Everybody has a different perspective, and no one has an absolute frame of reference.
Galilean relativity asserts the laws of motion are the same in all inertial frames. While reality exists, there are infinite ways to observe something.
Why Use It
In physics, for example, someone drives past a pedestrian in their car. The driver sees themself as stationary as they are not in motion, but the pedestrian watches them move horizontally. Each frame is valid but substantially different; that’s relativity.
The theory helped Galileo convince others why it doesn’t feel like the earth is moving, because like a driver in the car, we’re moving at the same constant velocity as the planet.
While rooted in physics, it applies to life: one’s perspective is limited, so it is imperative to consider multiple to see a fuller picture.
Returning to the driver who now wants to switch lanes, they might use a side-view mirror to see behind them and then turn to view their blind spot. Each of those frames is useful in knowing whether a car occupies an adjacent lane. Similarly, by valuing others’ perspectives, you reduce the likelihood of having a blind spot. Most folks don’t misjudge out of malice but rather a lack of awareness.
When to Use It
Reality is seeing beyond one’s perspective and encompasses a broader range of inputs. This includes others’ views, new observations, and factors that cloud one’s judgment.
Stories are lenses of reality and deliver a distinct bias and worldview. Whether or not others’ stories align with your values, they bridge a gap in perspective and are additive in understanding a holistic picture.
If only one story, one lens, one frame is used to understand truth, it becomes a single point of failure.
How to Use It
While you, the passerby, might see someone on a train moving, they may not agree or believe themselves to be in motion, as they’re experiencing space and time differently.
In discourse, folks might disagree and be comfortable keeping their opinions, but that would miss on the point of what relativity offers: an opportunity to inform discussions with shared understanding. Obtaining agreement is overrated compared to what mutual understanding can deliver — the same result without the cost.
Several ways to expand a point of view are:
- Extending the timeline of observation by weeks or years
- Zooming into the details or zooming out for a bird’s eye view
- Assuming another’s perspective
Sometimes you will be the person on a train, and recognizing that you are is essential. So, when a passerby notes that you are in motion, you can accept the limitations of your perspective.
By adding new perspectives, you unlock additional knowledge.
How to Misuse It
No individual can see all perspectives and have an absolute frame of reference. Supplementing your view with others doesn’t make you correct; it makes you less likely to be wrong.
You can approximate reality more closely by acknowledging that your perspective is limited and that by combining multiple perspectives, you will reduce blind spots.
Where it Came From
In 1632, Galileo coined the term to convince people that the earth orbits the sun in his “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.” Albert Einstein, obsessed with Galilean Relativity, expanded on his initial findings and introduced Special relativity in 1905.
What Are Mental Models?
Mental models are thinking tools that help guide and shape our perceptions of the world. They simplify complexity so we can understand life better, make decisions confidently, and solve problems.