How we construct realities: #5

Posted on October 10, 2011


Puppy Love

In the last post we mentioned how booze and love trigger models that generate functional but highly fallible realities which – at the time – we treasure with high confidence. Those among you who have not  enjoyed or suffered boozy and/or love-struck realities will likely find such temporary realities incomprehensible, unless you’ve experienced religious conversions or psychotic episodes… similar  sort of thing.

At this early stage of his life Peter has both enjoyed and suffered through boozy and love-struck realities – but of short-lived duration and intensity. He has yet to revel – repeatedly –  in drug induced realities or psychoses.

To date we’ve proposed, along with Stephen Hawking,  that we construct our realities  with models ( assumptions, axioms, theories, beliefs, biases, hunches) decorated (justified) with sensory packaging of light and sound waves, neural memory nets, etc. We’ve also proposed that such models play the vital roles of cutting the massive flow of sensory experience  down to mind size to fit our bounded rationality (a la Herb Simon). Some models ( mathematical, technical, religious, political, and hobbies ) construct long-lasting,  trusted realities. Other models (boozy, druggy, love-struck, etc.) generate short-lived trusted realities. Other models, ( e.g., career, relationships, health, etc., ) construct high confidence realities of various durations.

Booze + Puppy Love

We also propose ( along with Campbell and Quine), that at any given time we must have blind trust in most of our reality-constructing models. If not we suffer information and emotional overload, if not our neural networks smoke. Constructing and maintaining our realities is akin to repairing a ship at sea (see Otto Neurath), in order to focus our limited resourcers on repairing one rotting plank (one model) we must presume (trust or have high confidence) that the other planks (models) and the rest of the ship is sound. Otherwise we’re  distracted, running around ineffictively from one problem or crises to another, wasting our limited resources.

So far in his young life (age 20), and in the navy, Peter relies on a functional set of models – models that create more or less compatible realities. Sure, he encounters brief periods of overload, but not lasting long enough to be debilitating – in addition to hangovers and the highs and lows of puppy love, his main challenge is to generate, via

trial and error, new models that help him navigate unfamiliar environments – those involving a warship at sea. The already acquired neat math models help him deal with ship navigation, and various models picked up during the last 20 years help him deal with most of the messy stuff – including the disappearance of a wallet on the lower deck – where Peter’s anger/activity model created a functional and trusted reality – (i.e., he gets frustrated and mad at the deteriorated performance of the affected seaman and attempts to keep them hyper-busy with routine chores. Presumably taking both his and their attention off the missing wallet and the resulting rampant suspicions.

Models that help us construct functional, though fallible, realities in messy worlds must meet two criteria, first they must be blindly trusted, and they must not lead to immediate disaster. In Herb Simon’s terms the assumptions or beliefs (biases) underlying them must be emotionally anchored. Mere cognitive or rational acceptance or solutions are not enough – they’re are too fragile, too open to alterntive explanations – to fragile to protect the mind/brain from overload.

In the next post Peter discovers  a meta model – one that helps him make sense of his current repertoire or shopping basket of mini-models.

Puppy Love

booze + Puppy love:

Posted in: Sciencing