Is morality a fundamental part of nature?

Viewing nature as a signaling network shows its advantage with this question.

Instead of asking where our moral sense comes from, we ask instead what makes for a good signaling network?

The answer is “good organization.”

By “good,” I mean efficient, well-made, good use of resources, easy to maintain, rational, etc.

You are a signaling network.

A well-organized you will probably tend to be morally pretty good and wanting to get better at it, depending on your conditions.

Of course some people view “morality” as whatever is in their best interests. And that is a type of moral thinking. When it is found out, though, most other people, very reasonably, do not like it.

If we view nature as the evolution of signals and signaling networks rather than as the evolution of matter, we will see that changes in signal organization are fundamental to the evolutionary process.

In this sense, it is the most ordinary thing in the world that you, a complex signaling system that is conscious, would consciously seek good organization and/or want to adapt your organizing principles, both objective and subjective, to conditions that impact you.

Conditions that impact you are signals being perceived by the signaling network you think of as yourself.

Your adaptations, both small and large, will encompass many moral considerations and choices.

Morality can be viewed as a kind of organization. The networks that make up your being must organize their relations with the world around them and other sentient beings. We make many moral decisions when we do this. These decisions are an integral part of how we are organized.

Last night I heard a drunk swearing at his friend from the street. “You fucking bastard…” etc. Not well-organized, but still he was yelling a local version of morality and this was fundamental to his networks and behavior.

_________________

first posted 04/04/17

Working memory improved with electrical stimulation, study shows

Scientists have used a noninvasive form of electrostimulation to boost working memory in older people, effectively giving 70-year-olds the thinking abilities of their 20-year-old selves, at least temporarily. (Scientists Fixed People’s Working Memory With Simple Electrical ‘Zaps’ to The Brain)

The study (paywall) is here: Working memory revived in older adults by synchronizing rhythmic brain circuits.

From the abstract:

…After 25 min of stimulation, frequency-tuned to individual brain network dynamics, we observed a preferential increase in neural synchronization patterns and the return of sender–receiver relationships of information flow within and between frontotemporal regions. The end result was rapid improvement in working-memory performance that outlasted a 50 min post-stimulation period.

This study further demonstrates the importance of electrical waves in brain functioning. It targets working memory decline in older adults but similar improvements were found in young adults already experiencing memory deficits.

“We showed that the poor performers who were much younger, in their 20s, could also benefit from the same exact kind of stimulation,” Reinhart says in a statement.

“We could boost their working memory even though they weren’t in their 60s or 70s.” (Scientists Fixed People’s Working Memory With Simple Electrical ‘Zaps’ to The Brain)

News stories on working memory tend to trivialize it as merely a brain function that helps us remember phone numbers or where we put stuff. When in fact…

…working memory is the part of you that organizes and executes action in real-time. All real-time actions—save stupor or deep sleep—require working memory.

Working memory is where your life meets the world, where your existential rubber meets the real-time road.

Working memory is the spear point of the mind as it does life. For this reason, it is the single best key to understanding human psychology. And through this understanding to change it for the better. (Working memory is key to deep psychological transformation)

Other news articles:

As Memories Fade, Can We Supercharge Them Back to Life?

Scientists reverse memory decline using electrical pulses

Weak Electrical Currents Can Restore Working Memory In Older Adults

Incidentally, Buddhist mindfulness practice can greatly enhance working memory while also adding a metacognitive component to it in circumstances that would not otherwise normally call on metacognition.

FIML practice does something similar in that it adds a layer of psychological and linguistic mindfulness to working memory during acts of interpersonal communication.

Abstract reasoning and mental illness

Listening to the ranting of a friend who has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), I am struck by two things:

  • he gives reasons for his anger
  • his reasoning or abstract understanding of his predicament is ridiculous

(His rant was recorded and sent to me by a third party who is trying to help.)

With that as a starting point, consider the various ways abstract reasoning or solid abstract paradigms can compensate for or mask mental illness. Not all of it is pretty.

For example, serial killers often mask their illnesses for decades by holding fast to the appearance of normalcy while secretly indulging their madness.

Less bad are career criminals who act with savagery in less direct ways, through hit men, poisons, theft, fraud, and so on.

There is a wide spectrum between serial killers and normally inoffensive people.

It is reasonable to see all cultures as fundamentally abstract paradigms that mask and allow for madness among large groups of people.

A culture, after all, is nothing more than a Lowest-Common-Denominator system of communication; an LCD semiology. Consider how many cultures are grotesquely narcissistic.

Personality is much the same whether it conforms well or not to whichever cultural semiology it inhabits.

From this point of view, enshrining diversity only ensures a wider array of mad people. Identity politics is the same; just more ways for mad people to function, more room for them to run free; more abstract paradigms to mask their underlying chaos.

That is a decent modern restatement of the First and Second Noble Truths: life is suffering because we are crazy.

The Third and Fourth Noble Truths tell us that the way out of being crazy is to use our reason better; to understand why we are crazy; that clinging to LCD semiologies can’t ever work.

A philosophical psychologist might rightly say that a mad mind open to reason will gradually become well.

My friend with BPD can reason, but his reasoning is really bad. It’s selfish, marinated in anger, and not open to contrary views. But even he can do it if he clings to reason and evidence.

Abstract reasoning and paradigms such as Buddhism, science, other religions, atheism, psychology, or philosophy can lead us out of madness if we use them diligently.

Diligence or perseverance is one of the most important virtues in Buddhist practice. Wisdom is the most important. Compassion is probably the most famous Buddhist virtue but compassion without wisdom or diligence is not good and can even be dangerous.

Indeed, my BPD friend frequently and loudly demands unreasonable compassion from others. And that is one of the most obvious flaws in the way he thinks about himself, the way he reasons.

Speech and emotion

Good speech can and sometimes should be emotional.

Adrenaline, cortisol, and other hormones can and should stimulate our bodies and brains when we discuss subjects that matter.

I love it when my SO stands up to emphasize her words with gestures. Her voice rises with the conviction that her point is relevant and important.

Usually it is. If it isn’t, she almost always easily moves on. Even if she doesn’t, I still love it.

I know she talks with feeling because the subject matters, not because her ego or “identity” is emotionally invested (though even that can be good).

When people care about what they are saying, their bodies resonate with feeling.

IMO, it’s a mistake to try too hard to control that or hide that. Emotions like that stimulate the mind/brain and make us smarter.

Technology and human transformation

Most fundamental changes in human societies happen due to technological advances.

The next big change in human psychology will come from inexpensive, very sensitive brain scans.

These scans will show millions people in real-time how their brains are actually behaving and reacting. Presently unnoticed or concealed twinges of emotion will become conspicuously visible on a screen or within a hologram that surrounds our heads.

People will be able to use this technology in the company of a computer program or with a human partner. A good AI program will use brain-scan information to reveal much about us. We will learn stuff about how we actually function that very few are aware of today.

Having this knowledge will change the way we understand ourselves and our interactions with others. Rather than work almost exclusively with the vague stories we tell ourselves, we will be able to see how our brains (and bodies) actually function in real time.

The difference between our stories and how we actually function is very great. Great enough to completely change the landscape of what we now think of as human psychology.

There already exist inexpensive EEG rigs that are sort of good at measuring moods and honesty. There are also expensive ones with more capacity. Within a decade or two, these devices will be much better. An accurate lie-detector will surely be included in the consumer package.

This technology will rewrite our understanding of human psychology and remake the ways we think of human society today. If you want to get a head start on the future, learn how to do FIML now.

____________________

First posted 4/30/18

Micro, meso, and macro levels of human understanding

This post is concerned with the micro, meso, and macro levels of existential semiotics and communicative thought, and how those levels affect human understanding.

  • Micro levels are very small units of thought or communication. These can be words, phrases, gestures, etc. and the “psychological morphemes” that accompany them. A psychological morpheme is the smallest unit of an emotional or psychological response.
  • Meso levels lie between macro and micro levels. Longer discourse, a sense that people have personalities or egos, and the basic ideas of any culture appear at this level.
  • Macro levels are the larger abstract levels that sort of stand above the other two levels. Macro levels might include religious or scientific beliefs, political ideologies, long-term personal goals or strategies.

Most people most of the time socialize on the meso level, often with support from shared macro level beliefs or aims. For most people, the broad outlines of most emotions are defined and conditioned at the meso level. This is the level where the nuts and bolts of convention are found. This is the level that tosses the beach balls of conversation back and forth across the dinner table and that defines those balls. The meso level defines our subculture and how well or badly we conform to it. The meso level is necessary for much of social life and sort of fun, though it is by definition not very detailed or profound. It is something most people can agree on and work with fairly easily for an hour or two at a time.

Many people define themselves mainly on the meso level and judge others by their understanding of this level. Many subcultures become stifling or cloying because meso definitions are crude and tend to leave out the rich subjectivity of individuals. Macro definitions are not all that different from meso ones except that they tend to define group feelings more than meso definitions. Groups band together based on macro level assumptions about ideologies, science, religion, art, style, location, ethnicity, etc.

Since most people are unable to fully access micro levels of communication the rich subjectivity of the individual mind is rarely, if ever, communicated at all and almost never communicated well.

In other fields, micro levels are all important. For example, the invention of the microscope completely changed the way humans see and understand their world. All that was added by the microscope was greater resolution and detail in the visual sphere. From that arose germ theory, material sciences, modern biology, modern medicine, and much more.

Micro levels of communication are basic to how we understand ourselves and others. Poor micro communication skills consign us to communication that occurs only at meso or macro levels. This is a problem because meso and macro levels do not have sufficient detail and also because meso and macro levels become the only tools we have to decide what is going on. When we are forced to account for micro details with the crude tools of meso thought, we will make many mistakes. Eventually we become like the long-term cigarette-smoker whose (micro) alveoli have collapsed, destroying full use of the lungs.

Without the details of the microscope, people for millennia happily drank germ infested water. Without a way to resolve micro levels of communication, people today, as in the past, happily ingest multitudes of micro error—errors that make them ill.

Micro communication errors make us sick because we make many serious mistakes on this level and also because our minds are fully capable of comprehending the sort of detail we can find at the micro level. We speak and listen on many interpersonal levels like crude beasts when we are capable of very delicate and refined understanding.

FIML or a technique similar to it provides a method for grasping micro details. Doing FIML for a long time is like spending a long time using a microscope or telescope. You will start to see everything differently. Detailed micro analyses of interpersonal communication changes our understanding of micro communication and also both the meso and macro levels of existential semiotics and communicative thought. Microscopes allowed us to see germs in water and also to understand that some of those germs can kill us.

_____________________

First posted 12/04/2014

 

Is there a universal morality or basis for morality?

Anthropologists from the University of Oxford believe there are seven components or rules of human morality that can be found in all societies.

…help you family, help your group, return favours, be brave, defer to superiors, divide resources fairly, and respect others’ property, were found in a survey of 60 cultures from all around the world.

An article about this study can be found here: Seven moral rules found all around the world.

The study itself can be found here: Is It Good to Cooperate? Testing the Theory of Morality-as-Cooperation in 60 Societies.

The study concludes that the universal basis of human morality is cooperation.

Among the seven rules, bravery is defined as a moral virtue in defense of one’s group, an ultimate form of cooperation that may result in death.

Deference to superiors seems to be a virtue that supports group hierarchy.

Both bravery and deference to superiors indicate that fighting within and between groups is common.

In today’s world, obviously, many people and most Americans do not live in tribes or stable neighborhoods, so our groups have become nebulous, abstract, bound more by belief and imagination than tribal and clan and familial bonds.

In this respect, the study shows why politics—and other subjects touching on group identity—can become so polarized and so difficult to discuss rationally.