Predictable Identities: 14 – Frameworks are Fake

Every rich-enough belief system wants to be the single source of answers to all questions. To fight against that it’s important to remember that every belief system is fake.

The first step is to notice that every single thing can be described using different frameworks, the way a single plot of land is represented using different maps.

Which of these two maps of Princeton is more “true”? Neither, since neither one is actually the town of Princeton itself. They each contain different elements: one has trees and roofs, the other has streets and parks. Certainly, Princeton contains all the above, and many things besides.

If you visit Princeton, you would notice other things it’s made of that don’t show up in the maps, things like people and pizza and noise. But those are also mere “maps” that your brain projects on the town, maps that miss a lot of detail. For example, you miss the fact that both the trees and the pizza are made mostly of carbon atoms. And if you think that “carbon atoms” are a real thing that exists you are at least a century behind on physics.

The fact that frameworks made of cities or trees or carbon atoms are fake doesn’t mean that they’re not useful. Your brain can only predict the world using concepts like “pizza” and “person”, fake though they are. But remembering that all frameworks are fake allows you to nimbly shift among them instead of believing that any single framework contains the only thing reality is really made of. Your brain won’t like this juggling effort at first, but it will appreciate not slamming into massive prediction errors caused by the limitations of a single ontology.

And if “pizza” is fake, how much flimsier are maps made of concepts like “conservative”, “chaos”, “female”, “sin”, “petit-bourgeoisie”, “freedom”, or “privilege”?


More than inspired by In Praise of Fake Frameworks

Series Navigation<< Predictable Identities: 13 – Totalizing IdeologiesPredictable Identities: 15 – Newcomblike, Part I >>

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About Jacob Falkovich

Jacob is so proud of his blog, putanumonit.com, that it's on his online dating profiles. He also tweets @yashkaf.

Comments

  1. Interestingly, this idea itself is “fake” in a sense because it is just one of many pointers to the same platonic idea:

    – The map is not the territory
    – All models are wrong, some models are useful
    – Frameworks are fake

    I wonder if there are interesting distinctions between these 3 statements. They use different abstractions/metaphors for the idea.

    I also think there is a distinction between maps/frameworks/models of humans and sentient animals vs. those of non-living or non-sentient things. That distinction itself is fuzzy of course, but there is something to be said about territories that have maps of themselves so to speak, creating a sort of preferred, or at least unique point of view for that reality.

    • Could you give some examples, which may clarify the distinctions?

      In my mind, these are all “representations”, which are as a category distinct from “physical reality”. I can’t think of any practical distinctions between the 3 at the moment.

    • Patrick Atwater says

      The difference between those three framings (map / framework / model) seems to be mostly one of attitude and perspective. “All models are wrong. Some are useful.” has a pragmatic “what’s this gonna do for me” jive. “The map is not the territory” comes more from the desire to understand the world. “Frameworks are fake” has a more wokeness vibe.

      Note all can suffer from being too glib galaxy brain wokeness that like post modernism is great about pointing out the foundational flaw but not offering an improved alternative.

      The distinction between humans and non-human / non-sentient things reminds me of the ole distinction between natural and moral philosophy. That’s a pretty big one that’s come full circle with the canonical Two Cultures essay ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Two_Cultures )

      I also have been kicking around the idea of how humans navigate this underlying disconnect through three interrelated poles 1) the i or ego that names and categorizes and maps the world that we see B) the tribe we grow up with from which we acquire language and other mission critical soft technologies and 42gold) the wonders and infinities that defy our attempts to wrangle and categorize them.

  2. On Exactitude in Science
    Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions, translated by Andrew Hurley.
    …In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.
    —Suarez Miranda,Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV,Cap. XLV, Lerida, 1658

  3. Janet Youngblood says

    All information carries bias. Reductionism requires selection, while the act of selecting privileges one thing over another.
    Perhaps it is due to the linear nature of our reasoning, or perhaps it is because our eyes are on the front of our heads and see only partially at any one moment.

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