Sociopathy versus truth

This video* is fascinating. It shows a deluded martial arts master in Japan being summarily defeated by a real MMA (mixed martial arts) expert.

The first part of this video shows some footage of the deluded master’s students being thrown around by his “ki” alone, without being physically touched. To me it appears that the student are in a sort of “sociological hypnotic state” in that they want so much to believe in their master’s abilities, they will consciously or not fake being impacted by his ki. The students and the master are all self-deluding; they are all in concert deluding each other.

The next part of the video shows an MMA expert coming to fight the master, who has made a public bet of $5,000 thatt he can beat any MMA expert in the world. This shows that the delusion of the master’s students has fully reinforced his own delusions to the point that he believes he can beat anyone in the world.

The next part of the video shows the master being badly beaten by the MMA expert. In their first exchange, the MMA expert lands a blow to the master’s face and then politely, respectfully asks him if he wants to quit. The referee repeats the offer, giving the master a chance to bow out. He chooses not to and is more seriously beaten in the next part of the video.

The fight proves decisively that the master and his students were deluded.

I want to coin a new word here. We all know that a psychopath is an individual who lacks empathy and reasonable behavior toward others. The word sociopath is often used as a synonym. I want to repurpose the word sociopath to mean any group of people that lacks empathy toward other groups, or that lacks a rational basis for their behavior. In this sense, the master and his students are sociopaths—their beliefs are not true and can lead to their members or members of other groups being harmed.

If you were in the master’s group before the fight shown in the video and if you had said that you thought his ki powers were bull and continued to argue the point, you would have been rejected by the group. In psychological terms, that group would have branded you as someone with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). The truth, of course, would have been that you were right and the master’s group was wrong. They were actually suffering from what might be called antisocial sociology disorder (ASSD) because their sociology was based on harmful lies.

This distinction can be found all over the world. Throughout history most groups have had ASSD. That is, most groups are selfish and harmful. Their core beliefs cannot be justified in an objective way and their core positions cannot, to them, be falsified. In short, most groups in history do not adhere to a Rawlsian ehtical position.

I do not see any other rational, ethical or reasonably justifiable foundation for any group of people except a Rawlsian one. Only a Rawlsian social basis can be reasonably called rational, objective, and falsifiable.

The kiai master in the video above was confident or foolish enough to have his position falsified, but most groups do not have such simple positions and few of them will openly permit anyone to falsify their fundamental tenets.

To take this one step further—I want to propose that any group that does not take a Rawlsian position vis-a-vis other groups is sociopathic, as defined above. The very basis of their group cohesion is harmful to other groups as well as their own members, and therefore other groups and/or outlying individuals have moral license, if not a moral duty, to oppose them in equal measure to the degree that they are sociopathic.

This is easy to see if we are talking about the sociopathy of North Korea, but harder to see if we are talking about the sociopathy of groups closer to home. If any group (and this means almost all of them) bases its existence on unfalsifiable beliefs that are harmful to others, it is a sociopathic group.

Most people in the world are members of scociopathic groups.

It is my belief that the core meaning of delusion in the Buddha’s teachings is not different from what has been said above. If any person believes that their allegiance to a socoiopathic group is justified or necessary, they are deluded.


*In case the link is lost, it’s title is Kiai Master vs MMA and you may be able to find it through a search on YouTube.


Biology is the study of living organisms. Yet we also use this term to talk about the biology of the foot, say.

Psychology is the study of the mental functions, behaviors, and emotions. Yet we also use this term to talk about the psychology of employees, say.

In like manner, semiotics is the study signs, symbols, meaning, and communication. Yet we can also talk about the semiotics of automobiles, say. When we do this we mean all the signs, symbols, semantics, pragmatics, psychologies, and so on that can be meaningfully and significantly understood in terms of semiotics.

When we use the term semiotics in this way, we find that we can say interesting things about how people communicate, or fail to communicate. We can invent a term like “semiotic bundle” to indicate the rather messy tangle of signs, symbols, feelings, words, and so on that comprise some identifiable class or type of “meaning.” As in the example above, we can talk about the semiotic bundles that involve automobiles—racing cars, motorcycles, electric cars, small cars, trucks, etc. Each of these entities is a semiotic bundle that has identifiable clusters of meanings and psychologies associated with it.

You can study any semiotic bundle in great detail or you can move the whole mass around in your head in a way similar to how you may move the semiotic bundle of Chinese history around in your head. In Buddhist terms a semiotic bundle is empty, dependently originated, dependent on conditions, impermanent, and subject to delusion.

A problem with semiotic bundles is we become caught in them and can’t escape from them, especially on interpersonal levels. And this happens because the words we speak are always referring to one or more semiotic bundles; they are always right next to semiotic bundles, are generated out of semiotics bundles.

If I am not able to get you to explain what the semiotic bundle that underlies your words is, then I cannot know your meaning reliably. I have to guess. Go ahead and ask your partner or friend a question about the semiotic bundles underlying their words. You will almost always find their their semiotic bundle was not what you had thought. Your guess was wrong. In interpersonal/emotionally-charged communications, this is a crucial mistake.

Even if your guess is only sometimes wrong, it can produce big problems. If your interpersonal communications are not cleared of wrong guesses (mistakes), you will begin to have interpersonal problems based on those mistakes.

It follows, then, that clearing up mistakes as quickly as possible is of vital importance to a successful interpersonal relationship. If we don’t clear up the mistakes quickly enough (usually within a few seconds), we will forget the origin of the mistake. By ignoring small interpersonal mistakes, we force ourselves to depend on unexamined semiotic bundles. These bundles may be public (known to many people) or private (known only to you). Either way, if they are mistaken, the interpersonal relationship in question will become less true, more deluded, less satisfying, more dangerous.

There is no way around this because this is how language and semiotics actually work. They don’t work in some other way.

Science, Buddhism, and FIML

In some ways FIML practice is a science.

Partners seek the best data available to determine what is being said and/or how they are communicating with each other. Their communication becomes highly objective in the sense that each partner trusts the other’s description of what they said more than their own subjective/emotional impression of what they think they heard. Based on this data, partners are able to continuously upgrade their understandings of each other.

FIML uses an extrinsic formula—the rules of FIML practice—to make this happen, and in this it also resembles science. FIML has an objective, clearly stateable and testable method or procedure for attaining its results. FIML results are also objective in that great satisfaction and better communication are measurable. FIML can be falsified by having many partners do it and not get good results, and in this it is also scientific.

In some ways, though, FIML is turned 180 degrees away from science. This is so because FIML does not have any extrinsic belief or value system that requires submission of the intrinsic, individual, unique mind of either partner. Partners who do FIML can only look to themselves to free themselves from the constraints of extrinsic beliefs, values, semiotics, behaviors, ideas, concepts, and so on. (This does not mean abandon the extrinsic, but rather become free of the constraints of the extrinsic. FIML practice, by paying close attention to speech moments, will help partners do this because they will see precisely where the rubber of extrinsic values meets the road of their self expression and/or listening.)

The FIML method gives partners the tools they need to perceive the thusness of their unique individualities. The thusness or suchness of being cannot be apprehended through extrinsic semiotics, but can only be experienced by the individual.

Science, in general, does not give us insight into our suchness. Yet FIML practice and Buddhist practice, by using methods that are similar to those of general science, can. FIML differs from science in that it does not make any claims about what is objectively true “out there.” But FIML does claim that partners will vastly improve their communication with each other, and following that vastly improve their understanding of their existence, the  suchness of their unique being.

FIML may constitute an improvement on traditional Buddhist practices because FIML uses objective rules to unite two people in the pursuit of truthful communication. It is different from the traditional practice of one person pursuing “truth” alone in that FIML provides the means for each partner to constantly check his or her work against the other partner. An individual alone is easily subject to fantasy and illusion. FIML is also different from traditional group practices where a group is led by a master or guru. In these practices, the master may be subject to the limitations of solitary practice while the group may be misled by that. Additionally group members will have a very strong tendency to base their understanding on extrinsic semiotics provided by the master, not the true suchness of their individual being.

Snowballing in FIML practice

FIML practice may seem easy if you just read a simple description of it.

A simple description, however, communicates as much by what it leaves out as what it says.

Many FIML discussions do begin and end with a simple query about what one partner meant and a simple answer that leaves no loose strings. A resolution is found almost immediately. That kind of FIML discussion is extremely important and common, but it is also very basic. It can be thought of as an important tool in your FIML tool chest, and also as a simple model for more complex FIML discussions.

Experienced partners will find that many FIML discussions quickly generate secondary contretemps, or mix-ups, as we sometimes call them. A contretemps, as we are using the word, means some sort of discrepancy between what is said or heard leading to a mistaken interpretation in one or both partners’ minds.

When secondary and tertiary contretemps appear in a basic FIML discussions, it is important that partners recognize what is happening. It can be frustrating and unproductive to try to explain a primary contretemps when your partner is reacting to a secondary one that followed quickly upon the first.

The best rule of thumb is to avoid emotional reactions while trying to understand where and when the speech, listening, or meaning got lost.

The basic FIML query is a model for all FIML practice. If you and your partner find yourselves becoming confused as contretemps accumulate and start to snowball, do your best to stop everything and go back to the beginning. Then in a neutral state of mind try to explain to each other how your discussion got off track. When a FIML discussion becomes confusing, you will almost always find that more contretemps followed quickly upon the first. By the time you notice what is happening, it is very unlikely that both of you will remember everything with enough accuracy to gain a perfect resolution of all that happened.

What you can do, though, is see the rough outlines of how your discussion got off-track. Use this understanding as the basis for your resolution of the snowball that you just stopped. Realize that what happened will happen again. Contretemps can come fast and furious, especially as confusion mounts and feelings get out of hand.

Always remember, contretemps are part of language and communication. There is absolutely no way that you and your partner will not experience a great many contretemps. They are completely inevitable and entirely natural. In my experience, it is common for an hour of conversation between two people to generate five or more contretemps. Of course, there can be great variations in this figure depending on the subject matter and the moods of the participants.

Main point is contretemps absolutely are going to happen to everyone with great frequency. FIML practice is designed to help partners understand how and why they happen and how to fix them. If you don’t fix them, you will bring about suspicion, shallowness, or some other sort of unpleasant and destructive weirdness in your relationship with your partner. Fixing contretemps is very fulfilling and enjoyable. Not fixing them leads to suffering. I do not think there is any way around this. It is built into language and how we humans use it.

Status and (mis)information

A default cultural norm is that people with high status know more than people with low status.

The highest status person in the world on secure information, however, the director of the CIA, did not know that Gmail is not a secure conduit for potentially compromising information.

This “small” detail, which has led to his resignation, is very telling about what high status people actually do know and how we should think of them. Basically, they don’t necessarily know even the basics.

This shows that our default cultural norm about people with high status knowing more than people with low status is not trustworthy.

Default cultural norms are “public semiotics” that can cause you problems if you question them.

Once something like the Gmail news is out, if it gets out, we can talk about it, but if you had said a week ago that just because someone is the head of the CIA doesn’t mean he or she understands basic email security, you would have sounded like a nut (a signal that you are violating a cultural norm).

High status individuals, groups, committees, commissions, etc. are not necessarily right, not at all.

How can it be that no one ever told the director of the CIA that Gmail is not a safe way to send private information? For his entire illustrious career in the military no one told him? And he never learned that on his own?

That is an amazing fact and shows why hierarchical government, determined through the status of individuals, is not working well, and never will. The time has come to start using network science and data drawn from many millions of individuals to control more of our society. Eventually, we will do best to figure out systems that do not rely on high status individuals—not their reputations, “wisdom,” nice personalities, cute families, good looks, or anything else about them.

The tools for doing that are growing by the day.

(For FIML practitioners, the detail discussed above reveals how error-prone all communication is. On this site, we often call cultural norms “public semiotics.” Just as FIML partners will uncover and remove mistaken “private semiotics” from their thought streams, so also will their enhanced lateral communication (between the two of them) give them the means to remove illusions concerning public semiotics. Mistaken semiotics, either private or public, constitute a good deal of what the Buddha meant by delusion and why he said virtually everyone is deluded.)

Edit: This gmail story broke over one year ago, before the public knew about the NSA saving all personal electronic data of private citizens. This makes me wonder if Petraeus knew what the NSA was doing. If he did not, this shows that we do indeed have levels of government that are kept secret even from top officials. If he did know that the NSA had access to his gmail account and was saving his private correspondence, well, this seems unlikely to me.

The quintessence of interpersonal cooperation

FIML is the quintessence of interpersonal social behavior. FIML is the quintessence of interpersonal cooperation. As such, it transforms what we call “personality” by altering the basis of experience.

If social behavior is understood quantitatively, then “more social” means more social contacts.

If social behavior is understood qualitatively, then “more social” becomes “better social”; i.e. more honest, true, profound, fulfilling.

It is not possible to have high-quality interpersonal interactions without a precise way to manage and correct errors in communication as they occur. Personality is based on interpersonal experiences. Change the experiences and you change the personality.

Big Data vs. elegant explanations

This is an interesting discussion: Norvig vs. Chomsky and the Fight for the Future of AI.

This one is relevant to the link above and interesting as well: Thinking In Network Terms.

I see huge advances coming in politics, economics, environment, and so on from the Big Data or network approach, so it makes sense to me that this sort of approach will also yield significant results in AI and language studies.

For politics, why not get rid of elections and replace them with tests? Anyone who can score well on a reasonably hard test will automatically become a member of the Senate or House of Representatives. Set the test curve so both branches together have around 30-50 million members.

There are many ways issues could be funneled through an organization like this. I’d be surprised if it did not function much better than the Congress we have now.

A Big Data or network approach to getting good information and finding the important nodes within it would replace the “elegant” ways we do things now, which are largely based on individual morality, weak rules, gut feelings, and vanity.

Our techno-future and the importance of the humanities

As AI and robots continue to develop, humans will have less to do.

Many of the human things that seem so important to us today will no longer be important. For example, how will humans be able to maintain their conceit at having status within some cult/culture when a robot will be able to do whatever they are doing better?

Just yesterday Microsoft announced what appears to be a major breakthrough in the technology for translating speech. A computer can now use a simulation of your voice to translate one language into another. The demonstration is English being translated into Chinese. (See this: Microsoft Research shows a promising new breakthrough in speech translation technology. If you want to hear the demonstration, go to the end of the video.)

As a translator, I can appreciate what this technology does. It’s close to the last nail in the coffin of my profession. By the way, this does not bother me at all. Machine translations, as they are called, are already pretty darn good for most written translations. Now Microsoft is giving us pretty darn good real-time interpretations of spoken language. It won’t be long before machines will be able to do all forms of translation faster and better than humans.

The day before yesterday I read an article—UBS fires trader, replaces him with computer algorithm. The replaced trader used to make $2 million per year. The algorithm cost UBS $100,000 to create. The writing is on the wall for other kinds of traders.

Even a great deal of science and technological development—if not all of it—will be done better by machines than humans. Machines can design experiements and conduct them with little or no human input, and one hopes, zero human cheating.

The writing is on the wall for all of us. Most everyone sees it to some degree, but, seriously folks, the writing is getting very big—it’s all over for bio-human conceits. We will almost have no purpose any more, except to be.

In past centuries, we “conquered” nature and stopped needing to fear it or be in awe of it. We surrounded ourselves with technologies that protected us and made us comfortable. But those technologies have grown so much, we will soon be in as much awe of them as we once were of nature. They will dwarf us as much or more than nature did our ancestors a million years ago.

Cars will drive themselves, machines will translate, good science will be conducted by robots, banks will be run by machines, and eventually our brains will be emulated on computers.

All that will remain then is what we now call the humanities—bio-people will still (I’m pretty sure) want to be with other bio-people, share food with them, talk with them, love them. And they will need to communicate better. The machines, by obliterating the conceits of human status and culture that rule the world now, will show us our need to communicate better.

We will use brain scans to assist us, maybe even some form of technological telepathy. But we will still need deeper and better rules for understanding each other. It is my belief that FIML, or something very much like it, will be the foundation for communication in the future.

Repost: Being able to do FIML

  • Being able to do FIML means that you have developed a skill or trait that did not exist in you before. The ability to do FIML is a functional “state of mind” that emerges from other states of mind—from consciousness, awareness, self-reflection, self-criticism, communication, language use, emotion, etc.
  • Doing FIML will change the way you communicate, especially with your FIML partner. It will change the way you view language and its uses.
  • Since FIML depends on real data agreed upon by both partners and since FIML can convincingly change how we perceive ourselves and our partners, it can give us new perspectives on psychology and/or any activity that depends on language/communication.

Continue reading…

Repost: How greed is mirrored in social groups

In my last post, I introduced the idea of mirroring to FIML terminology. Language, semiotics, and mirroring (LSM) can be thought of as a fairly simple set of factors that can help us understand social situations.

Several studies done at UC Berkeley (Unethical Behavior More Prevalent In The Upper Classes According To New Study) have shown that upper-class individuals tend to behave less ethically than others. Of course, any good historian knows this is the history of the world–privileged classes always become locked in a self-referential world that gradually moves far from the reality of the societies that support them.

Continue reading…

Subjectivity and speech

What is the relationship between subjectivity and speech?

Speech is a narrow band compared to subjectivity.

When we awake early in the morning and lie alone in the dark, we often experience the richness of our subjectivity. It can be scary or peaceful or angry or blissful. It can be rich with imagery or memory, sounds, music, emotions.

Then something in us moves and we get up.

Normally, our subjective world starts to close down at this point, especially if we are living with someone. At some point, we will start talking, maybe drink some coffee, while we begin the process of fully awakening the communicative mind. I want to avoid calling this communicative aspect of our minds “objective” because there is nothing particularly objective about it and there is nothing particularly non-objective about our “subjective” mind as described above.

The subjective mind that we experience before arising or in meditation is like a vast mountain range, while the communicative mind—the speaking and listening mind—is like a tiled patio with a few chairs and a table within that mountain range of subjectivity.

Neither of them is better or worse and neither of them can be avoided or removed. Still, the speaking mind does tend to ignore the mountains, our subjectivity, while the subjective mind generally finds it hard to speak at all.

In FIML practice we place great emphasis on removing mistakes while we are speaking, listening, or communicating. This is like cleaning up the patio, making sure the chairs do not have rain on them or that the table does not wobble. Once the patio has been cleaned up, it is time to bring in more communion with your partner about the mountains all around you.

When your partner looks at the mountains—their subjectivity—it’s not the same view that you will have of your subjectivity. But still you are both human and you surely care about one another, so in many respects your subjectivities are not so different. Can you find more ways to share them? Can you find more ways to refer to them as you speak and listen?

FIML practice is capable of completely removing the snowball effects of inevitable mistakes in communication. Once you can do that, start adding more subjectivity, more of the mountains and happy clouds around you.