The Map is Not the Territory

The more complicated our lives get, and the more we are required to think in specialized in sophisticated ways, the more we have to work with metaphors to understand our problems. Everything from political systems to academic disciplines give us a map for understanding the world around us. But a map is not the real world, sometimes we have to put the map down and look at the territory were traveling through to get where we need to go.

One thought on “The Map is Not the Territory

  1. Brian, you alluded to increasing specialism. The increasing specialism/certification etc around highly complex systems is not just gained by spending time, but also by effort. The mindset required to deal with those situations is developed and (crucially in my opinion) maintained by enormous expenditure of effort and energy. To get myself thinking for my job, to put my “work head” on, requires a huge effort. It isn’t something that I can switch on and off at the drop of a hat.

    Coming out of “work mode” requires a conscious effort, and going back into it requires even more. Hence when people come back from a holiday rested and refreshed they often need a period to get back up to speed.

    In rather the same way that if you are any sort of sports player and train/exercise to get to peak fitness, if you come out of that mode, it takes much, much longer than the time you spent not exercising to get back to the same point. For many people, the time to get back up to speed is a luxury they don’t have. And for everyone else, it comes with costs too. Do I really want the surgeon repairing my leg to be “getting his work head on” while he’s carrying out the procedure, because he spent the twenty minutes before understanding someone else’s motivations?

    And society as a whole doesn’t like it. Nobody is going to accept that you were late or didn’t deliver because you needed time to get out of “human mode” and into engineer/cop/social worker mode. And woe betide you if something goes seriously wrong. You, and you alone, will carry the can. In circumstances like that, the fact that your personal life needed a different viewpoint is irrelevant. Your relationships are deemed an acceptable loss compared to you making a serious professional error.

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