The Map Is Not The Territory

Our perception of the world is being generated by our brain and can be considered as a ‘map‘ of reality written in neural patterns. Reality exists outside our mind but we can construct models of this ‘territory’ based on what we glimpse through our senses.

If you change what you believe about an object, that is a change in the pattern of neurons in your brain. The real object will not change because of this edit. Granted you could act on the world to bring about changes to it but you can’t do that by simply believing it to be a different way.

For example, you could send a ball to the other side of a field by kicking it but you cannot send the ball across the field by believing it is on the other side of the field.

The strategy that normally gives most control over reality is one where the ‘map’ is aligned to match the ‘territory’ as closely as possible. This way you can create accurate models and predict what will happen as a consequence of your actions.

If you know where the ball is, and you know what will happen if you kick it, and you want it on the other side of the field you can decide to kick it to achieve the desired end state of ball being across the field. Wishing the ball across the field would be futile.

Humans are wired to sometimes let their beliefs slip into what they would like to believe instead of what the evidence suggests. That is like erasing a mountain off a map because you would like to pass there or drawing an oasis on the map in a desert because you would like some water.

Summing-up: The map is not the territory is the idea that the way we see the world isn’t reality itself. We don’t respond to reality. We respond to our internalized map of reality. How we represent things are our interpretations. Interpretations may or may not be accurate.

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  1. Kearnsey

    Wow. Very powerful. I call myself a Maeutic Philologist, because teaching Leadership is much more than a leader unable to create a National Strategy!

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