Error correction

While reading David Deutsch’s The Beginning of Infinity, I came across the following sentence:

What is needed is a system that takes for granted that errors will occur, but corrects them once they do—a case of ‘problems are inevitable, but they are soluble’ at the lowest level of information-processing emergence. (p. 141)

This statement comes from the chapter “The Jump to Universality,” in which Deutsch argues that “error correction is essential in processes of potentially unlimited length.”

Error correction is fundamental to FIML practice. In fact, the nuts-and-bolts of FIML practice could be described as being little more than a method for correcting errors “at the lowest level of information-processing” during interpersonal communication. This level is “the lowest” because FIML deals primarily with very short segments of speech/communication. In many posts, we have called these segments “psychological morphemes” or the “smallest speech/communication error” we can reliably identify and agree upon with our partner.

If you try to tackle bigger errors—though this can be done sometimes—you frequently run into the problem of your subject becoming too vague or ill-defined to be rationally discussable.

I haven’t read enough of Deutsch’s book to be sure of what he means by “universality,” but I do think (at this point) that FIML is universal in the sense that it will clear up interpersonal communication errors between any two qualified partners. “Qualified” here means that partners care about each other, want to optimize their relationship, and have enough time to do FIML practice.

We all demand that our computers be error-free, that buildings and bridges be constructed without error, that science work with error-free data as much as possible. But when it comes to communication with the person we care about most, do we even talk about wanting a method of error correction, let alone actually using one?

You can’t correct big errors if you have no method for correcting errors that occur “at the lowest level of information-processing,” to use Deutsch’s phrase. Once you can correct errors at this level, you will find that you and your partner are much better able to tackle bigger questions/errors/complexes. This happens because having the ability to reliably do small error-correcting gives you the capacity to discuss bigger issues without getting lost in a thicket of small mistakes.

Your ability to talk to each other becomes “universal” in the sense that you can tackle any subject together and are not tethered to static ideas and assumptions about what either of you really “means.” As mentioned many times on these pages, FIML does not tell you how to think or what to believe. In this sense, it is a universal system that allows you and your partner to explore existence in any way you choose.

To use Deutsch’s words again, “error correction is essential in processes of potentially unlimited length.” Your relationship with your partner can and should be a “processes of potentially unlimited” growth, and error correction is essential to that process.

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