"The map is not the territory."

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Yaakov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
3,577
As Alfred Korzybski said, "the map is not the territory".

Just because you can name something doesn't mean the thing could exist. It certainly doesn't mean it should exist.

All of the paradoxes we encounter can be traced back to failures of language to stick to what actually pertains.

There is a huge practical impact of this: being able to describe something, even a lucid and convincing description, doesn't mean we can make that thing exist. Inventors often find that when they try to take what is a very clear idea in theory and put it into practice, there is often some "simple" detail to overcome which never gets resolved.

Edison, who isn't my favorite person to quote, is reported to have said very cogent about this: "genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration". I would just change "genius" to "engineering".
 
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bogosort

Joined Sep 24, 2011
678
"the map is not the territory".
This pithy quote is at once profound, wide-ranging, and easily forgotten. Every chapter in every textbook -- particularly science, economics, psychology, medicine -- should begin and end with this dictum, because something insidious happens to our reason when we forget that the model is not the thing.

Logicians and their ilk don't have this problem. Indeed, they make their living being very careful and explicit about the various levels in the hierarchy of abstraction. Mention to a logician that the map is not the territory and she will solemnly nod her head, adding, "The discussion about the map is not the map." And another will chime in that the discussion about the discussion about the map is not the discussion about the map. They will confer amongst themselves and devise a hierarchy of languages from an unambiguous set of symbols and rules of grammar, one language for each layer in the territory→map→discussion→* hierarchy. They will find beautiful, paradox-free theorems as they work their way up the infinite tower of abstraction as it rises to Gödelian heights.

But soon, inevitably, someone who will come along who has forgotten the dictum and innocently ask, "So is an electron a particle or a wave?"
 
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