Harrison, S., A. Stahl, and D. Doak. “Spatial Models and Spotted Owls: Exploring Some Biological Issues Behind Recent Events.” Conservation Biology 7, no. 4 (1993): 950–953.
which looks at the risk of spotted owl extinction in landscapes of various patterns, including evaluation of mathematical landscape models used for that purpose:
Leads me to the notion of “risk landscape” —
To what extent can understanding the physical landscapes of the owl forest, and the mathematically modeled landscapes developed to approximate them, be useful in seeing other risk situations as metaphorical landscapes, e.g. medical treatment decisions or political strategy decisions. If so, then terms like “paths” through these metaphorical landscapes could apply, and factors could be added to the model equivalent to climate in physical landscapes, the adaptability characteristics of the traveler through the landscape, etc.
Ecologists have used “fitness landscapes” to visualize how natural selection brings populations to optimal points. (See also, e.g., Chris Colby 1996.) I wonder how much further the landscape metaphor can be expanded to other uses.
But also perhaps flip this around:
Taking it another step, is it (or to what extent is it) that what we perceive as physical landscape is our human way of modeling incoming information or data. In other words, could it be that the physical landscape, as we know it, is a model that we create to make useful sense of the incomplete, diverse, complex information that comes into us, and that we combine with what’s inside of us already? The physical landscape, the physical world, as we understand it, is in that sense a human construction. Worth remembering that all models are simplifications, usually created to be useful for specific purposes.
What is the reality beyond the model? Is there a way of accessing that, other than through other models? Religious answers beyond modeling include faith, and practice.