The Mihir Chronicles

Super Thinking by Gabriel Weinberg & Lauren McCann

July 10, 2020

I. Brief Summary

Another mental models/heuristic book. Gabriel & Lauren does a great job of building model thinking via series of real life contextual stories. That is important because mental models are useful when they can all be connected. Gabriel claims super models are shortcuts to higher level of thinking. I loved the multiplication analogy.

When we first learned multiplication, we also learned multiplication is just repeated addition. In fact, all mathematical operations based on arithmetic can be reduced to just addition: subtraction is just adding a negative number, division is just repeated subtraction, and so on. However, using addition for complex operations can be painfully time consuming, which is why we use multiplication in the first place. Multiplication helps us work quickly and efficiently.

When we don’t use mental models, strategic thinking is like using addition when multiplication is available to us. And that’s exactly why knowing the right mental models unlocks super thinking, just as subtraction, multiplication, and division unlock our ability to do more complex math problems.

Multiplication is analogous to mental models. Once wes have internalized a mental model like multiplication, it’s hard to imagine a world without it.

Every discipline, like physics, has its own set of mental models that people in the field learn through coursework, mentorship, and firsthand experience. There is a smaller set of mental models, however, that are useful in general day-to-day decision making, problem solving, and truth seeking. These often originate in specific disciplines (physics, economics, etc.), but have metaphorical value well beyond their originating discipline.

Consider that there are probably many disciplines where we have only rudimentary knowledge. Perhaps physics is one of them? Most of the concepts from physics are esoteric, but some—those physics mental models have the potential to be repeatedly useful in day-to-day life. So despite our rudimentary knowledge of the discipline, we can and should still learn enough about these particular concepts to be able to apply them in non-physics contexts.

They call these broadly useful mental models super models because applying them regularly gives us a super power: super thinking—the ability to think better about the world—which we can use to our advantage to make better decisions, both personally and professionally.

The book covers about 300 mental models. This book is a toolbox which systematically lists, classifies, and explains all the important mental models across the major disciplines. Gabriel and Lauren have woven all these super models together in a narrative fashion through nine chapters.