismSocial psychology
IP addressesTermScience & Technology
iron law of oligarchyTheoryPoliticsPolitical theory positing that no matter how democratic a group may start out, over time it will develop into a bureaucracy ruled by a small handful
It from BitTheoryPhysicsJohn Wheeler's theory about the fundamental informational nature of the universe
Keynesian economicsTheoryEconomics
Keynesian PutModelEconomics
Kronos EffectModelEconomicsthe tendency of a successful corporation to seek to acquire and/or drive its upstart competitors out of business
Laffer CurveTheoryEconomics
law of excluded middle
Law of Large NumbersScientific LawMathAs the number of coin tosses approaches infinity, the number of heads encountered will converge on 0.5; helpful in calculations of probability.
least-barricaded gateMetaphorPoliticsTrotsky's metaphor of how social revolutions can take hold more easily in already weakened societies
lecturing birds how to flyMetaphorMetaphor
length contractionModelPhysics
less is morePhilosophyMetaphor
L'etat c'est moiPhilosophyPolitics"I am the stateβ€œ
leverageEconomics
lifeboat ethicsPhilosophyPhilosophy
light-weight processComputers
limit of a functionTermMath if the graph of an equation seems to approach a numerical value but never quite reaches it, we say that number is the limit of the function (approaching from the negative or positive direction; sometimes directionality is important)
limiting factorSystems theory
linear regressionMethodMath
liquidityEconomics
local minModelSystems theoryidea that to grow out of a stasis or plateau, you likely have to endure a period of "setback" that is a lower dip or minimum value from where you are now, but is what's required to get over the activation energy to reach the next level
logarithmMath
logical fallaciesPhilosophy
long tailTheoryStatisticsIn a power law distribution (of population, ages, items, etc.), the region of the graph that tapers off quickly after the initial segment of high data points
loss aversionPsychology
Lost EinsteinsTheoryhttp://doctorparadox.net/models/lost-einsteins/
loyalists and mercenariesSystems theory
maker's time and manager's timeModelSystems theory
M1Economics
M2Economics
mandalaReligion
ManichaeanPhilosophya narrowly-defined dualistic worldview of good against evil
map is not the territoryMetaphorMetaphor
margin of errorStatistics
marginal benefitEconomics
marginal costEconomics
marginal returnsEconomics
marginal utilityEconomics
market shareEconomics
Markov chainTermMath
Maslow's Hierarchy of needsModelPsychology
meanTermStatisticsthe average value of the numbers in a data set; take the sum of all values and divide by the total number of values in the set
medianTermStatistics
Median Voter TheoremTheoryPolitics
megalopsychonPhilosophyPhilosophyConcept in Aristotelian ethics of living with grandeur and taking risks with dignity; being nonsmall
mens reaLegal precedentLaw"guilty mind" β€” establishing the intent of a perp can help to establish criminal liability
mercantilismTheoryEconomics
meritocracyModelSystems theory
metaphysicsPhilosophyPhilosophy
mirror neurons
modeTermStatistics
monopolyEconomicsMarket condition in which there exists only one seller of a resource
monopsonyEconomicsMarket condition in which there exists only one buyer of a resource
Moore's LawTheoryScience & TechnologyNamed after Gordon Moore, the model predicts the doubling of transistors on a circuit of equivalent size every 18 months to 2 years. This has many consequences for both technology and economics, including the predictable drop in price of generating the same amount of computing power each period.
moral hazardEconomicswhen one party takes on additional risk, knowing that other parties will bear the brunt of the risk in event of a loss
Moravec's Paradox
MVP (minimum viable product)TermEconomics
naive cynicismPsychologyState of mind in which people believe others to have more egocentric bias than is warranted or is actually the case.
Nash EquilibriumTheoryMath
nasty, brutish, and shortAncient WisdomPhilosophy
natural lawsScience & Technology
natural selectionScientific LawScience & Technology
necessity is the mother of inventionCommon WisdomMyth/Metaphor
negative externalitiesEconomics
neomaniaSocial psychologylove of the modern for its own sake
neural netTermScience & Technology
net present value (NPV)ModelEconomics
neuroplasticityScience & Technology
Newton's first lawScientific LawPhysicsan object in motion will stay in motion, unless acted upon by a force
Newton's second lawScientific LawPhysicsF = ma, or an object of mass m feeling a force F will accelerate by an amount a
nodesTermMath
noosphereData scienceSphere of human thought β€” all interacting minds on earth. An early 1900s concept from Teilhard de Chardin
nominal figuresEconomics
nonlinearityMath
Normal distributionScientific LawStatistics
normal goodsEconomics
normalized weighted averageStatistics
normative and descriptivePhilosophy
noumenaPhilosophy
novus ordo seclorumSymbolGovernmentA new order for the ages; Latin phrase seen on the dollar bill
null hypothesisMethodScience
observer effectScience
Ockham's RazorTheoryPhilosophyA philosophical rule of thumb that favors the simplest explanation. Also known as the "law of parsimony"
octal numbersMathbase 8
oligopolyEconomics
omphalosPolitics
opportunity costModelEconomicsWhat you miss out on by using a resource in a certain way -- what you would have done with the resource otherwise; what alternative use you would have put it to.
optionsEconomics
orders of magnitudeScientific LawMath
ordinally ranked dataStatistics
organizational debtEconomics
oscillationsScience
out-group biasSocial psychology
outlierModelStatistics
paradoxModel
paragonModelCultureA standard against which something can be judged β€” an exemplar example of a thing
path dependent
pax RomanaHistory
pearls before swineMetaphorMyth/Metaphor
P/E RatioEconomicsPrice to earnings ratio: standard measure of relative stock performance
permutationsMath
Peter PrincipleTheorySystems theory
phase shiftScience
philosopher kings
Philosopher's StoneUnsolved Mystery
phonemes
plant a seedMetaphor
Platonic forms
PlatonicityPhilosophyadherence to crisp abstract theory & forms that blind us to the mess of actual reality
Plato's CaveModelPhilosophyallegory in The Republic about a cave dweller whose only picture of reality is the shadow on the cave wall thrown by the fire
pluralismGovernment
point of no returnMyth/Metaphor
pollingStatistics
Pollyanna PrincipleModelPsychologytendency for people to remember pleasant events more accurately than unpleasant ones
populismGovernment
positronPhysicsan antimatter electron
Potemkin Village EffectModelSystems theorytendency of systems to create the appearance of functioning normally β€” to appease the operators who wish it so β€” even when they are not
precisionMath
present valueEconomicsthe expected current value of an income stream
price ceilingEconomics
price floorEconomics
prima facie
principle of indifferenceStatisticsin probability, when there is no basis to choose some outcomes as more likely than others, they are given equal weight (1/2 chance of a particular side of a coin, 1/52 to get a particular card from a deck, etc.)
prisoner's dilemmaMath
private equity (PE)Economics
probabilityMath
probability distributionStatistics
Procrustean bedPhilosophy
profitEconomics
propagandaSocial psychologyoriginally, a way to "propagate" any idea; used by both sides in WWI, it thereafter took on a sinister connotation when American & British citizens felt hoodwinked by their govt's use of it
proper framePhysicsin physics, the frame of reference that accelerates with you and determines your age
proportionalityMath
prospect theoryPsychology
proximate cause
proxy warPolitics
pseudoscience
PTSDPsychology
punctuated equilibriumScience & Technology
Pygmalian EffectSocial psychology
Pyrrhic victoryMyth/Metaphor
quantum computingScience
qubitScience
quid pro quoLaw
quota
random walksMath
rangeStatisticsin a set of numbers, the difference between the highest value and the lowest value in the data set
rara avisMyth/Metaphor"rare bird" in Latin
rate of returnEconomics
realismPhilosophy
recursionMath
red shiftPhysics
reductio ad absurdoPhilosophycollapsing things too far, in a way that destroys real significance
reductio ad finemPhilosophyTo analyze to the end β€” break the concept down into its conponent parts.
redundancySystems theoryhaving multiple pathways within a system to accomplish the same task or achieve the same objective
reference framePhysicsa frame that does not accelerate; also known as a Lorentz frame
regnat populus
regression analysisStatistics
reincarnationReligion
reinforcing loopSystems theory
relativityPhysicsEinstein's central insight that the experience or perceived passage of time depends greatly on the conditions of the observer, particularly with respect to velocity and gravity
resilienceSystems theoryability to bounce back into shape after having been pressed or stretched; elasticity. The ability to recover quickly.
respice finem"consider that you will die" β€” i.e. live life as you would in order to be proud of it by the time it's over
res publicaGovernmentpertaining to the state
retrodiction
revenueEconomics
riskEconomics
risk-weighted assets (RWAs)Economics
root cause
roundingMath
rounding errorMath
run on the bank
samplingStatistics
samsaraReligion
scarcityEconomics
Schelling's Tipping Model
search intentMedia
second-order thinking
selection biasPsychology
self-governance
set theoryMath
ship of TheseusMyth/Metaphor
SIFIEconomicssystemically important financial institution; post-2008 financial crisis designation for banks deemed "too big to fail" (currently, firms holding more than $50b in assets)
sigmaStatisticsstandard deviation, named for the Greek letter denoting the statistical term
signal pathPhysics
significant figuresMathaka "sig figs"
simulationPhilosophy
sineTermMath
sine waveTermPhysics
singularityTheoryPhysics
SIR modelSciencecontagious disease modelling based on possible patient states (susceptible, infected, recovered)
site navigationMethodMedia
six degrees of separationTheoryStatistics
six sigmaMethodMotorola-originated concept of ensuring quality control to a very fine point, by ensuring that parts or other production outputs are manufactured to be within a certain quality range up to 6 times the standard deviation.
situational preparedness
squaring the circleUnsolved MysteryA notorious philosophical problem first posed by Plato, the phrase has come to be used to allude to the grandiosity and infeasibility of someone's plans.
skewStatistics
skin in the gameEconomics
slope of a lineMath
social contractPhilosophyProfoundly impactful document in political philosophy from Jean Jacques Rousseau in 18th c. France, refuting the rights of monarchs to rule the people
Socratic methodMethodPhilosophyTechnique of instruction or conversation where the teacher or moderator proceeds by asking the student or pupil a serious of questions, enticing her or him to come up with their own answers to the issues related to the subject at hand.
solipsism
sortingMath
speech act theoryTheoryPhilosophyBritish philosopher J.L.Austin's concept that all uses of speech carry a performative aspect
speed of light (c)Physicsapprox. 300 million meters per second
Single point of failure (SPoF)TermA part of a system that, when it fails, brings down the entire rest of the system or stops it from working properly
spreadStatistics
standard deviationStatistics
standing wavesTerm
stare decisisLegal precedentLaw"it has been decided" β€” terminology used by a judge or court to indicate that the matter before them has already been decided by a previous ruling
status quoCulture
stochastic terrorismTermSocial psychology
stocks and flowsModelSystems theory
StoicismAncient WisdomPhilosophy
Streisand EffectMetaphorSocial psychologywhen the act of attempting to hide information only makes it more prominently spread, especially via the Internet
strict liabilityLawcrimes which have no mens rea requirement, such as rear-ending of another vehicle (where it is always the rear-enders' fault no matter what the circumstances
subsidyEconomics
success to the successfulSystems theoryreinforcing loop within complex system β€” especially economies β€” wherein the spoils of victory include the means to alter the rules of the game further in the favor of the previous winners
summum malumAncient WisdomPoliticsultimate evil β€” some posit cruelty as this ultimate evil
supply and demandModelEconomics
supply chainTermEconomics
sword of DamoclesMetaphor
symmetric encryptionTerm
tabula rasaBlank slate
tachyonPhysicshypothetical particle that travels faster than the speed of light
tangentMath
tariff
tempus edax rerumAncient WisdomArts"Time devours everything." β€” Ovid
tempus fugitAncient WisdomTime flies
tempus neminem manetAncient Wisdomtime waits for no man
Third StoryPhilosophythe story an impartial third-party observer might tell; a version of events any unbiased person could agree on
Thucydides Trap
tilting at windmillsMetaphorArtsA reference to the novel Don Quixote, denoting the ongoing pursuit of useless attacks against an implacable enemy
time dilationThought ExperimentPhysics
time series dataStatistics
time value of moneyTheoryEconomics
tipping pointModelSystems theory
too many cooks in the kitchenMetaphor
touchstoneMetaphorMyth/MetaphorA black stone once used to judge the purity of gold or silver β€” now signifying a standard against which something should be judged.
trade-offsModelEconomics
tragedy of the commonsTheorySystems theory
transitivityTermMath
trolly problemThought ExperimentPhilosophy
turtles all the way downTheoryPhilosophy
twin paradoxThought ExperimentPhysics
tyranny of choiceTheorySystems theory
UnicodeTermComputers
unionTermMath
universal lawPhilosophyPhilosophy
usuryTermEconomicsthe act of charging interest on borrowed money; for thousands of years there have been religous proscriptions against lending money with interest in various societies
utilityPhilosophy
varianceTermStatistics
Veil of IgnoranceModelPhilosophyPhilosopher John Rawls' model for making better ethical decisions, in which the decider chooses a course of action based on the predicate that s/he will not know which of the groups or persons affected by the decision they personally would be. This method creates natural incentives to find the fairest outcome for all groups, since the decider doesn't know which group they will "end up in" on the other side of the decision.
Venn diagramModelStatistics
via negativaPhilosophyindirect description of a thing by describing what that thing is not
Volcker ruleLegal precedentEconomicsfinancial rule preventing consumer lending banks from speculative trading in securities for their own profit
wave functionPhysics
wave-particle dualityTheoryPhysics
wheel of lifeSymbolReligion
when life gives you lemonsMetaphorPhilosophyYou try to make lemonade! Another way of saying, "let's try and make the best of this unfortunate situation."
winner-take-all marketEconomics
wisdom of crowdsModelSocial psychologyderived from the Diversity Prediction Theorem: the average prediction of a group of individuals will be more accurate than the prediction of one average member
wolves and sheepMetaphorPhilosophy
wormholeTheoryPhysics
worst case scenarioModelMyth/Metaphor
zero sum gameModelMath
z scoreTermStatistics

phobia indoctrination

Phobia indoctrination is one of the principle ways a charismatic leader will lull potential followers into his thrall, by putting them into a state of perpetual fear and anxiety. They know, either instinctively or through training (or both), that people can be induced into a prolonged state of confusion easily, and that many people in states of confusion act quite irrationally. Abusers, cult leaders, and other controllers use demagoguery and other tricks to hide in plain sight and continue to accrue power while passing themselves off as harmless or extremely patriotic.

These chaos agents use emotional manipulation as a tool of control. They whip followers up into a fear frenzy frequently enough to instill a set of phobia-like instinctual reactions to chosen stimuli. In addition to stoking fears of the enemies at the gates, they also inculcate irrational fears of the consequences of questioning their authority. Any doubts expressed about the leadership or its doctrine are subject to terrifying negative results. Cults use this formula to help prevent followers from questioning or leaving the group.

Phobia indoctrination is a tool of cults

As part of a larger overall program of brainwashing or mind control, cults and destructive organizations use imaginary extremes (going to hell, being possessed by demons, failing miserably at life, race war, Leftist apocalypse, etc.) to shock followers into refusing to examine any evidence whatsoever. A form of unethical hypnosis, phobia indoctrination can now be carried out on a mass scale thanks to the internet and our massive media apparatus.

Sociopaths are taking ample advantage of their advantage in time and distance over the slow pace of justice. The wielding of fear as a cudgel in America politics has reached a fever pitch, with anti-CRT hysteria, anti-vaxxers, anti-government, anti-science, lawless zombie footsoldiers screeching about the “freedom!!!” they wish the government to provide them for persecuting their enemies, and other social horrors are merely the tip of the climate changing iceberg.

Relevant book list:

The Goldilocks Zone vs. Unbounded growth

The concept of the Goldilocks Zone reminds us that most typically, there is a range of possibilities above and below which would not be viable. This is in contrast to the idea of unbounded growth, in which one or more key performance indicators is expected to continue to grow forever, without bounds. Think: up and to the right.

Commonly used as a metaphor, the Goldilocks Zone has its origins in planetary science. It defines a planet that is within the habitable zone of its star system, meaning not too hot and not too cold — with the ability to sustain liquid water. Without it, life on the only living planet we know — ours — would cease to exist. Therefore, one good place to look for potential life on other planets is the Goldilocks Zone, which has also come to be used as a reference meaning “the perfect conditions” for some ideal state or goal.

“Going viral” isn’t always desirable

We crave it in our social media feeds, but avoid it like the plague when it is the plague — viral contagion can both giveth and taketh away. In America we’ve recently been having both as of this writing.

Whereas the Goldilocks Zone presupposes limits at both ends, unbounded growth expects no limits to ever be encountered from the start. In a finite world inside a finite universe, it is simply unlikely to be true with much regularity.

You could say that Goldilocks Zones know a lot about establishing boundaries, while the infinite growth areas tend to extremism. Beyond the pandemic, cancer is another infamous candidate for illustrating the dangers of growth without bounds. Arguably, hypercapitalism belongs.

The Goldilocks Zone is a moderate

Goldilocks Zones are akin to the center of the Bell curve; the boundaries of the margin of error; the middle path. James Madison would have been a fan of the Goldilocks Zone — it would have smelled to him like his own concept of the moderating force of many factions preventing too much extremism from taking root in governance, and reminded him of the insights of the Marquis de Condorcet.

“Moderation in all things” was made famous by first the Greeks and later the Romans. It is a kind of ancient wisdom that turns out to have very old roots indeed — back even to the early days of the universe.

Values of the Left and the Right: Liberal vs. Authoritarian Worldviews

The following list must be prefaced with some caveats about painting with broad strokes, and acknowledging everything is a distribution and Not All Republicans espouse all of these things to the same degree or even at all. Nevertheless, both the extremism and the polarization in our political system is the highest in recent memory — certainly in the totality of my Generation X memory, and by all accounts the highest since the 1930s. Extremism is high on both the Left and the Right, but research shows it’s been growing much more extreme on the Right.

And in many ways it feels like we are living through something akin to the 1930s, again. The rise in authoritarian regimes and totalist thought and linguistic patterns is troubling and dangerous. The United States never had an armed insurrection take over the Capitol building prior to January 6, 2021. America has had many periods of brutality in its past and present, but historically speaking nothing like the recent decades of escalating mass shooter events.

What can explain the religious devotion to a failed businessman and failed President on the Right? Loathe him through we might on the Left, Trump is revered on the Right for espousing the “virtues” of a traditional hierarchical society, and for giving coded approval to America’s most shadowy extremist groups that he would be finding excuses to look the other way if they chose to strike. They both held up their ends of the bargain, with would-be assassins in tactical gear assaulting the nation’s lawmakers as they certified the 2020 election results as mandated by the Constitution, and paid puppets in the Senate letting them all off the hook… technically speaking, that is.

Trump looked the other way, but only for another 14 days — until Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. With a new sheriff Merrick Garland in town, all bets are off regarding leniency for the nation’s most vile and seditious lot who stormed the Capitol and disrupted the peaceful transfer of power for the first time in US history — a sad day for the country and its venerable history of managing to keep the republic.

This will be a work in progress, as usual. And a tool for discussion — we’re going to need it for the coming years.

Liberal ValuesAuthoritarian Values
EqualityHierarchy
JusticeForce
LibertyControl
Popular sovereigntyUnpopular rule
Common goodPrivatization
LogicMagical Thinking
ReasonPower
TruthPropaganda
HistoryMyth
RealityFantasy
ResponsibilityEscapism
RationalityIrrationality
IntegrityHypocrisy
CharacterCharacter disorder
WisdomIgnorance
GenerosityGreed
HonestyDeception
EarnestnessCynicism
SkepticismLoyalty
CuriosityBoredom
CompassionContempt
EmpathySadism
Driven by careDriven by fear
MoralityNihilism
TransparencySecrecy
ConsiderationCallousness
PatienceImpatience
MaturityImmaturity
Emotional intelligenceEmotional manipulation
WholeheartednessCognitive dissonance
VulnerabilityDefensiveness
AuthenticityMimicry
DeliberationAct without thinking
De-escalationAggression
ConsciousUnconscious
Self-awareSelf-deception
EducationBrainwashing
DiversityConformity
CreativityDestruction
ArtisticFundamentalist
SolutionsGrievance
CommunityRugged individualism
TrustDistrust
GratitudeEnvy
RespectDisrespect
SustainabilityExtraction
Self-regardCathexis
SpiritualityReligiosity
Self-actualizationFollow the leader
Problem solvers"Tear it down"-ers

motivated reasoning

In this style of thinking, a person is generally hostile to new information coming in, especially if it conflicts with their existing beliefs. They will find a way to discount, discredit, or rationalize away the conflicting info in order to preserve their existing belief.

We all do it to some degree, but some do it more than others.

Lawyers, not scientists

A good analogy is that people who engage in a lot of motivated reasoning are operating more like lawyers — who are arguing a specific point of view regardless of its veracity — and less like scientists, who are testing a hypothesis in good faith.

Skin in the Game

When someone has skin in the game, they have some stake in the outcome of their opinion or decision. They are incentivized to act in their own best interest, naturally aligning them with the best outcome. It mitigates effects like moral hazard, which misaligns incentives of the parties in an interaction based on an asymmetry of knowledge, power, and/or other factors.

The metaphor of skin in the game also relates to a number of core concepts in moral philosophy:

  • moral hazard
  • fairness
  • justice
  • transparency
  • authenticity
  • integrity
  • responsibility
  • good faith
  • honor
  • honesty
  • truthworthiness
  • forthrightness
  • earnestness
  • steadfastness
  • being true to one’s word

Skin in the game quotes

The price of greatness is responsibility.

Winston Churchill

Even a slight preference for homophily results in excessive segregation

This was economist Thomas Schelling’s insight way back in 1969 — just one of many examples of “unknown knowledge” that exists in the world today. His Spatial Segregation Model takes a few simple premises and shows that a set of quite tolerant people, who genuinely prefer to live in a diverse neighborhood in terms of race, income, and other factors, nevertheless end up self-segregating into clusters of like individuals — as follows:

Slight preference for homophily: 30%

We set up a fairly dense environment with a low preference for similarity — people are quite tolerant and are only looking to have 30% of their near neighbors be similar to them:

But when we run the simulation, we end up with an equilibrium state where individuals are surrounded by 75.2% similar neighbors:

If we run the spatial segregation model with a 50% preference for similar neighbors, the outcome is even more stark: the agents achieve equilibrium at a whopping 87.7% similarity:

Continue reading “Even a slight preference for homophily results in excessive segregation”