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Homo Simulatus



One can never truly recapture the past in one's memory. When we look back on our memories, it's not like a tape recording. We view those memories from an adjusted perspective; the lens of newly acquired mental models in the interim.

The only way to truly record memories as they happen is with a diary, since transcribing the experience to text illustrates the mindset of the writer at the time.

What is a mental model? Mental models are our way of deconstructing the world.

Suppose that you want to make a 3D game engine. Any engine designed to reflect reality requires an approximation of universal physical principles. First you simulate gravity (perhaps crudely), then you might simulate lighting, reflections, radiosity. Then, some 'ragdoll', collision, or deforming terrain models would be useful. If one were to make a truly effective simulation, then models of air, water, and smoke would also be necessary. 

The more models that approximate known principles, the better the simulation.

Each of us also simulates reality, within the engine of our minds. Our models may be described as philosophical in nature, relating to ethics, human nature, etc. We may apply certain known-good principles or axioms as a heuristic. As we grow in acquiring new information and experiences, we gain the ability to employ new models. Through such models, we may gain the ability to recognise new parts of reality.

Reality may only be understood by first deconstructing it in the 'engine' within our minds. Having better models makes for a more effective abstraction.

Mental model acquisition relates directly to the development of the pre-frontal cortex in late adolescence / early adulthood. This area of the brain, the latest evolutionary development in our cognitive functioning, is essentially a reality simulator. It enables us to plan, to strategize, and to understand consequences.

I wonder if it's possible teach and learn certain models in an efficient way? My gut tells me that it's very difficult to provide short-cuts through hard-bitten life experience, but there might be a few ways... I hope to explore this in future in further detail.