Friday, October 23, 2015

Theory-structure as a superpower...

I've mentioned it before, but I think it is one of the most important quotes from Charlie Munger in showing why the latticework of mental models can be so powerful, so I thought I'd post it again after the most recent re-read. It is from his talk "The Psychology of Human Misjudgment" in Poor Charlie's Almanack:
When I started law practice, I had respect for the power of genetic evolution and appreciation of man’s many evolution-based resemblances to less cognitively-gifted animals and insects. I was aware that man was a “social animal,” greedy and automatically influenced by behavior he observed in men around him: I also knew that man lived, like barnyard animals and monkeys, in limited size dominance hierarchies, wherein he tended to respect authority and to like and cooperate with his own hierarchy members while displaying considerable distrust and dislike for competing men not in his own hierarchy. 
But this generalized, evolution-based theory structure was inadequate to enable me to cope properly with the cognition I encountered. I was soon surrounded by much extreme irrationality, displayed in patterns and sub patterns. So surrounded, I could see that I was not going to cope as well as I wished with life unless I could acquire a better theory-structure on which to hang my observations and experiences. By then, my craving for more theory had a long history. Partly, I had always loved theory as an aid in puzzle solving and as a means of satisfying my monkey-like curiosity. And, partly, I had found that theory-structure was a superpower in helping one get what one wanted. As I had early discovered in school wherein I had excelled without labor, guided by theory, while many others, without mastery of theory, failed despite monstrous effort. Better theory, I thought, had always worked for me and, if now available, could make me acquire capital and independence faster and better assist everything I loved.