@seabird20 recently reminded me of the illusion (identified by Alfred Korzybski, founder of general semantics) “of mistaking the map for the territory”. In his book They Have A Word for It, Howard Rheingold names this illusion as "Maya: the mistaken belief that a symbol is the same as the reality it represents".
The context for this was a Twitter discussion on the Gartner Hype Curve. Of course the Gartner Hype Curve is just a map, not the territory it purports to describe. But I argued that we still have a right to complain if any map is not fit-for-purpose: if the map sends us to the wrong part of the territory, we blame the map.
Chris replied: "Now that is ascribing a lot of power to the map. But yes we do blame it when we get lost and are following it!"
We can contrast this with Miroslav Holub's story (borrowed by Karl Weick) of the Hungarians in the Alps, in which the soldiers reach their destination despite using the wrong map. (You can find the poem on the MonkeyMagic blog.)
@j4ngis comments: "With wrong map you get a good chance to discover new things. And experience some surprises. Right map only takes you there."
I guess the best-known example of that would be Columbus trying to reach India by sailing West. Got his sums wrong. Idiot.
Yup! (says @j4ngis) We need more idiots like that to make real progress. And to save this planet. @j4ngis then adds a beautiful story about (US) indians using buffalo skin as "map". Follow (random) wrinkles as paths to find meat in NEW places. Graham Hill interprets this as "an interesting use of a random walk on a fitness landsape to find new high peaks". But, just as in Holub's story, it only works if the people using it think it's a real map.