The 4 Acts model

The 4 Acts model


The 4 Acts book An overview of fundamental explanations of reality and how to apply them effectively 1. Understand 2. Choose 3. Do 4. Learn


If you'd like to receive a copy of the first version for proofreading, please e-mail me at Due to be ready in April

What this book explains and how it can help you

A better way to solve problems

We consume books and other forms of knowledge in the hope that it will help us solve a problem or challenge. Once we’ve found a problem, like a weak skill, a gap in our understanding, or an intense curiosity, we find the suitable knowledge and adapt it. This is challenging because the amount of information to choose from is ever-growing. As you consume the material, you question it. You reconcile the new info with what you know. Interestingly, this process is not commonly given much thought. A typical approach is to seek, read, and try out the lessons from a top-rated book. This way, you treat knowledge growth as building a toolkit. The toolkit holds facts, anecdotes, hacks, rules of thumb, and principles. This works. But, this book claims that there is a better way: to keep and reason from a worldview of fundamental explanations.

Why explanations are superior to facts

Chapter 2 discusses this in greater detail, but the bottom line is:

  1. Explanations are pound-for-pound more useful than facts. A pure fact is capable of being either right or wrong. An explanation includes why it should be suitable and in which circumstances. This allows testing, adjusting, and improving it. It can even serve as a solution to other problems.
  2. Explanations are more compact to store and remember. The growth of factual knowledge expands the total information. In contrast, explanatory knowledge absorbs its predecessor, which reduces the total information.

The value of creating and maintaining an explanatory worldview

As we will see, knowing the basics of how the world works and what makes everything tick is very valuable. In this book, I lay out a starting point for a worldview organized by a 4-step human action cycle: Understand, Choose, Do, Learn. Before we dive into the specifics of each chapter, I’ll share concrete examples that illustrate its utility:

1) You can solve new problems areas better and quicker

When encountering a new situation, you don’t have factual knowledge or a trained intuition. Thus, you’ll have to wing it or search for the missing knowledge. But, with an worldview of fundamental explanations you will A) be able to come up with an theory from scratch. Or, B) use your fundamental knowledge as a map to identify the additional knowledge required to solve the problem. This form of reasoning is often called First Principle Thinking. Here are some examples of how that looks like in practice:

Problem 1: You want to understand what caused a serious hiring mistake

Fundamental knowledge at hand: You recognize that this is a challenge of human decision-making. Chapter X: Selecting What to Act on and Chapter Y: Decision-making are suitable to use. Solution from scratch: You see, the acquired information of the applications is solid. It's likely a problem in decision-making caused by your mental shortcuts. You know, these shortcuts evolved to make decision-making use fewer resources. But they do so at the cost of accuracy. Quickly find more needed knowledge: You research the exact shortcuts to avoid them in the future. You find that you had a strong emotional connection with the chosen candidate. It made you ignore warning signs. Also, you had a winning streak in another domain at work. It made you wrongly overconfident and hasty.

Problem 2: You need to maximize the fuel efficiency of your car

Fundamental knowledge at hand: You recognise that this is challenge of physics. For this, Chapter 4: The Ingredients of Physical Reality is appropriate. The solution from scratch: You remember that the car's weight determines how much energy, and therefore fuel, is used (Newton’s Second law). You thus empty your trunk. Also, you remember that the car's shape affects aerodynamics. You lower the vehicle and remove the cargo box from the roof. Quickly find more needed knowledge: You think you're still missing something. It's about how driving will affect efficiency. You look up more laws of motion. You find that Newton’s first law provides an answer. Keeping a constant speed uses less fuel. You decide to minimize hard stops and accelerations.

2) You can quickly filter out the information you do not deem worthwhile

When you seek new knowledge, you face many resources full of information. Taking the entire resource seriously is infeasible. Instead, you can compare its claims to your worldview. Then, discard those that violate how reality works and those that are bad explanations (more on that in Chapter X). For example:

Discarded book 1: Forecasting of random events

The claim: A book firmly states that you can forecast economic trends. You can do so if you train your tenacity and open-mindedness. The violation: This contradicts how impossible actions work as explained in chapter X: Limitations Within Reality. Firstly, economic trends are unpredictable. This is because the factors that matter are many, complex, and intertwined. Also, it's unknowable. We don't know what future events will matter.

Discarded book 2: Consciousness is magic

The claim: A book states that because we can’t explain how consciousness works, it must lie outside the realm of reality (implying that it’s magic). The violation: This violates the basics of a good explanation, as described in Chapter X: Understanding explanations. Firstly, it claims that because we don’t know it yet, it must be magic. Yet, we uncover new knowledge every day. I also does not provide a explanation for what it is and how it works. It’s an uncriticizable idea and, thus a bad explanation

3) You can construct and readjust your worldview when you encounter new knowledge

Once the information has passed through your filter and you consume it, you decide what you do with it. You must evaluate how it fits with your existing knowledge. If you don’t have an explicit worldview, you risk unknowingly forgetting or overruling good explanations. Instead, you might favor knowledge because it sounds and feels more appealing. This is further complicated by authors, myself included, giving a specific and narrow view on topics. Author aim to make a strong point. They do this by using many examples and evidence and fitting it into a compelling narrative. You might be inclined to fully embrace their narrative rather than dissect it. But, as a reader, you should reconcile the new information with your existing worldview. Chapter X will cover the process of learning, but this is an example of what it can look like:

Absorbing book 1: A psychology book (For example, Thinking Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman book)

What it’s about: An illustration of how our thinking process across various situations, substantiated by studies Where it fits: Primarily in the chapter of Decision Making: Chapter 4. What to take from it: I learned to think of our biases as mental shortcuts to always be able to jump to a conclusion. Not as obstacles, but as evolutionarily useful adaptations that we must be mindful of.

Absorbing book 2: A Productivity Book (For example, The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey)

What it’s about An experiment of the author where he tried various productivity techniques for a year and shared his results and take. Where it fits: This fits in Act 4: Execution - spread across the various chapters What to take from it: I found it interesting how Chris Bailey broke down productivity. He said it's about managing 3 key resources well: energy, attention, and time. This made me think similarly. But, I found it better to split it into willpower and intentions. Intentions are what you decide to work on. This includes goals, plans, and time management. Willpower is how well you execute it. This includes energy and attention.

At the end of each explanatory chapter in The 4 Acts, there will be a summary of fields of knowledge that relate to the act. It will also include a link to my website, which has recommended reading.

How the content of the book is organized, and why

I organized the fundamental explanations and how to apply them by the 4-step cycle of human action: Understand, Choose, Do, Learn. We can represent every activity we do through these 4 Acts. For most actions, we are unaware they take place, and we go through them unconsciously. Other times we focus on a specific act and disregard the others. Sometimes, when facing a big problem, we might decide to optimize each act consciously. Here are some examples of how you can apply it:


By organizing the explanations based on the model of human action, it allows me to show the practical use. It also allows for coherent stacking of the explanations. Each one is built on the fundamental ideas of the one before it.

To produce the explanations I interpreted he work of various authors. However, the explanations are mostly self-contained. My accounts were most prominently derived from the work of David Deutsch. I regard it to be the most accurate account of the fundamental explanations at present. For those who want to dig deeper into an explanatory worldview, I highly recommend David's books: The Beginning of Infinity and The Fabric of Reality.

The book can be comfortably read from start to finish, but it doesn't have to. I included internal references when previous knowledge is helpful. I also describe when you might want to skip a section or chapter. I wrote this book to organize my thoughts. Thus, it's also an encyclopedia. You can open it to a chapter you wish to review.

What's in each chapter (draft*)

Act 1: Understanding

  • Chapter X — distinguishes a good explanation from a bad one
  • Chapter Y — describes how to identify and select the root problem you wish to focus on
  • Chapter X — how the physical world and the forces work as explained by our deepest understanding of the laws of physics: quantum theory and general relativity
  • Chapter X — describes the way we view and represent reality through systems which also reveals another dimension of reality: abstract emergent properties
  • Chapter X — describes the limitations and impossibilities that exist in reality
  • Chapter X — is about life and the behavior patterns produced by evolution that we need to understand lifeforms and ourselves
  • Chapter X — describes explicitly what makes humans so different and the various drivers of our behaviors
  • Chapter Y — why and how to conduct an environmental analysis by examining the nearby biological, cultural, and physical systems

Act 2: Choosing

  • Chapter X — explains what triggers our behaviors and the mechanism we use to choose what to act on
  • Chapter Y — explains a practical way to approach decision-making
  • Chapter Y — explains why and how to make your intentions explicit and create goals, plans, and daily intentions

Act 3: Doing

  • Chapter Y - explains how establishing systems and habits can save mental effort
  • Chapter Y - describes how you can train your capacity for mental effort and use it more efficiently
  • Chapter Y - is about getting back on track when you have drifted from intentions

Act 4: Learning:

  • Chapter X — explains how the mechanism of learning works in humans
  • Chapter Y — describes how one can be more effective at learning
  • Chapter Y — is a practical application of how persuasive ideas spread and how to apply it yourself

*X chapters explain. Y chapters describe how to use them. Page numbers will soon replace these.


If you'd like to receive a copy of the first version for proofreading, please e-mail me at Due to be ready in April

In this Google Doc, you can read and comment on the working version of The 4 Acts.

Further reading:

I've created guides, notion templates and guides to practically apply the 5 acts model. Check it out:

Social Media




Stay in the loop with the Do-It newsletter:

©  2022 - Edwin for

It's all about action here