toy Modeling. gi joe

Losing the ability to model. 

When humans first evolved into their present form, they found themselves in a vicious, nasty environment where survival meant finding ways to alter and thus control that environment for their own benefit. They needed to simulate aspects of the environment and this meant building and changing vairiables in those models or simulations to discover advantages for themselves. While a bushfire was a nightmarish danger, a small or model fire, they could feed in a safe way, was an emence advantage. Modeling was the next symbolic step. It was representing something by means of a physical thing that was a controlable simulation of itself. By comparison with this savage world of the past, the modern world, and especially the western world of the child, has less need in terms of survival for this ability to build and play with models. Because of this lack children gradually learn that they are not expected to build and play with models as adults and that these are considered childish persuits. It follows then, that because of this stereotypical trivialization, children tend to gradually lose these important modeling desires and abilities.

crowd Modeling and its uses. network

Models are used in all kinds of design work and in order to understand the workings of things that are not accessible in actuality. It is the ability to be able to try out something on a small scale before trying it on a large scale, or the ability to construct something on a large scale in order to understand that something on a small scale. Geniuses are often builders of models especially scientists, inventors and engineers. In their book "Sparks of Genius" Robert and Michelle Root Bernstein explain it as follows:

"Models can be smaller than life, life sized, or bigger; physical or mathmatical; realistic or not, depending on their intended uses. In almost all cases, the point of the model is to make accessible something that is difficult to experience easily. Harvard University's Botanical Museum, for example, has a collection of stunningly realistic flowers from arrouind the world modeled in unwilting glass that can be studdied at any season. The Art Institute of Chicago houses the Mrs james Thorne collection of model room interiors, which allow visitors to look inside 1/12-scale recreations of some two hundred room and their furnishings from every period in Western history. It is a condensation of time and place that would be imposible to encompass in any other way."


Modeling is actually two slightly different activities that end up performing pretty much the same function. One is constructing or building a model, a making of something in the image or operational functionality of something else. The other is the playing with such models in an effort to understand how the objects or systems they represent interact with other objects or systems. This, as it turns out, is the same function as building or making a model, in that in building a model, we are exploring its elements, determining how they interact, and further exploring how certain elements, if changed, can effect the operation of that object or system.

Models as prototypes. 

Strictly speaking, anything that is used to represent all or part of a finished product, can be termed a model. Indeed, the first in a series of final products can be termed a model, because it is not being used as a final product, but is rather a template from which final products can be made. Such templates are called prototypes. They are new, unique, fully functional, never before seen models, from which artisans can gather knowledge to make duplicates. The dictionary informs us that a prototype can be:

  1. An original object or form which is a basis for other objects, forms, or for its models and generalizations.

  2. An early sample or model built to test a concept or process.

The skills of modeling.

Although modeling is considered here as a seperate tool for the improvement of creative genius it actually requires many of the other 13 tools of genius to be available for it to be performed well.  In their book "Sparks of Genius" Robert and Michelle Root Bernstein provide most of the following:

Obsevation. "Models can be formulated only after a real system or situation has been intrensively observed..."

Imaging. Modeling is very much like imaging except it is done in the real world instead of in the mind. "Models that render imperceptable phenomena accessible to direct cognition require strong imaging skills."

Abstraction. Before constructing a model a real system or object must be "simplified by abstracting critical features..."

Analogizing. "Models that 'stand in' for real things depend on analogizing..."  

Dimentional thinking. "Nearly all models utilize dimentional thinking skills as well." 

Playing. Playing or expeimenting is necessary to produce alturative outcomes both within the model and in its interactions with other models. "Once a model has been made, experimenting or playing with it determines whether the properties modeled are accurate abstractions of real situations or systems." 

Other skills. The ability to build models requires a vast aray of skills each specific to the kind of model that is being built. These include sculpture, engineering, matematics etc. etc. Other skills required in modeling are often the ability to enlarge or reduce something to scale. Sometimes they require the ability to transform into another medium such as computation or mathmatics. "Perhaps the most important thing that modeling does is to provide the modeler with complete control of a situation, object or idea - or, conversly, to reveal explicitly where control or understanding is lacking."

wargames War games and models.  soldier

Computer modelling means using a computer to 'model' situations Wargames

"War games really are practical tools, simulations created, as the U.S. Department of Defence puts it, to mimic 'military operations involving two or more opposing forces and using rules, data, and proceedures designed to depict an actual or hypothetical real-life situation.'

anatomical Medical models. head

Models have many uses. In medicine they have been used as a way doctors and surgeons can practice their art suffuciently to become competent enough to be let lose on real people. In their book "Sparks of Genius" Robert and Michelle Root Bernstein explain this training effect of models:

"The field of medicine may have the widest range of representational functional human models. In many cases, the models are also works of art. This is certainly true of the small, naked ivory dolls traditionally carried to doctors offices by upper-class Chinese women in centuries past. Forbidden by culturall taboos and modesty to disrobe for male doctors, women used the dolls to indicate the nature of the location of their symptoms. Asian physicians also marked human figurines with the locations of acupuncturte points or other relevant information. Western use of anatomical models has been somewhat different. Religious and secular disaproval of the use of bodies for dissection made detailed anatomical information difficult to obtain during and after the Renaissance. Some physicians resorted to creating fantastically detailed, full-sized wax models of human being in various stages of disection. Their detail puts even the wax works of Madame Tussaud to shame, yet the models could not provide the interactive opportunities subsequently provided by cadavers. Today computerised models of everything from frog dissections to human anatomy have entered biological and medical classrooms. But like the wax models of old, these visualizations provide no training in in the propper manipulation of the scalpel or the emergency suture of an artery suddenly and uncontrollably bleeding in the wound. In medicine, as many of the arts and sciences, models that can be seen but not felt and handled have definate teaching limitations.

Science and models. 

In their book "Sparks of Genius" Robert and Michelle Root Bernstein lay out how science is depenent on models for its ever changing and increasingly more accurate ideas, concepts and theories:

"In science, modeling is inextricably bound to the generation of new ideas, the development of theories, and their experimental verification or falsification. Linus Pauling, one of the greatest modelers in recent times,described modeling as a unique way of thinking. 'The greatest value of models is their contribution to the process of originating new ideas,'  he wrote. 'I would say that modes constitute a language.' Pauling spent decades studing protien moecules  and using model to explore their possible structures, eventually earning a Nobel Prize for his efforts. Precise models represent precise thinking.

Modeling also played a role in determining one of Pauling's most celebrated failures: his incorrect structure of DNA the molecule that contains our genes. 'If you have a model,' he wrote, 'you know what the permissible structures are. ...The models themselves permit you to throw out a large number of structures that might otherwise be thought possible.' And that is precisly what happened. During 1951 and 1952, Pauling and several other scientists, including James Watson and Francis Crick, were attempting to elucidate the structure of DNA by building models, which they then compared with the scant data then available. Comparisons between the predictions made by the different models quickly reveiled that Pauling's contained fatal flaws. Watson and Crick's initial model building attempts, made with carefully cut out pieces of cardboard, also failed, but learnig from their mistakes, they produced what has now become the standard textbook model of the DNA double helix. Their model incorporated not only the structural details of DNA revealed by experiment but, equally important, the manner in which genetic information is encoded and transmitted from generation to generation. Thus, the double-helical model elegantly combined representational, functional, and theoretical elements."

In science there is occasionally some confusion, where the ultimate ideas or concepts, can be confused with the model from which they were originally derived. In their book "Sparks of Genius" Robert and Michelle Root Bernstein elaborate: 

"Unlike most scientific models, however, the double helix is often portrayed as being representationly real, a physical embodyment of something that is simply too small to see. Most scientific models are not taken so literally. They are like maquettes for sculptors or war games for generals: useful tools for building ideas but not literal representations. Cyril Smith provided a good example from his work in metallurgy. To understand the nature and effects of structural flaws in alloys, he created a tray full of bubbles, then carefully poped a few in strategic places. This process allowed him to observe the ways in which the bubble-atoms reorganized in response to the disturbance, revealing interesting effects relevant to the alloys. Neither Smith nor his colleagues regarded these models as 'real,'  but they were extremely useful for exploring their theories.

The role of scientific models can be compared to that of the scaffolds and cranes erected around large buildings as they are being built. There is no way to construct the building without these scafolds and cranes, but once the building is completed, they need to be removed. Thus in his clasic book 'The Character of Physical Law' Richard Feynman  argued that theory should always try to ween itself from the models on which it was built. 'It always turns out that the greatest discoveries abstract away from the from the model and the model never does any good ,' he wrote. 'Maxwell's discovery of electrodynamics was first made with a lot of imaginary wheels and idlers in space. But 2when you get rid of all the idlers and things in space the thing is O.K.' Models help us gain mastery  of concepts, Feynman went on to say, but should not be confused with the concepts themselves."

model Art, sculpture, architects and models.  model

In most forms of art and media the model serves as an outline or preliminary sketch of what the final work will be, and serves the artist as a guide or plan toward which the artist can work. In their book "Sparks of Genius" Robert and Michelle Root Bernstein explain:

"Artists use a a similar range of of reprentational models. The most common form of modeling in the visual arts is the preliminary scetch. Very few painters work directly on the canvas most begin by scetching.

...Sculptors and architects employ maquettes for similar purposes. The word marquette is French, from the Italian macchia 'a scetch,' but artists and architects use it to mean a three dimentional model. Architects, of course, often build small physical models of their designs or plans to give clients a better notion of what the building will look like than can be gleaned frombueprints or or drawings, or to envision some some of the constructional problems they may encounter. These models vary from faily simple cardboard and paper constructions to incredably detailed wood and metal constructions. The maquettes of sculptors also vary greatly. Louise Bourgois says she moves 'from sketch to cardboard model to corrugated cardboard model to wood to stone' as she plans and develops her sculptures."


notes Novels, plays, music and models.

Although we do not think of some art forms like writing novels/plays or composing music as being modeled in some form as preperation, this is nevertheless often the case. Indeed, if models can be considered to be structures existing in the work that existed before the work, then all novels and music and plays are littered with such models. For instance the notation of music is a model of that music and a manuscript is a model of a book. In their book "Sparks of Genius" Robert and Michelle Root Bernstein expound on this:  

"...modeling of various sorts is used in every discipline. Writers find representational and even functional models for ficional characters and events in people they know and situations they experience directly and indirectly They find theoetical models for the structure of their work in the work of their predecessors. Novelist Christopher Isherwood once complained to Igor Stravinsky that he was having grave dificulties resolving a technical problem of naration. Stravinsky 'advised him to find a model.' That anecdote, in turn, caused music critic Robert Craft to ask Stravinsky, 'How do you model music?' Put on the spot, Stravinsky replied that he had on occasion used interesting rythmic devises from the past to pattern his own compositions - 'so that I could 'construct in orderly fashion.' ...I attempted to to build new music on eighteenth-century clasics..., using the constructive principles of that classicism (which I cannot define here) and even evoking it stylistically.' When Stravinsky advised Isherwood to find a model to resolve his writing problem he was suggesting that the novelist do what he had done: find a predecessor who had already solved this type of problem, then modify the solution to his own ends."

ironman Cinema and models. ironman

Cinema or movies is an art form that is multi layered and as such has models within models within models each dealing with a different layer of the finished product. This is made clear to anyone who cares to peruse the special feartures of a film such as Ironman. Because super hero movies have such extensive special features it is quickly brought home to you, when watching such features, just how many models are involved in bringing such a film into existance. 

First there is the screenplay and scripts which are a models for how the movie is to proceed. Then there are story boards which are guides to how particular scenes are likely to proceed. The costumes, used in the movie, also are first envisioned in the form of sketches drawn by thier own creator. Then there is the shooting board where the whole movie is laid out which is yet another template or model for how the movie is to proceed. But this is only the begining for a movie like Ironman. Certain scenes need to be maped out clearly before they are shot, which requires further modeling in the form of a huge amount of basic and not so basic animation. Then there is beautiful key frame artwork that provides a detailed model for the look of key scenes in the movie. However, for Iron man this is just the tip of the iceberg. For Ironman the movie requires a mind boggeling aray of models just involved in the creation of the 3 suits of armour. Ironman's suit, itself alone, enjoyed an entire wall of concept art numbering about ten full detailed, beautiful paintings, each about a meter tall. Then because the suit had to work in reality there were model sketches of each section of the armour and how each section articulated with a human inside it. Then there is the making of the suit which involved a final beautiful 3d rendered drawing, full animation of the suit performing many operations, a minature marquet that is a scultptured model about half full sized. One could go on and on because in a movie like this the team of creative individuals are building almost an infinite number of imaginary models comprizing an entire world. As Robert and Michelle Root Bernstein explain in their book "Sparks of Genius":

"When LucasFilms builds sets for the Star Wars movies, they are producing imaginary models of an entire universe."

kleinbottle Mathmatical models. mobius

For the ordinary person mathmatical ideas are very abstract indeed and thus very hard to understand. By modeling such ideas mathematicians can make such ideas more understanable to the ordinary person and indeed to their peers. In their book "Sparks of Genius" Robert and Michelle Root Bernstein make clear the importance of mathematical models: 

"To achieve conceptually pure models, many scientists have turned to mathematics. Like war-gaming, the mathematization of models is relatively recent, dating back no further than Galileo's matematical descriptions of falling bodies. The notion that every equation or mathematical concept can be represented physically or visually and that every such representation can be expressed as an equation came much later. ...German mathematician Ernst Kummer published a series of wire and plaster models of complex algebraic functions. '...The construction of these models went hand in hand with work at the furthest frontiers of research in the area of algebraic surfaces,' some of which are now known as 'Kummer surfaces.' The effectivness of Kummer's approach was appreciated by other matematicians. During the 1850s August Ferdinand Mobius used models to invent the figure called the Mobius strip, a one sided two-dimentional twist that is often used as a symbol for infinity. Felix Klein, one of the greatest mathematicians of his age produced an extensive array of models using cardboard, thread, wire, plaster, and modeling clay. Among the many other things, he invented the so-called Klein bottel - a three-dimentional equivelent of the Mobius strip that appeares to be one continuous surface without an identifiable inside or an outside.      

...Until recently, the only major collections of mathematical models were in European institutes and in the Mathematica exhibit designed arround 1970 by Ray and Charles Eames for half-dozen American science museums. The advent of computer-aided design (CAD) systems and general problem-solving programs such as Matematica have now made matematical modeling available to almost anyone with a desktop computer. It is important to emphasize, however, that the computer and physical models are not equivilant in terms of the thinking tools they embody. Computer graphics are 2-D, even with displays that allow 3-D vision. Merely perceiving 3-D visually in one's mind is not the same as experiencing 3-D kinesthetically and tactilely. ' are just not as good as having an object to touch and hold.'

One reason that graphic models are not as good as a physical ones is that abstract 'maps' don not always corespond to 'physical terrain.' It is possible to produce a visual image in 2-D of an object that cannot exist physically in 3-D as M. C. Escher, L.S. and Roger Penrose , and other designers of impossible object have known for ages."  

ice Computer models and the cutting edge of science.  cell

Computer modelling means using a computer to 'model' situations to see how they are likely to work out if you perform differing actions. This is using a computer to change variables and determine what happens, that is different. If people use a simulation where they have to make decisions that affect an outcome, and then can return the simulation to its initial state and try something else, that is computer modelling. If people use spreadsheets to work out the cost of something, and alter some variable in the figures to see what happens, that is also computer modelling. This is not very different from the way we use scale models to predict outcomes in real things. However, in the last decade this area of scientific learning and creativity has become the cutting edge of knowledge, and a place where genius may well be lurking. In his book "Too Big to Know" David Weinberger explains that we can now determine outcomes in systems that we will never be able to comprehend:

The problem - or at least the change - is that we humans cannot understand systems even as complex as that of a simple cell. It's not that we're awaiting some elegant theory that will snap all the details into place. The theory is is well established already: Cellular systems consist of a set of detailed interactions that can be thought of as signals and responses. But those interactions surpass in quantity and complexity the human brain's ability to comprehend them. The science of such systems requires computers to store all the detais and to see how they interact. Systems bioligists build computer models that replicate in software what happens when millions of pieces interact. It's a bit like predicting the weather, but with far more dependency on particular events and fewer general principles. 

What we have here is millions of causes, millions of variables, millions of processes and a limited number of outcomes or effects. Our brains are simply unable to keep track of all these causes some promoting and some inhibiting both other causes and ulimately certain effects. Nevertheless we can create computer models which, if we plug in all the causes, will predict certain effects or outcomes with a high degree of accuracy. Even though we don't fully comprehend why we get such outcomes the model can predict them with very a precise and highly significant degree of probability. In his book "Too Big to Know" David Weinberger continues:

"Models this complex - whether of celular biology, the weather, the economy, even highway trafic - ofen fail us, because the world is more complex than our models can capture. But sometimes they can predict accurately how the system will behave. At their most complex these are sciences that cannot be seen by looking only at the parts and cannot be well predicted except by looking at what happens."

These sciences have come about because of the volume and the accuracy of data that hase become availible in the last few years. As more and more data becomes available, and that data becomes more and more accurate, the ability of computer models to accurately predict will improve proportionally. In his book "Too Big to Know" David Weinberger continues:

"This marks quite a turn in science's path. For Sir Francis Bacon 400 years ago, for Darwin 150 years ago, for Bernard Forscher 50 years ago, the aim of science was to construct theories that are both supported by and explain the facts. Facts are about particular things whereas knowledge (it was thought) should be of universals. Every advance of knowledge of universals brought us cloaser to fulfilling the destiny our creator had set for us.

...With the new database-based science, there is no moment when the complex becomes simple enough for us to understand it. The model does not reduce to an equation that lets us throw away the model. You have to run the simulation to see what emerges"

blocks  Children and building models.

Children have always been motivated to build and play with models. Children are always taking some object and trying to replicate it with something else. Any object may serve as a model of an airplane, or a gun, or a sword, or a light saber. At some point, however, children are not satisfied with relying on analogy and imagination to make the connection, and start to make the representation more like the thing it is representing. In this way children become interested in the details of the original object and in trying to make increasingly more acurate representations of such objects. Thus children become involved in the building of models and the many ways in which, such models, can be used to play games. Robert and Michelle Root Bernstein explain how this desire in children becomes learning and control in their book "Sparks of Genius":

"Simple blocks, all purpose dolls, craft and building materials of all sorts become reprentations of other things. What is important is not the quality of the fort children build in the backyard, the zoo in the basement, or the dollhouse in their room, nor its realism or permanence or practicality, but the act of modeling itself. For out of modeling come understanding and control.


This, like other early child learning, is essential to child play and child creativity. Robert and Michelle Root Bernstein explain in their book "Sparks of Genius" how this informs creativity in art:

"Many creative individuals remember their deep immersion in modeling activities ands its effect on their adult interests. Georgia O'Keeeffe recalled playing with a dollhouse she made herself from two thing boards. She sawed a slit in each board and fitted them together, creating four 'rooms that satisfied her - though nothing more existed than the partitions between those rooms. This may have been the begining of her understanding of abstraction. Sculptor Claes Oldenburg invented his own private world, too, making homemade books, newspapers, maps, and charts. In adolescence he turned to model airplanes, 'sometimes changing the design so that they looked more the way I wanted them to.' For both artists, modeling was the begining of a lifelong habit of inventing their own constructions of the world."   

Robert and Michelle Root Bernstein explain in their book "Sparks of Genius" how this informs creativity in science:

"A member of the American Academy of Sciences who took part in an anonamous interview attriduted his interest and success in science to similar experiences: 'I was always interested in things to make. I used to make model airplanes and things like that. When I was old enough to go to the library, I used to go and get books that described things that kids could make...and that was extremely significant in my education because essentially what I [came] accross in college courses...was not entirely new to me."


Many children's toys, these days, can be thought as too well executed because they iliminate the need for imagination on the part of the child. They are too like the objects the represent. Hoever, while this may discourage one creative form of learning, that of learning by build models, it does not discourage the many complex ways in which children come to use such models in their play.


As with many of the abilities of children, this ability to make and use models in play does tend to disappear as they get older. This may partly happen because of the preclusion of involvement in the creation of the toys, but it probably decreases fairly quickly anyway. As we become concerned with how things are in the world more and more pressure is put on us to conform with expectations for adults and put away childish things, which unfortunately often includes our interest in models. But in doing this adults lose another important tool of creativity and genius. 

Practice as iterative improvement is a necessity for life long creativity.

Like all these other tools, modeling needs to be practiced with improvement throughout life if it is to harnessed in the service of creation and probability of becoming a genius. At the moment modeling in the home and school are generally thought to be unimportant and thus discouraged. If, however, we were to continually try to build models of the world around us we will find this ability does not fade, but rather becomes stronger. In the hands of a creative genius it is used to see and understand invisible connections, between things and processes, that are at the heart of new and novel knowledge. The new computer models have enabled the builders of such models to create an understanding of how things work despite not being able to follow the trail of causality because of the existance of too many variables. In the future this will change the world of knowledge as has never been managed before.

Needs Interest Method Reality Keys How to Help Creative Genius Future What is Wrong Theories Plus
Prodigies Genius Creativity Social Creativity Thin Slicing Observing Imaging Abstracting Recognizing Patterns
Forming Patterns Analogizing Enaction Empathizing Dimensional Playing Transforming Synthesizing