On Modeling, 2

We build models because we want to highlight the most relevant factors of the circumstances. In a broad sense, language, music, painting are all different forms of modeling: they stress certain aspects of reality by ignoring the rest.

Models must be useful. Unlike simplicity and generality, usefulness is trickier to assess. The challenge arises from the parallel of two worlds: the real and the model world; so there is a gap one must be able to cross.

The main idea of modeling is that, if we isolate the substantive factors of a system into a model, then the outcomes generated by the model should also find counterparts in the real world. Or, if we observes certain outcomes in the real world, and the model produces similar outcomes, then these substantive factors should be determinants in the real world, too.

Both arguments rely on inductive inference. In general, the model and real world should share similarities in  structure, dynamics, and outcomes. Yet these similarities are no guarantee that two worlds move in lock step. Cases abound of otherwise. Thus, relevance has to be taken by faith, not by the logic reasoning. There are gaps that one must be willing to cross.

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On Modeling, 1

All disciplines use models. So what is a model? It is a useful abstraction of reality. It is an abstraction because it does not intend to recreate the real world in a one-to-one scale. Rather, it distills the essence of a situation so that it can be readily deployed in other similar situations.

One reason we need models is because we have limited cognitive capacity—you cannot keep track of all the details all the time. Modeling is a way to filter out irrelevance and to focus on what matters. So models are the lens we use to see the world we want to see. And simplicity is the first criterion.

The second criterion is generality. We don’t want to build a new model for every single situation; that would defeat the very purpose of modeling. Rather, we would like our models to have sufficient generality, so that we can apply the same models to different situations with limited modifications.

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WHY ACADEMIA SUCKS

THEY SAY, IF YOU WANT TO GET SOMETHING DONE RIGHT, DO IT YOURSELF. BUT YOU HAVE ONLY LIMITED TIME BUT UNLIMITED DEMAND. THAT MEANS YOU MUST PRIORITIZE.

THIS IS MY CURRENT SITUATION. I HAVE SEVERAL COAUTHORED PAPERS GOING ON. BUT ONLY ONE OF THEM IS NONTRIVIAL. THE REST ARE JUST ANOTHER POTENTIAL PUBLICATION. I DON’T WANT TO SOUND CYNICAL. BUT FRANKLY I DON’T HOLD HIGH REGARD FOR MOST OF THE PUBLICATIONS IN MY FIELD: LESS THAN 5 PERCENT ARE TRULY ORIGINAL; THE REST IS MORE OR LESS GARBAGE.

BUT HERE LIES THE IRONY OF ACADEMIC (AT LEAST MY FIELD): MOST PEOPLE NEED TO PRODUCE THOSE GARBAGE TO GET PAID, TENURE, AND PROMOTION. MOST OF MY COAUTHORS ARE IN THIS CATEGORY (I DID THIS STUFF TOO BEFORE I GET TENURE, FOR SEVEN YEARS). WHAT MAKES ME FRUSTRATED IS THAT SOME OF THEM HAVE ALREADY HAVE THE TENURE SECURITY; THEY NO LONGER HAVE THE PRESSURE OF MANUFACTURING QUANTITY. YOU MAY THINK ONCE THEY HAVE THE SECURITY, THEY SHOULD SWITCH TO PRODUCE QUALITY.

YOU ARE WRONG. FOR WHATEVER REASON, MOST TENURED PEOPLE CONTINUE MANUFACTURING WORTHLESS STUFF. THEY HAVE NO AMBITION TO BUILD THEIR OWN ENTERPRISE, THEIR LEGACY. FOR ME, THIS IS DISTASTEFUL. YOU ARE WASTING YOUR LIFE. WHAT’S THE POINT ONCE YOU HAVE NO WORRY OF COMFORT?

I AM NOT GOING TO WASTE MY LIFE ON THIS NONSENSE. I HAD ENOUGH. I WILL WRAP UP THOSE AS QUICK AS POSSIBLE. I NEED TO BUILD MY THING. WHEN ALL IS GONE, I MUST HAVE MY IDEAS STAND: I GUESS THAT’S THE ONLY WAY TO DEFY MORTALITY.

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WRITING 166: GAMES WE PLAY, 8

Here is the background of the story.

The boss is playing delaying tactic. But I had enough. Here are the exchanges.

——————–
Dear Y,

I hate to bother you again with this trivial issue. But, for planning, I do need to know my teaching load. I wonder what is the latest time I can hear back from you.

Best,

L.
——————-
Hi L,

I am traveling until next week, and so have not had time to look into your contract. I will look into this when I go back.  Also, the school is in the process of coming up with a new work/teaching load policy. Depending on the new policy, your contract concern may become a non-issue.

Thank you for your patient.

Y.
——————–

Dear Y,

Regarding my teaching, there are only two sentences in the contract. And they are written in simple, plain English. For your reference, here is the contract.

Also, the contract and the school policy are two separate issues. In particular, the new school policy can only affect future teaching load, not this year’s (15/16). But my contract specifies the teaching load since July 1, 2015.

So I hope to hear back from you next week.

Have a nice trip.

L.

2016-02-29 11.55.48

WRITING 165: HOW TO MAKE PROGRESS

——————
Hi, PL,

I hope you are doing well.

For this project, I have invested lots of time, especially for cracking two major challenges.

Since last Dec., I haven’t received anything from you. I wonder if you are still ‘in’ the project.

I understand people may have different priorities under different circumstances. Please let me know your choice. If you are still in, let’s bring it to the end; if you are out, I am also fine.

I just cannot waste more time.

Best,

ACTION415

——————–
Hi ACTION415,

You are perfectly right. Was teaching MBAs for the first time and could hardly find any time.

My students have the exam today, so I am done with my teaching. I have 10 months now completely free for research.

Our project is in my priority list. I want to submit it very soon. I have worked so much on it, believe it or not. Let’s bring it to the end.

Best, PL
——————–

2016-02-19 00.18.46

WRITING 164: COMMITMENT, GAMES WE PLAY, 7

Yesterday we got R&R on BAR paper, a good news. But BE is unlikely to work on it. To motivate him,  I must draw the line, committing not to work it. Otherwise, BE will never work on it. Hopefully, the fear of letting me down can motivate him. If not, I will cut BAR as a sunk cost.

Either way,  I won’t waste time on BAR any more.

——————————————

Dear B,

This email is between you and me.

My gut feeling is that we hit the same guy as AE. The reports are written in the same style.

I believe DE liked the idea. Also, he has good impression of us, from our efforts in the last two rounds of the Markov chain paper.  But he cannot go against all the naysayers. So we must do more to prove our worth.

At this point, you and me have two papers at MS; they are promising but time consuming. The choice is clear: if you want it, you must put in effort, do what it takes, and go beyond what’s required.

I have time for only one such commitment. I will focus on the revision of the last paper (Markov chain). I will NOT spend time on this one: I believe in you and PA.

You have my word—I will deliver my revision in two months. And I expect the same commitment from your side.

Best,

ACTION415

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