Models are at the centre of everything we do. Whether we use them or are simply affected by them, they act as metaphors that help us better understand the increasingly complex problems facing us in the modern world. Without models, we couldn't begin to tackle three of the major challenges facing modern society: regulation of the economy, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet in recent years, the validity of the models we use has been hotly debated and there has been renewed awareness of the disastrous consequences when the makers and interpreters of models get things wrong. Drawing on contemporary examples from finance, climate and health policy, Erica Thompson explores what models are, why we need them, how they work and what happens when they go wrong.