A tower of models…

Posted on December 24, 2010


Jenny: ” Things are getting confused – we’re walking. running, stumbling into the future on wobbly  imaginary bridges supported by messing models, biases, or  theories of reality…. Hey hey,,, I need some structure, some stability, some predictability!”

Peter: ” Come on Jenny… join me here at the bar… have an itsy bitsy drinky poo  with me … bartender give my friend here a double double …. and while you’re at  top up my tank…  I’ve got a long trip over a bunch of  rubber bridges to happy land.”Professor Wiggly: ” Here’s a holiday present — as a matter of fact Peter has already opened his. And he’s found temporary structure, he’s found temporary confidence at the bottom of a whisky glass. He found temporary emotional anchors for his current bridge into the future, he’s found temporary stability in his tower of models … everything’s hunky dory! Two smart guys named Campbell and Quine analysed the problem that Jenny raised, the problem of finding stable structure in your wobbly tower of models – or your tower of turtles. Here’s what they came up with. They borrowed an analogy from Otto Neurath. He compared life’s journey to a sea voyage on a ship that needs daily repairs. As you concentrate on repairing one part of the ship – for instance one rotting plank – you have to assume that the rest of the ship, for instance the rest of the planks, the rudder, the masts, etc. –  are sound. Otherwise, you can’t concentrate on the task at hand – otherwise you’re running around desperately and  ineffectively patching this and that. Similarly  C ampbell and Quine proposed that in order to repair or change one of yr models of reality you have to blindly trust the others – otherwise you’re anxiously and ineffectively running around trying to solve one problem after another.”

Peter: ” You know professor when that happens I find that a drink or two really helps – it helps me climb off the whirling merry-go-round and happily watch the world rolls by.”

Jenny: ” Yeah right! I usually talk things over with a friend, or have a hot bath and then meditate – and the world seems to slow down enough for me to catch up – to get organized, to decide which part of my ship needs the most help.”

Professor Wiggly: ” Both of you have found a partial solution. Of  course Peter’s ship will eventually sink. Whereas Jenny has discovered two ways of  getting her act together, or calming down and organizing her limited resources. But what happens when she runs into rough weather, when more and more parts of the ship need repair?’

Peter: ” She can come over to my place and well have a party!”

Jenny: “Yeah right!. What do Campbell and Quine say I should do.”

Professor Wiggly: ” Like most academics they don’t provide an easy solution, they clarify the problem. They say that in order to get through life you need to trust most of your beliefs – remember Simon’s emotionally anchored assumptions – in order to modify or replace one or two. Out of their academic hat the pull the doubt/trust ratio telling us that to keep our sanity we have to trust about 99% of our beliefs or models of reality in order to work on the other 1%. Yes, for brief periods you can stretch the ratio, for brief periods you can stretch your physical, mental and emotions resources where you only trust 95% and doubt and have work on 5%, or get into real trouble and doubt 90%n while doubting 10%. These high stress times occur for example with a death in the family, divorce, moving to a new home or job, or more severely during war or earthquakes..”

Jenny: “But Campbell and Quine don’t tell us how to manage an avalanche of  doubts?”

Professor Wiggle: ” Know but others do.”



Posted in: Sciencing