• Agerico De Villa

Changes of Mental Models

Updated: Jun 12



How do we know we have a crisis?


It begins with an anomaly. What is an anomaly?


When a community believing in a principle or a system of principles makes a prediction and the  prediction does not match or contradicts the actual event, then there is an anomaly.


The usual reaction to an anomaly by a community is to assume that its principle is correct and that the mismatch is a matter of human error. Thus the search for the error that must be somewhere.


Mismatch may actually be proven to be the result of human error at times. In the case of the perihelion of Uranus, the anomaly involved has been explained away by pointing to some other planet beyond the orbit of Uranus affecting predictions about the behavior of Uranus along its orbit.  Thus the discovery of Pluto, the anomaly explained by pointing to ignorance about Pluto.


When, however, an anomaly persists, observed more and more times by more and more members of the community, the anomaly begins to disturb the community. Something must be wrong somewhere that is not attributable to human error.


Anomalies not only persist, they also proliferate.  In the case of Newtonian physics, the anomaly regarding the perihelion of Mercury for a while during the 19th Century has persisted and has become intractable. Later, the behavior of light across vacuums is called attention to. Much later, the behavior of electricity across vacuums is called attention to. Attempts to explain the latter two anomalies has led only to another anomaly, that which pertains to the Michelson-Morley Nobel Prize winning experiment.  Under such terms, a crisis exists.


Crisis is the state of a framework of generalizations, principles, indicated by persistence and proliferation of anomalies.


Prediction of control of drug menace fails. Prediction of control of corruption fails. Prediction of control of traffic mess fails. Prediction of the growth of the economy fails. More.


The tendency is, most of the time, protection of the community framework by those who gain much from the framework. Justification of all sorts are given. At some point, there may seem to be no end to these.


Despite justification being laid down, predictions may continue to fail to match events. Anomalous predictions may reach a critical level, cascading as if there is some turbulent waterfall. Community members become exasperated.


Revolutionary period begins at this point. Alternative frameworks are laid out.  At some point, these frameworks are shown to be possibly more useful. Some may stand out and provide more reliable vision of the future.  In the end, some alternative framework champions above all else. A new normal is laid down. What used to be noise may now be music to everyone’s ears.


Theoretical frameworks, frameworks of generalizations, frameworks of principles, sometimes are called paradigms. Sometimes they are called mental models.


Revolutions, few realize, actually are all about mental models. Not about armed struggle per se. Can be without such kind of struggle.  Require more about reasoning. Require understanding of input-output systems.


A private hospital in the province accepts and treats a COVID-19 positive patient. Fits well with professional ethics involved and Hippocratic Oath. City administration, however, shuts down the entire hospital. Violation of rules set by the national administration.


A better option would have been support of the hospital, not shutting down.


Understandable. Mental model is “Gusto mo patayin kita?” “Gusto mo Ikulong kita?” “Ihian kita?” “Sampalin kaya kita.”  Knee jerk reaction of the city administration is understandable under these terms.


Social contractarian mental model is quite clear.  Men are capable of reasoning. Reasoning from experience. Experience tells everyone, life under the laws of nature means men are constantly at war with one another. Men are beasts deep down. Men, however, are more than just beasts, fortunately. They can reason. Predict the future.


 As a rule, when men live their lives under the laws of nature, constantly at war with one another, life is brutish and short. Ergo, men who live their lives in the future under the laws of nature are going to have brutish and short lives. No one likes this. Ergo, men organize themselves to establish societies under some rule of law made by men.  They live lives with peace and order under some constitution. Life is not brutish and short.


Reasoning constantly pushes men to give up mental models that employ tools of war. Wherever they can.


If the option to support is available, giving up the option to conquer using tools of war is no brainer.


It looks like the post-COVID-19 period is going to push Filipinos to establish alternative mental models.  We ought to remember, then, it is all about reasoning, not really about bearing arms, tools of war.




Photo of Bomod-Ok Falls of Sagada. Taken by the author in 2018.



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