#concept34 mentions

A model is a simplified representation of a System.By defining models as being about Systems, we make a general but highly abstract Ontological Commitment to the actual existence of Systems.

Representation means that a model is “about” or denotes its target system; more specifically, it “stands in” for the system in some functional context in some useful way.

In other words, representation is a product of function and selection, either by design or by evolution:There are two interpretations of this relationship: On the pragmatic account, models represent because of their function as functional devices, on the informational account it is the other way round. In an evolutionary account of implicit models that interprets natural selection as “Bayesian model selection over evolutionary time” (Kirchhoff et al. 2018, 4), the two accounts become complementary descriptions of the underlying evolutionary process.

A model is useful for exploration, explanation or prediction (and thus gets selected) if it tracks salient features of the target system.

In this case, its simplifications can be understood as Abstractions of the target system’s structure and components.

An especially interesting case are Causal Models that track the Causal Structure of their target system.

If models track system boundaries, they represent real systems. If they don’t, they represent Missing Systems.


Causal Emergence

Causation happens between Systems demarcated by System Boundaries, horizontally as well as vertically.

Concept Mapping

What Concept Mapping is a tool for collaborative Sensemaking.


A concept is a “cluster of dispositions to be responsive to differences in a particular region of possible worlds”Haslanger (2020), 239 .

Concepts Are Attractors

Because Concepts are compressed models, and Models are Systems themselves, Concepts are also systems.

Concepts Are Compressed Models

A Concept is an interface to expose and connect some Models’ salient features.

Conceptual Engineering

Conceptual Engineering can mean building things with Concepts, for example Models or Frameworks; assessment and amelioration of concepts to improve their usefulness.

Every System Is a Model of Its Environment

For a System to have an Implicit Model means embodying “statistical regularities of its world in its physical and functional composition”Kirchhoff et al.


An explanation answers a “why” question.

Explicit Model

An explicit Model is a consciously articulated, interpretive description of a target System that can be the object of the modelling system’s attention.


Feelings are expensive, but effective cognitive mechanisms to direct our Attention, experienced via Interoception as bodily sensations.

Folk Ontology

Our Folk Ontology is our everyday picture of what the world consists of: Which (types of) entities it is made up of and what the relationships between them are.

Generative Model

A generative Model aims to capture the statistical structure of some set of observed inputs by tracking […] the causal matrix responsible for that very structure.

Geology Is Shaped by Ideology

As a collection of Models, Theories and Explanations, Geology offers “an evidence-based understanding of planet Earth’s history”.

Heuristic Device

A heuristic device is [a]ny procedure which involves the use of an artificial construct to assist in the exploration of …[complex] phenomena.

Implicit Model

An implicit Model is an evolved, embodied representation of a System’s Environment.


Knowledge of something is “the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject”.

Large Language Models Are a Feedback Loop for Society

Large Language Models (LLMs) will soon be a main source of content in our digital (virtual, augmented) world(s): Machine learning generated content is just the next step beyond TikTok: instead of pulling content from anywhere on the network, GPT and DALL-E and other similar models generate new content from content, at zero marginal cost.

Markov Blanket

If we want to Prioritise abstraction over metaphor, the concept of a System Boundary needs to be stripped of its metaphorical content.

Missing System

A missing system is a hypothetical System described by a Model that doesn’t track real System Boundaries – a system that doesn’t exist (in the hypothesised boundaries).

Move up and Down the Ladder of Abstraction

Since we want to Move up and down in the system hierarchy, a useful Strategy is to build epistemic connections between very abstract and very concrete Models, that is an easy-to-climb ladder of abstraction.

Ontological Commitment

Any Model or Theory has to presuppose the existence of certain things in order to work, i.

Perceived Irrationality Is Rooted in Actual Rationality

Rationality is an evolved strategy.


Perception is the active sampling a System does of its Environment to validate its Model.

Prioritise Exploration Over Exploitation

A System samples its Environment to build, update and use Models of it.

Rationalism Is Not Rational

Rationalism à la Eliezer Yudkowsky has two connected fundamental flaws – an ontological and an epistemological one.

Rationality Is an Evolved Strategy

It is a fact about our social and epistemic lives that Rationality is a norm that guides our thinking about beliefs and hypotheses; it is a Concept we use to direct thinking and discourse.


Renormalisation is the coarse-graining of Models when switching between levels of System description.

Science Can Be Criticised Scientifically

Science can be understood and criticised on a variety of levels.


We make sense of the world in order to act in it.

Stakeholder Map

Stakeholder Maps help identify and classify actors who have Power over and/or interest in the outcomes of a Project or Product development.

Strategy Is a Learning Process

Strategy is de facto always an iterative learning process, even if this is often not made explicit and information gaps between iterations make it less effective and efficient.

Strategy Is Based on Models

Every Strategy is based on an (implicit or explicit) assessment of the situation, that is the Model a System has of its Environment.

The World Is a Hierarchy of Systems

When thinking about ontology (put simply, what the world consists of), we can start with the basic fact that there is difference in the world – that “something can be distinguished from everything else”.

Use a Parsimonious and Productive Ontology

We need a better way to look at (the features of) the world than Folk Ontology.