Everything you know is wrong

All models (maps?) are wrong, but some are useful. I’ve most often heard this used in the context of actual models or maps, things explicitly identified as such. But much of what counts for “facts” or “knowledge” these days are really nothing more than models. And they are, in the same way, wrong but useful.

Economics provides an excellent example of progressively useful and yet continually wrong models. The various economic systems throughout the ages have been useful as an instrument of progress, but as progress progressed the various systems became less useful and more obviously wrong. “Wrong”, of course, being in the eye of the beholder. We are at a point now where the current useful model, Capitalism, is on the verge of being declared wrong and replaced by the next useful model.

The most obvious examples of this comes in the continuum of religion and science. Early humans came up with useful models of how the world worked, why things happened, by creating gods and spirits. This often came in the form of creation stories and the passing down of rules in the form of commandments and other texts. Over time these religious stories became more wrong even as some of them became more useful. But useful to the tellers of the stories.

Even science has experienced this. The laws of motion discovered by Sir Isaac Newton were incredibly useful in the context of life in the 17th century and yet are profoundly wrong in the context of 21st century technology such as GPS. Still useful in our day to day experience, but wrong nonetheless.