Abstract Model at Five Levels

Level 1 (Child):

Imagine you have a box of Legos. You can build anything you want with these Legos - a castle, a spaceship, or a dinosaur. But let’s say you want to build a dog. You can’t add in all the tiny details like fur or the dog’s exact face. Instead, you choose blocks that can represent the general shape and size of the dog. An abstract model is like your Lego dog. It doesn’t have every tiny detail, but it gives you a good idea of what a dog looks like.

Level 2 (Teenager):

An abstract model is like a map of your city. It doesn’t show every single building or tree. It doesn’t even show all the streets. But it gives you the main roads, landmarks, and city boundaries. This helps you understand the layout of the city, how to get from one place to another. An abstract model does the same thing. It simplifies a complex system so we can understand and work with it better.

Level 3 (Undergraduate):

Abstract models are fundamental tools in computer science. When designing a software system, we use abstract models to describe and analyze the system’s structure and behavior without dealing with unnecessary details. For example, when developing a database, an abstract model might represent data entities and their relationships, ignoring the specifics of how the data is stored and retrieved.

Level 4 (Graduate):

In computer science, creating an abstract model involves defining the system’s key elements and behaviors, often using formal methods and notations. The model serves as a blueprint for system implementation and a tool for system analysis. For instance, in the design of algorithms, we create abstract models that represent the problem to solve, define the inputs and outputs, and describe the steps to reach the solution, ignoring specific programming language details or hardware specifications.

Level 5 (Colleague):

Abstract models provide a high-level perspective of a system, allowing us to reason about its properties and behaviors without getting lost in implementation details. They are crucial in various fields of computer science, including systems design, algorithm development, and formal methods. By creating abstract models, we can focus on the system’s core functionalities and characteristics, enabling us to design and implement more effective solutions, identify potential issues, and optimize system performance.


An Abstract Model is a simplified representation of a system that captures the essential characteristics while omitting details. It serves as a blueprint that guides the understanding, design, and implementation of software systems.


Use an Abstract Model:

  • During the initial stages of software design to establish a common understanding.
  • When you need to communicate complex ideas to non-technical stakeholders.
  • To analyze or reason about system behavior before actual implementation.


Abstract Models are often employed in:

  • System architecture design
  • Requirement analysis
  • Database design
  • Simulation and testing

How to Apply

  1. Identify Core Concepts: Pinpoint the key elements and operations of the system.
  2. Define Relationships: Specify how elements interact or relate to one another.
  3. Simplify: Remove non-essential details, focusing on the core functionality.
  4. Document: Create diagrams or documents that articulate the model.
  5. Iterate: Refine the model as more information becomes available or as requirements change.


E-commerce System

  • Core Concepts: Products, Cart, User
  • Relationships: Users add Products to Cart, Cart calculates total price
  • Abstract Model: Focuses only on these elements and their interactions, ignoring payment gateway, inventory, etc.


  Abstract Model
| Element 1 | Element 2 |

In the diagram, “Element 1” and “Element 2” are the core concepts identified for the Abstract Model. “Relationships” capture how these elements interact or relate. The Abstract Model is a high-level view that encapsulates these entities and their interactions.

Abstract Model and Abstraction

The relationship between an Abstract Model and Abstraction lies in their shared goal of simplifying complexity, but they serve different purposes and are applied at different stages of problem-solving.

Abstract Model

  • Purpose: Provides a blueprint or a simplified representation of a system to guide understanding, analysis, or design.
  • Scope: Generally applies to a specific problem domain, like an e-commerce system or a neural network architecture.
  • Output: Usually results in diagrams, documents, or specifications that describe key elements and their relationships.


  • Purpose: Hides the intricate details of specific operations or implementations to make systems easier to understand and manage.
  • Scope: Can be applied at multiple levels, from high-level architecture to individual code components.
  • Output: Typically manifests as interfaces, classes, or layers within a system, separating what tasks are done from how they are achieved.

Key Relationship

  1. Sequential Relationship: Often, you’ll first create an Abstract Model during the design phase. This model guides the system’s architecture and identifies where Abstraction is needed.

  2. Nested Relationship: Abstraction can exist within an Abstract Model. For example, the Abstract Model might specify that a system needs a “Database Management” component. The specific Abstractions within that component could be interfaces for database CRUD operations.

  3. Complementary Goals: Both aim to manage complexity but at different granularity. An Abstract Model helps to understand the system at a high level, while Abstraction helps manage complexity at the implementation level.

In summary, an Abstract Model helps you understand “what” elements and relationships make up a system, while Abstraction helps you manage “how” those elements are implemented.

No, the Abstract Model is not necessarily the result of applying Abstraction, although the two concepts are closely related. They serve different purposes and operate at different levels but can interact in meaningful ways.

Abstract Model

  • Purpose: To provide a simplified, high-level representation of a system or concept for better understanding, planning, or communication.
  • Application: Typically applied in the early stages of system design or analysis. Focuses on capturing essential elements and relationships.


  • Purpose: To hide the complex details of specific operations or implementations to make the system easier to understand, modify, and maintain.
  • Application: Typically occurs during the implementation stage, where it takes the form of interfaces, classes, or API layers that separate what tasks are done from how they are executed.


  • From Model to Code: An Abstract Model can guide where Abstraction is needed in the actual code. For example, if the model defines a “payment system,” then Abstraction can be used to implement various payment methods.

  • From Code to Model: Sometimes, abstraction layers in the codebase can inform the creation or update of an Abstract Model, especially when documenting the system or communicating its architecture.

So while an Abstract Model isn’t the “result” of applying Abstraction, the two concepts often complement each other to produce a well-designed and manageable system.

Socrates Teaches Abstract Model

  1. Do you remember the last time you looked at a map before traveling somewhere?

  2. Exactly! Now, a map is not the actual place itself, but it represents the place, correct?

  3. Right! So, a map is a simpler version of the real world. It shows just enough detail to be useful, but not so much that it becomes complicated. Now, can you think of a similar concept where we create a simpler version or representation of a complex system or process to understand and solve problems?

  4. Yes, you’re on the right track! So, in computer science or any other discipline, we often use simplified representations of complex systems to understand and solve problems. These representations might ignore certain details to focus on the most important aspects. Can you guess what we call these simplified representations?

  5. That’s right! We call these simplified representations “abstract models.” These models help us understand, analyze, and make predictions about the system they represent. They’re a vital tool in problem-solving, aren’t they?

The blueprint of the house can be considered as a map to be used to construct a house. So it is an abstract model?

Yes, absolutely! The blueprint of a house is indeed an example of an abstract model. It’s a simplified, symbolic representation of the actual house, highlighting the important features and ignoring the details that are not necessary for the purpose of the model.

Just like an abstract model in computing, a blueprint doesn’t capture every single detail of the house - for instance, it doesn’t show the color of the walls, the texture of the carpet, or the specific materials used for the fixtures. Yet, it contains enough information for builders to understand the structure and layout of the house, and guides them in constructing it.

Similarly, in computing, an abstract model doesn’t capture every detail of the system or process it represents, but it highlights the key aspects that are important for the problem at hand. It’s a tool that helps us reason about the system, make predictions, or guide design and implementation decisions.

Explanation using Ladder of Abstraction

Let’s understand the Abstract Model concept through the Ladder of Abstraction:

  1. At the very bottom of the ladder, the most concrete level, consider a real-world scenario. Let’s take the example of a bustling city with its infrastructure, people, vehicles, buildings, and so on.

  2. Climbing up the ladder, we start to abstract some of the details. Rather than focusing on the specifics of every building or every vehicle, we group these together. Buildings become ‘urban infrastructure,’ people become ‘population,’ and vehicles become ’transportation systems.’

  3. Going up the ladder, we create a more abstract model of the city. Now, we’re not concerned with individual elements, but how these groups interact with each other. We think in terms of ‘population density,’ ’transportation flow,’ ‘infrastructure development,’ and so on.

  4. Higher still, we may consider the city in comparison to other cities. We might abstract it as a ‘metropolitan area’ and study it in terms of metrics like ’economic activity,’ ‘standard of living,’ or ‘carbon footprint.’

  5. At the top of the ladder, the most abstract level, the city becomes a theoretical construct, a unit of analysis in urban studies or socio-economic models. It’s not about any specific city but about the concept of ‘a city’ and the universal patterns and dynamics that can be applied to cities worldwide.

So, from the bustling city’s real-world chaos, we’ve climbed the ladder to an Abstract Model of the concept of a city, where we can understand and explore broader patterns and principles.

Shift in Perspective

As we move up the ladder of abstraction, we become less focused on the individual details of objects and more interested in the relationships and interactions between groups of objects, as well as the broader patterns and principles that govern those relationships.

It’s about seeing the forest instead of the trees, so to speak. In the context of the city example, we’re less interested in specific buildings or vehicles, and more interested in urban planning patterns, transportation flows, socioeconomic factors, and other larger-scale concepts. This can help us understand more complex, systemic issues and find solutions that might not be visible at the lower, more detailed levels.

This ability to shift perspective—from detailed to high-level, from objects to their interactions—is a key aspect of the power of abstraction. It allows us to manage complexity and tackle problems that are too large or too complicated to be understood all at once at a detailed level.

Richard Feynman Explanation

Imagine you’re playing with toy cars. The toy car doesn’t have an engine, it can’t go fast, and it doesn’t even have an interior. But still, you can push it around and pretend it’s racing down a track or cruising down the highway. That’s what an abstract model is like in computer science. It’s like a toy car of the real system.

An abstract model doesn’t have all the details of the real system it’s representing. For instance, when we model a computer network, we don’t need to know what type of metal the wires are made from, or the brand of the routers. What we care about is the data being transmitted, the speed of transmission, the nodes and their connections, and how they all interact together.

The beauty of an abstract model is that it hides the unnecessary details and lets us focus on the most crucial aspects. Like the toy car, the abstract model is a simpler version, but it still helps us understand and predict how the actual system would behave.

In essence, we are capturing the spirit of the system without getting caught up in the intricacies. That’s the beauty of abstraction in computer science, it allows us to take something complex and make it more understandable and workable!

Robin Williams Explanation

Alright, buckle up folks, because we’re going on a wild ride through the world of abstract models! Now, don’t get scared just yet - it’s not as intimidating as it sounds. Just hear me out!

Imagine you’re in a big, bustling city for the very first time. It’s a massive maze of skyscrapers, shops, and sidewalks. But you’ve got a trusty map in your hands - now this isn’t just any map. No, no, no! This is a cartoonish, simplified version of the city. The tall buildings are little squares, the shops are tiny triangles, and the roads are simple lines connecting everything together.

It might not look exactly like the real city. You won’t see the bird poop on the statue in the park or smell the hot dogs from the street vendors, but this little map, this abstract model, helps you make sense of it all. You can figure out where you are, where you want to go, and what’s the best way to get there, all from this simple, abstract representation.

That’s what we do in computer science with abstract models! We take something big and complex, like a software system, and simplify it down to its basic elements and interactions. It doesn’t capture all the nitty-gritty details, but it helps us understand the system, identify problems, and design solutions, without getting lost in the sauce, so to speak.

So, the next time you’re faced with something complicated, remember: it’s just like navigating a city with a cartoon map. Break it down, simplify, and abstract - and before you know it, you’ll have your very own model to guide the way. Now, isn’t that a gas?!

Eddie Murphy Explanation

Imagine you’re going to a fancy restaurant, and you’re all excited about it. You pull up in your car, and there’s this doorman, all decked out in his uniform, and he opens the door for you, right? So you walk in, and there’s a host who greets you, checks your reservation, and leads you to your table. Then a waiter comes over, takes your order, someone else brings your food, and so on.

Now, you could get into the nitty-gritty of what’s happening behind the scenes – how the chef prepares your food, how the dishwasher is cleaning the plates, how the manager is overseeing everything – but you don’t really need to know all of that. All you need to know is: you go in, you sit down, you order, you eat, and you pay. That’s your experience, right? That’s the restaurant experience in a nutshell.

Well, that’s kinda what an abstract model is like in computer science. It’s like that simplified version of the restaurant experience. It strips away all the details you don’t need to know about, and it leaves you with just the stuff you need to understand how the system works on a basic level. It might not tell you everything about what’s going on behind the scenes, but it gives you enough to understand what you need to do and what you can expect.

Morgan Freeman Explanation

Imagine for a moment that you’re setting out on a long journey. You’ve got your destination in mind, but you don’t know exactly how to get there. What do you do? Well, you pull out a map.

Now, think about that map for a moment. It’s not a perfect, one-to-one representation of the world. It doesn’t include every tree, every bush, every little dirt road. And yet, despite leaving out all those details, it’s incredibly useful. It shows you the major roads, the cities, the landmarks that will guide you on your journey.

That, in essence, is what an abstract model is in computer science. It’s a map of sorts - a simplified representation of a more complex system. It doesn’t capture every detail. Instead, it zeroes in on the most important elements, the key behaviors and structures that define the system.

Just like a map guides a traveler, an abstract model guides a computer scientist. It allows them to navigate complex systems, to understand how different parts interact, and to predict how changes might ripple through the system. It’s not the territory itself, but it’s a tool that makes the territory much more understandable.

Map is Not the Territory

The phrase “the map is not the territory” is often used to illustrate the concept of abstraction. It means that the representation of something (the map) is not the same thing as the thing being represented (the territory). In other words, a model of reality (whether it’s a physical map, a mathematical equation, or a computer program) is not the same as reality itself.

This concept is essential to understand in many fields, but particularly so in computer science. When we create an abstract model, like a data structure or an algorithm, we are creating a “map” of sorts that helps us understand and navigate a complex “territory” (the problem we’re trying to solve). But it’s important to remember that the model is just a simplified version of reality. It can help us predict how the system will behave, but it’s not the system itself.

As with a physical map, an abstract model is most useful when it includes the right level of detail for the task at hand: enough to help us navigate and make decisions, but not so much that it becomes too complex to understand and use effectively.

Abstract Thinking

Thinking in the abstract involves shifting from specific, real-world issues to a general, conceptual framework. In this approach, you first model your specific problem in an abstract way. This clarifies the problem’s essence and directs you to existing conceptual solutions that fit your problem type. The process enhances your understanding and targets your creativity to where it’s most needed for inventive solutions. Tools and pre-existing solutions help you bridge between the abstract model and real-world problem-solving, making the process efficient and effective.