On Mapping Better

Rug and Bricks

Intuitively, the idea that the brain is creating maps is appealing. Our language is full of the metaphor of the physical world, like distance (“We’re far apart on this issue” or “Lets take a step back and look at the whole picture”). Whether an idea is hot or cool, a company is big or small, there is an inescapable physicality to metaphor. And it may be inescapable for a very good reason- mind is embodied in a physical world.

Since there’s no direct contact with this physical world, these metaphors leave the world directly unknowable. We only experience maps of the world, rendering the metaphor as a subjective illusion. William James assumed the world should be out there, but as a neuropsychologist, realized it doesn’t really look like that, not the way we think it looks.

Fortunately, a world of illusion allows for creating better maps, better metaphors that work better. I think the journey to deciding better is learning better mapping methods, ones that work better.

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