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A newsletter about mental models and rational thinking (models.substack.com)
69 points by remotists on Aug 11, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 23 comments

This is really good. It states a lot of things that it has taken me time and experience to learn, which I would have benefited from knowing early in my career. Authority is not always right, people in power have ulterior motives other than doing the right thing, when investigating a problem remove all assumptions and determine the root cause (this is both the hardest to do and also the best advice I've come across for any IT technical worker IMO). So many times I've seen people claim to have solved a problem by throwing a solution at it that appears to have worked, without determining the root cause, only for the problem re-manifest itself weeks or months later in a different manner.

My challenge with lists like these: When I first read these they feel like shallow platitudes, but after I learn these lessons through my own experiences they feel like succinct explanations of a deeper truth.

I never seem to really get a lot out of reading about them.

Thanks for your comment. If you have more suggestions, please do share.

During COVID I have thrown myself head first into reading and learning about cognitive biases, heuristics and all different types of human behavioral economics topics.

Thanks for creating this - if you need an additional writer, shoot me a PM. I have been posting similar stuff on my personal blog recently.

I have as well, have you seen LessWrong.com (birthplace of Roko's Basilisk, btw)?

I havent! but thanks - ill toss you one as well: https://thedecisionlab.com/

(I) Appreciate it!

Edit: Added the word "I" to clarify my meaning.

Great idea, looks really good. On the rational thinking topic: is there a name for the fallacy where you say something along the lines of "someone in group X would probably say Y and that's wrong because..."? X could be something like vegans, democrats or climate change deniers.

It's probably just a special case of a straw man argument but I see this often online and in the news to lure in replies and create outrage. It's hard to diffuse as nobody in the discussion will actually hold the set of views being presented. I usually want to reply "wait, who is actually making this statement that you're attacking?".

When both a viewpoint and an opponent are fabricated, you have a Hollow Man argument.


Thanks, that sounds like it!

> A hollow man argument is similar to a straw man one. The difference is that it is a weak case attributed to a non-existent group. Someone will fabricate a viewpoint that is easy to refute, then claim it was made by a group they disagree with. Arguing against an opponent which doesn’t exist is a pretty easy way to win any debate. People who use hollow man arguments will often favor vague, non-specific language without explicitly giving any sources or stating who their opponent is.

It's just a strawman. If they're attacking an argument nobody made, it's a strawman.

I would agree it was different if you meant they're attacking an argument that group X actually would make, but in that case I don't think it's a fallacy at all.

Are you referring to a real belief held by fringe members? That is commonly called "weak man" in circles where it is discussed frequently, as a variant of the "straw man" that is real.

Isn't that an appeal to authority? Or at least an appeal to widely held belief.

This looks intriguing. Welcome to the newsletter space! I run Thinking About Things [0], a newsletter with a similar premise - that of critical thinking and seeing things in a new light.

The demand for content about critical thinking is rising exponentially. I'm happy to collaborate and show you the ropes - you can find our contact info on the site.

[0] thinking-about-things.com

One thing I've noticed about a lot of newsletter's landing pages is that they let you see past articles without signing up. I have no idea based on your intro if your content aligns with what I'm interested in, nor do I want to fill my email inbox with more content to just skim. Have you considered making your past newsletters available for prospective subscribers?

Perhaps its worth defining what you mean by "mental model"?

"Mental model" is one of those amorphous words that seems to mean very different things to different people.

Based on your content, it seems to mostly deal with critical thinking rather than what I consider as mental models. Though once again, it's an amorphous word thats unique to the person.

Absolutely, none of these are mental models by any definition that I can accept. These are advice or aphorisms, based on I suppose experience.

Peter Senge has a great definition in The Fifth Discipline

> Mental models are deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, or even pictures of images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action.

Under my definition of mental model, your comment is discussing the mental models of mental models :)

Congratulations on the launch of the newsletter OP.

Another news letter on rational thinking I would recommend is ClearThinking[1]. They also have several tools, tests for rationality/biases, specifically useful if we want to test ourself or someone else for a job for which these would be a problem.


Any suggestions for how to actually apply (or remember to apply) this stuff? I've read tons of lists of mental models (and have even written my own), but I just never remember to use them for any decisions, and when I do remember I can't really find one appropriate to the situation at hand.

Maybe one way is to go back through some past situations and review what mental models would have been interesting and/or useful to apply. That might help train yourself to apply them in the future.

Anyone else completely exhausted by the amount of discussion of mental models? It seems like the virtue signalling cliché of 2020.

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