Wrong but Useful

Weekly I/O#32

“All models are wrong, but some are useful.” - George Box


I found the idea of something being useful but not necessarily right interesting. This quote resonated with me when Wittgenstein talked about Friedrich Nietzsche’s view on Christianity in Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius. From a psychological perspective, Nietzsche thinks that the critical point of Christianity is not whether it is true that there really is a God but whether belief in God can help us face an unbearable, meaningless life. In other words, if it is useful, it doesn’t matter whether the faith is true or not.

We can find a similar concept in the map as well. In the book, The Great Mental Models Volume 1: General Thinking Concepts, the author mentioned all the maps are flawed since a map has to be useful only if it’s the abstraction of reality. A map with a scale of 1 to 1 can be correct, but it will not be useful whatsoever.

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