Top Mental Models

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 advantageTermEconomicsThe ability of a party to produce a product or service more efficiently than any of its competitors.
absolute valueTermMaththe value of a function irrespective of its sign (positive or negative)
accessibilityTermPsychologyHow easy something is to call to mind
acquittalLegal precedentLawA judgment of not guilty in a criminal trial
activation energyTermScienceA chemistry term that describes the minimum energy required for a chemical system to react
adverse selectionTermEconomicsInsurance phenomenon in which buyers or sellers in a transaction can use insider knowledge to unfairly get a better advantage over the other party or parties
a fortioriLogicLogicFrom the Latin, "from a stronger argument," the phrase refers to conclusions for which there is stronger evidence than a previously accepted one
akrasiaTermPsychologyA 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
allocationMethodEconomicsDistributing resources, assets, or funds amongs recipients
"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 & TechnologyAntimatter particles are the precise opposite charge and spin from their matter counterparts, but identical otherwise
a prioriLogicPhilosophyInformation deduced from logical precedents versus empirical observation
arbitrageModelEconomicsA method of turning profit via simultaneous purchase and sale of the same assets in different markets, benefiting from the differences in listed price in various geographical regions.
archetypesSymbolPhilosophyAn ideal type; a model after which others are fashioned.
arrow of timeUnsolved MysteryScience & TechnologyAlthough human beings perceive the past as being different from the future -- and that we remember the past, but not the future -- intrinsically there is nothing in the structure of the universe that defines past from future. Time is instead an emergent feature.
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 waterMetaphorMetaphorThere are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, β€œMorning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, β€œWhat the hell is water?”
astroturfingMethodPoliticsThe deceptive political practice of paying operatives to pose as members of the public engaging in "grassroots protest" as a way of adding plausible deniability as well as amplification of their point of view
asymmetric encryptionTermComputer ScienceAlso known as public-key cryptography, asymmetric encryption encrypts and decrypts the data using two separate keys that are related mathematically (a public and a private key)
asymptotesTermMathThe graph of a curve is approaching a numerical value or limit, but never quite reaches it.
autophagyExperimental findingBiology, MedicineThe body's way of cleaning out damaged cells and replace them with newer, healthier cells. Literally, "self-eating"
availability biasModelPsychologyCognitive distortion arising from the unconscious preference for information that is recent rather than what is representative.
averagesMethodMatha measure of central tendency of a set of data, whether the mean, media, or mode
balance sheetMethodEconomicsA financial document showing the book value of a company, i.e. how much it's worth.
balancing loopModelSystems theoryA balancing loop attempts to move a current state (the way things are) to a desired state (goal or objective) though an action (thing(s) done to reach the goal).The balancing loop is one of the two foundational structures of systems thinking, along with the Reinforcing Loop. A balancing loop is representative of any situation where there is a goal or an objective and action is taken to achieve that goal or objective.
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 reservesTermEconomicsCash minimums banks must have on hand to meet regulatory requirements ensuring the financial system is equipped to handle periodic shocks in demand for withdrawals.
bank runTermEconomicsEconomic term for when a large group of bank depositors withdraw their money all at once -- once a common occurrence that rarely happens anymore in the modern world.
base conversionMathThe base is how many numbers there are in a number system; we use base 10 primarily, and computers use base 2, aka binary. Base conversion is the method of converting numbers from one base system to another.
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
betaMethodEconomicsIn 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 & TechnologyThe basis of cryptocurrency, blockchain technology is a kind of public ledger or shared database that records transactions transparently and out in the open, in a way that anyone can access or verify.
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 LawScientific Law
boundary object
bounded rationalityExperimental findingPsychologyA 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 effectExperimental findingSocial psychology
cadenceTermArts
camel's noseMetaphorPhilosophya metaphor describing how allowing a smaller innocuous act may lead to larger acts that are undesirable
capital gainsTermEconomicsMoney 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-14Scientific LawScience & Technology
carbon datingMethodScience & TechnologyA way to scientifically determine the age of an object
carpe diemAncient WisdomPhilosophyin Latin, "seize the day" -- a reference often used to motivate oneself and others to act boldly and live vigorously in the moment
cartelEconomics
catalystModelScience & Technology
categorical dataStatistics
causa-sui projectTheoryPsychology
cellular automataMath
central limit theoremScientific LawStatistics
central tendencyStatistics a measure of the midpoint of a data set; includes mean, median, and mode
ceteris paribusMethodEconomics"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 FenceModelMetaphor
chilling effectTermHistory
cognitive biasExperimental findingPsychology
collapseModelSystems theory
comparative advantageEconomics
composite eventsStatisticsin probability
compound interestModelEconomics
conditionalsMath
Condorcet Jury TheoremAncient WisdomStatistics
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 biasExperimental findingPsychology
conflationPsychology
consent of the governedPhilosophyPoliticsConcept 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
conservation of energyScientific LawChemistryIn a closed system, total energy remains constant.
conservation of massScientific LawPhysicsIn a closed system, mass remains constant.
conservation of momentumScientific LawPhysicsIn a closed system, momentum remains constant.
constraintsMath
Consumer Sentiment IndexEconomics
continuous vs. discrete variablesStatistics
Copernican theory of the solar systemScientific LawScience & 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
Dark MatterTheoryPhysics
dead hand of the pastPhilosophyHistoryProblem 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 minimisLegal precedentLaw
depreciationMethodEconomics
derivativesMath
diminshing marginal utility (DMU)ModelEconomics
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 2010Legal precedentEconomicsdefinitive financial regulation of the financial industry following the 2007-8 financial crisis
domain dependence
double helix
doxaSocial psychologycommon belief or opinion
Drake EquationModelScience & Technology1961 estimation of the number of technological civilizations that might exist in the universe, conceived by Dr. Frank Drake
dualismPhilosophy
Dunbar numberTheoryPsychology
Dunning-Kruger EffectExperimental findingPsychologyA 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 LawAncient WisdomPoliticsHolds 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
Easterlin paradoxExperimental findingEconomicsBeyond a certain point, countries don't get happier as they get richer
economies of scaleEconomics
edge caseMetaphor
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 spectrumScientific LawScience & Technology
electron cloudModelScience & 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 fliesMetaphorEconomicssales concept to quickly segment leads into size buckets, from elephants > deers > rabbits > mice > flies
elephant and riderModelPsychology 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 ClothesMetaphor
encryptionMath
ensemble learningScience & Technology
entropyScientific LawScience & TechnologyThe disorder of a system increases over time.
epistemologyPhilosophy
e pluribus unumSymbolPoliticsLatin: "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 horizonScientific LawPhysicsA boundary beyond which events cannot affect on observer, such as the edge of a black hole
exception handlingMethodComputer programmingThe process of responding to the occurrence of exceptions -- unexpected conditions that throw the application into an error state and must be resolved before continuing.
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 moneyEconomics
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 errorExperimental findingPsychology
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
germ theory of diseaseScientific Law
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
habitusTheorySocial 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 datingMethodScience & 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.
interestModelEconomics
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
locus of control
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 aversionExperimental findingPsychology
Lost EinsteinsTheoryhttp://doctorparadox.net/models/lost-einsteins/
loyalists and mercenariesMetaphorSystems theory
maker's time and manager's timeModelSystems theory
M1Economics
M2Economics
mandalaAncient WisdomReligionIntrocate and elaborate patterns created with colored sand by Buddhist monks, who blow away their creations at the end to signify their celebration of impermanence.
ManichaeanAncient WisdomPhilosophya narrowly-defined dualistic worldview of good against evil
man on horsebackMetaphorSynonym for a demagogue. Comes from French general Georges Ernest Boulanger, and refers to a military leader who presents himself as the savior of the country during a crisis and either assumes or threatens to assume dictatorial powers.
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 neuronsExperimental finding
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 effectExperimental findingScience
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 biasExperimental findingSocial psychology
outlierModelStatistics
paradoxModel
paragonModelCultureA standard against which something can be judged β€” an exemplar example of a thing
path dependent
pax RomanaLegal precedentHistory
pearls before swineMetaphorMyth/Metaphor
P/E RatioMethodEconomicsPrice 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 formsModel
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 returnMetaphorMyth/Metaphor
pollingMethodStatistics
Pollyanna PrincipleModelPsychologytendency for people to remember pleasant events more accurately than unpleasant ones
populismGovernment
positronScientific LawPhysicsan 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 dilemmaThought ExperimentMath
private equity (PE)Economics
probabilityMath
probability distributionStatistics
Procrustean bedMetaphorPhilosophy
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
proportionalityModelMath
prospect theoryPsychology
proximate cause
proxy warPolitics
pseudoscience
PTSDPsychology
punctuated equilibriumModelScience & Technology
Pygmalian EffectSocial psychology
Pyrrhic victoryMetaphorMyth/Metaphor
quantum computingScience
quantum entanglementTheoryPhysics
qubitScience
quid pro quoLegal precedentLaw
quota
r > qThomas Piketty's elegant demonstration of the rise of inequality
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
recursionMethodMath
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 analysisMethodStatistics
reincarnationUnsolved MysteryReligion
reinforcing loopSystems theory
relativityTheoryPhysicsEinstein'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
riskLegal precedentEconomics
risk-weighted assets (RWAs)Economics
root cause
roundingMath
rounding errorMath
run on the bank
samplingMethodStatistics
samsaraReligion
scarcityEconomics
Schelling's Tipping Model
search intentTermMedia
second-order thinking
selection biasExperimental findingPsychology
self-governancePhilosophy
set theoryMath
ship of TheseusMetaphorMyth/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 modelModelSciencecontagious 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 gameAncient WisdomEconomics
slope of a lineMath
social contractPhilosophyPhilosophyProfoundly 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)Scientific LawPhysicsapprox. 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 father moralityGeorge Lakoff's terminology to describe the conservative worldview
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 StoryThought ExperimentPhilosophythe 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 dataMethodStatisticsA collection of measurements taken over time that create a graph when plotted.
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.
Tower of BabelMetaphorReligionA tale in the book of Genesis in the Bible that purports to explain the origins of different languages, via narrative about God confounding the speech of humans trying to build a tower to reach Him.
trade-offsModelEconomics
tragedy of the commonsTheorySystems theoryAn economic term for a situation in which unfettered access to a resource can lead to resource depletion through uncoordinated behavior -- a classic example is overfishing.
transitivityTermMath
trolly problemThought ExperimentPhilosophy
turtles all the way downTheoryPhilosophy
twin paradoxThought ExperimentPhysics
tyranny of choiceTheorySystems theory
UnicodeTermComputers
unionTermMathIn set theory, a union of sets is a set which consists of all the members of all the sets.
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 negativaMethodPhilosophyindirect 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 functionScientific LawPhysics
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
wormholeTheoryPhysicsA sort of tunnel formed on the surface of a black hole that may connect two different regions of space
worst case scenarioModelMyth/Metaphor
zero sum gameModelMath
z scoreTermStatistics