Life signals can be biological and unconscious or biological and conscious.*
If conscious, signals can be variously interpreted by the sender, the receiver, or both.
If unconscious, signals are interpreted in only one way or in a limited number of ways.
Consciously organized signals make up such things as psychology and sociology, both of which have many variations.
Human beings generate, learn, send, receive, and interpret signals.
All signals have valence. If conscious, valences (like signals themselves) can be variously interpreted.
It is very beneficial when thinking about any complex matter to pay attention to the valences of its individual signals and signal networks.
For example, if you want to buy or rent a home the various factors that you may consider can all be thought of as signals with valences.
A “small place” is a signal that may have positive valences because it is cozy and easy to keep clean. And it may have negative valences because it is cramped and has no room to store stuff.
With some degree of rationality, we can assess these valences and decide which ones are important to us. If you are going to share the place with another person, you can both do assessments and compare.
Your conclusions won’t be perfectly rational but they will be clearer to you than if you did not do assessments like that.
Besides the size of the place, you will also want to analyze in a similar fashion its location, floor plan, cost, what’s nearby and so on.
The same is true for how to assess your own psychology or the sociology of your group, company, or nation.
If you do this often enough, you may decide to replace the idea of having a personality or identity with the idea of having an operating system that generates, learns, sends, receives, and interprets signals.
Notice that interpreting yourself (the signal of self) as an operating system that employs these few rules is a kind of self-organization. As such, it is concise (Occam’s razor), accounts for all data, has clearly identified parts, has explanatory power (you can use it as we did above), can be applied to all life including human psychology.
This is not the only explanation or description of life, but it is a good one with many uses.
A few notes:
*Surely there are other bases for consciousness than biology as we know it.
Life self-organization is “anti-entropic.”
Politics runs on simple signals because they are readily grasped by large numbers of people. Importing simple political signals into your operating system and keeping their strong public valences is not a good idea.
Politics teeters between left and right and there is no good middle. The middle is no good because the true middle needs to be a middle of complexity against two extremes.
Reason and rational thought are in many respects organizing principles, maybe that’s all they are. Same can be said for logic.
Personality and identity are also organizing principles, here applied to self and others. Seeing yourself as “an operating system that generates, learns, sends, receives, and interprets signals” is also an organizing principle, but the data is clearer and more useful than that which goes into identity and personality.