Internal Model Translation Table

There's something for every occasion!

Marco Giancotti,


Living things have models of the world inside them, and those models are embedded prophesy devices. So why not talk about them in those terms? Here is a convenient list of translations from the usual, mundane speech and the equivalent expression in proper modelese.

It looks like it's going to rain.

The mental model of the weather in my head shows that rain in the near future is highly correlated with the current appearance of the sky.

You're so good at darts!

You have a great internal model for the effect of your muscles and the flight path of darts when you throw them with the purpose of hitting a target!

I'm afraid of heights.

My internal model of the risk of falling guarantees I'll meet with certain and painful death if I climb all the way up there. I swear I'd like another model but I'm stuck with this one.

Let's meet there at 10 AM on Saturday.

Let's update our mental models to both expect that we'll find each other there at 10 AM.

I can't believe he did that!

His actions contradict the mental model I had of him!

He's evil!

My mental model of him predicts inexplicable actions that go against my most fundamental social decision making heuristics.

The region of Sápmi was formerly known as Lapland.

I'm giving you the old name for the region of Sápmi so that you may hook it up to your mental model of Scandinavian geography and increase your predictive power if you so wish.

Get out of my house!

My mental model of you predicts a good chance that the curtness of my wording and the volume of my voice will make you leave the perimeter of my residence.


If I apply my mental model for arithmetics to the numbers one and one and the operation of summation, my prediction is the number two with 100% confidence, meaning that I believe it to be the only branch in its tree of possibilities.1

It hurts!

My innate internal model for the functioning of my body predicts bad things if whatever is unusual in my body remains there much longer.

The dog is nagging me to go out for a walk.

The dog's internal model predicts that making the motions and sounds that I describe as "nagging" gives her a good chance that I will take her out for a walk.

I'm not ready to talk about it.

I am reworking my mental model of this situation for emotional or other reasons, and it's not yet complete or consistent enough to be put into words effectively.

I think, therefore I am.

I was questioning the universal applicability of my mental models because I predict the existence of a perfect model where everything is predictable and I want it. With that goal, I looked at how well my internal models predict my own existence and found them lacking. If my models fail at predicting something as basic as me existing, it's worth spending years trying to fix them and writing some books on the topic. That led me to stumble on the heuristic I was looking for, one that makes my models self-consistent and self-predicting: the fact that I have mental models means that the holder of those models, which is me, must exist too.

Will you marry me?

My internal models predict much happiness lasting the rest of our lives if only we remain together as a couple. They also predict that your models are telling you the same.

So we should set in motion a series of legal and social mechanisms that will greatly penalize us in case of separation, as a way to reduce the branches of our joint tree of possibilities that would lead to us separating on a whim. (This has the effect of updating our mental models so that they'll predict unpleasant and inconvenient things if we ever try simulating a separation in our heads.)

Also, the very act of accepting to go through that process will serve to greatly thicken the branch of the trees of possibilities of each of our separate models predicting "my partner also has a similar mental model as me, at least with regards to my prediction of us being happy together in the future," which is what made me begin this whole statement in the first place.

Here's a ring to intensify the predictions of your models. Is that expression a yes?


  1. The "with 100% confidence..." part applies to all mathematical statements.

Cover image:

Le Mois, Journal historique, littéraire et critique, avec figures, Tome 2, An.7 (1798-1799); Indienes et Toiles de Jouy, Anonymous