Autocatalytic sets

Autocatalytic sets are fundamental to the chemical and social evolution of life.

More background on this subject can be found here: The Single Theory That Could Explain Emergence, Organisation And The Origin of Life. The title of that article is overblown, but the idea of autocatalytic sets is important.

Consider that the evolution of life is not subject to the laws of physics. Or, stated another way, it cannot be reduced to the laws of physics. One reason this is so is advantageous adaptations cannot be predicted based on physical laws. The laws of physics, for example, have nothing of fundamental importance to say about how and why one group of humans can secure an evolutionary advantage over another group by learning to lie more effectively.

Semiotics, communicative signalling, and the autocatalytic evolution of social rules can say interesting things about lying and how it can and often does confer an advantage to one group over another.

FIML removes lying from communications between participating partners. FIML is also an autocatalytic system—it grows on itself by feeding better and better information back into itself. FIML starts with very small data points but quickly grows them into large sets that allow partners to say very interesting things about themselves, and others. A FIML basis for social and psychological understanding can and will replace static extrinsic bases if partners work at it.

I have a feeling that FIML, or something very much like it, will become a basis for social organization in the future when AI surpasses human intelligence. For now, FIML can be a basis for partners to create a more honest world for themselves. Notice that FIML does not use leaders to send you a static message and it does not tell you what to think or how to behave. This is because FIML is an autocatalytic system that you will grow with your partner.

Repost: FIML and Bernard Lonergan’s GEM

One aspect of FIML that continues to delight me, even after years of practice, is how so little can give us so much. In a nutshell “all” FIML does is stabilize and clarify our communication with one other person.

FIML does this by removing error and resolving ambiguities between two people. FIML cannot do this perfectly, but it does it well-enough that partners will experience a level of mental and emotional clarity that had not been available to them before.

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Repost: FIML over time

Long-term practice of FIML generates deep change in the human psyche. Social relations, habitual traits and attitudes, as well as ingrained emotional responses may all be subject to profound transformation.

The reason this happens is the basic FIML technique provides consistently good counter-evidence to habitual mental and emotional reactions. In addition, the technique itself teaches the practitioner’s mind–or shows it by example–to apply similar kinds of reasoning to many other situations that are not open to FIML dialog.

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Reasons To Reject

Link to original

Good post by Robin Hanson, well-worth reading.

An excerpt:

…we are in the habit of collecting reasons why things might be bad ideas… With a library of reasons to reject in hand, we can do simple pattern matching to find reasons to reject most anything. We can thus continue to pretend to be big fans of innovation, saying that unfortunately in this case there are serious problems.

The semiotics of rejection neatly explained: The “sign” (the new idea) “calls up” (indexes) a “library” of (preformed) “reasons” to reject it.

FIML practice, of course, greatly alters the status quo of how partners communicate with each other. And that changes how partners understand each other and themselves. And that is a huge benefit, but why believe me?

The temporal, semiotic matrix we all live in

The temporal, semiotic matrix we all live in is a work of imagination.

We project the future, imagine the past, and are restricted in the present. Another way to say that is we imagine all three, quite poorly.

The present is restricted, especially, primarily, because we rarely can speak freely. We can’t speak freely because we fear that what we say might be misunderstood, misremembered, remembered for too long, or told to the wrong people.

What we say today in a spirit of creative exploration may harm us in the future when it is taken out of context or given a different weight than we had intended; also, times may change and our words won’t sound right any longer.

This is a terrible situation for humans to be in. We do it to ourselves in many different ways. Speech should expand our degrees of freedom but it generally only limits them in most situations.

Interpersonal speech should be creative, exploratory, very often non-conclusive, wondering. Then why do we fear being misunderstood, misremembered, remembered correctly but out of context? Even by those closest to us? The reason is we do not know how to fine-tune our speech, how to adjust the erroneous minutiae of speech that lead to huge misunderstandings. A single word, a single expression can get you killed in the wrong place at the wrong time. In “polite society” it can ruin your reputation, cause you to lose your job. How can any of us be creative speakers, vibrant human beings, if we are afraid of making even a single misstep?

The place to look for fixing this problem is in the moment-by-moment exchange of ideas/memories/feelings that happen during communication with the person or people who are most important to us. And the way to do that is practice FIML. If you cannot bring the present under conscious control—that is, if you are forced to imagine what someone means rather than ask—you cannot be free. Your imagination will be filled with mistakes and self-deception. The same will be true for your partner. There is no way out of that trap except FIML or something very much like it. When the present is filled with illusions, so must be the past and future, everything.

FIML is practical semiotics applied to the psychology of intimate human communication

A “psychological morpheme” can be identified with or stimulated by a “sign” that “indexes” a “library” of “meaning.”

FIML practices interrupts the indexing of the sign before it calls up meaning from the library. This is a technical way to say what FIML practice does.

The terms used above, indicated by quotation marks, can be defined as follows:

A psychological morpheme is the smallest unit of psychological meaning. It is analogous to a morpheme in linguistics, which is the smallest unit of meaning in a language, or the smallest semantic unit in a language.

Signs are the basis of semiotics, which means “the study of signs.” Signs are generally understood to have three aspects to them: 1) the sign itself; 2) what the sign refers to; and 3) how it is interpreted.

An index is a sign or a part of a sign that indicates something else. An index in a library may refer to “Greek history” or a similar broad subject. When a sign is a psychological index it refers to a library of thoughts and feelings held in an individual’s mind. Your psychological indexes will be different from mine.

The meaning of an indexical psychological sign is the library of thoughts and feelings that it refers to.

Thus, using technical language, we can say as we did above that: A “psychological morpheme” can be identified with or stimulated by a “sign” that “indexes” a “library” of “meaning.”

That is a very dry statement. The value of that statement lies in this—during interpersonal communication, people very often misidentify signs or index them incorrectly. Therefore they call up libraries of meaning that do not apply to what was actually said (or signed) by the other person.

It is very common that a listener in an interpersonal communication will perceive a psychological sign as indexing a library of meaning that the speaker did not intend.

FIML stops this mistake as it starts to happen. When one partner believes they have perceived a sign that is identified with, or stimulates, a psychological morpheme in them, rather than call up the library that seems to have been indexed by that sign, they instead stop the conversation and ask their partner what they meant by the sign.

It is rare that the speaker meant to stimulate the psychological morpheme the listener thought they had. By doing FIML, the listener stops the complex indexing of that morpheme. By stopping indexing mistakes as they happen, partners will discover a level of freedom and mutual enjoyment that is unlike any other. When enough indexing mistakes are stopped, partners will discover that their “interpersonality” has changed for the better, as have their individual “personalities.” This happens because our senses of who we are are deeply dependent on our relations with other people. When the quality of your relationship with your partner is greatly upgraded, both of you will experience upgrades in many other areas of your lives.

In the context outlined above, we can say that FIML is practical semiotics applied to the psychology of intimate human communication.

How we process big ideas and the semiotics behind this

I want to discuss a few big ideas with the intention of showing how our internal or culturally underlying semiotics determine how easy or hard they are to accept.

Most thinking people can accept the possibility of atheism. And most atheists can accept the possibility of there being a God or gods or other realms. Atheists who are staunch physicalists may find it harder to do this, but most of them can.

Most thinking people can accept the theory of evolution.

Most thinking people can and do accept the scientific method. Fewer, but many, people understand the limitations of the scientific method.

The theory of evolution and the scientific method can both be stated briefly and in simple language. They are not hard to understand. The limitations of the scientific method require a bit more thought as do the nuances of evolution, but a crude understanding of either is not hard to achieve. Similarly, physicalism is not hard to state or understand.

The simulation argument (that we are living in a computer simulation) can also be stated briefly and is not hard to understand. Many people now accept this argument and admit that it is possible that we are living in a sim. In fact, some physics departments are actually studying the idea. Here is one example: Scientists plan test to see if the entire universe is a simulation created by futuristic supercomputers.

For most educated people in industrialized regions of the world, it is not difficult to accept or seriously consider any of the above theories or ideas.

All of the above ideas can be very revolutionary if you go from not accepting them to accepting them. They revolutionize our metaphysics, our sense of existential reality, our sense of what kind of a world or universe we are living in.

In contrast, ideas that are socially revolutionary are harder for many people to accept, or even consider.

It can be hard to have a calm discussion about inherent problems in the American capitalist system, for example. Or to have a reasonable discussion about the anomalies of 9/11. These subjects, though fascinating, are difficult for many people because they fundamentally threaten the power-and-money hierarchy upon which their social and psychological beings rest.

FIML is an idea that, like the ideas above, can be stated briefly in simple language. This does not mean it is not revolutionary. And this does not mean that FIML will not be difficult for many people to accept. It can be difficult because FIML practice revolutionizes interpersonal relations. I know that if it is done correctly it will bring about a revolutionary improvement. But viewed from a distance or as a mere idea, I also know that it will appear threatening or trivial to many people.

The sim idea was dismissed as trivial by many people just a few years ago. It has gained much wider acceptance since then. It is a delightful idea and not threatening or dangerous at all. It can renew your sense of who you are and where you are.

FIML practice is much like that. It is delightful and not threatening or trivial at all. It will renew your sense of who you are and how you relate to other people in wonderful ways. Just because an idea looks simple does not mean it does not have deep implications. If a new idea challenges our sense of who we are socially or psychologically, it will be more difficult to accept than if it challenges “only” our metaphysical or existential sense of who and where we are.