If you know everything about everybody and you know how everybody is connected to everybody else, can you know for certain who is at the top?

[This essay provides an essential background for understanding KOBK (Kill-or-be-Killed) game-theory on both the interpersonal and societal levels. Like all psychological phenomena, KOBK is fractal, potentially operating at all levels of society: from the individual to the social collective. ABN]

For the most part, you can’t.

Look at it this way—how does someone like Dick Cheney, say, know he knows what he is doing, or was doing as vice-president? [This essay was written in 2012, hence the reference to Cheney. No other references are dated.]

He had a semiosis about what he was doing and where he stood within the American political/military hierarchy, but how did he know that that semiosis wasn’t a front for another semiosis (game plan) hidden behind it? How would someone like Cheney find out that there was no other game plan hidden behind the game plans he knew about?

I don’t think he did know or could have known. Did Cheney realize that? Does he realize it now? I can’t answer.

One way someone like that could get information that shows he at least knows a lot, if not the whole thing, is to exercise power. If someone can exercise power and not be stopped, they can be kind of certain that the semiosis they are working within is “true.” Their game plan worked, so there is a greater chance they are in control than if it had not worked. But how can they be certain? I don’t think they can be.

Take another example: A crime boss in the 1980s might have done his thing for years believing all the while that he had the system figured out. Because he kept getting away with his crimes (because he was able to continuously exercise power without being stopped), he may have come to believe that his game plan worked, that he was at the top of his power structure, that his semiosis was “true.”

But we know that many of those bosses in the 1980s were wrong. For years their phones and meeting places were bugged, leading to successful prosecutions under RICO laws. The bosses thought that they had found a way to distance themselves from the nitty gritty of their crimes, but they were wrong. Their game plan (their semiosis) was wrong.

So, law enforcement and the courts had a better game plan, a “truer” semiosis. But how did they know the real quality of their semiosis? Sure, they busted the Mafia, but did they bust all of it and who did they not even look at? How do they know that there aren’t more gangs or secret societies that may even now be controlling them?

I don’t think they do know or even can know. Before you start thinking I am paranoid, consider that behind-the-scenes control of American politics, or any politics, is common; Tammany Hall, Mafia control of NYC politics decades ago, Hoover’s denial that the Mafia even existed, the current state of our two-party “political” system, Libor, etc.

A similar sort of analysis can be applied to news. The problems politicians have with really knowing the deep game plan or ever speaking about it filters through our less-than-perfect news media to be consumed by citizens as bits of information structured into stories that are easy to follow. The American people do not govern themselves but rather at most serve as a weak brake on groups at the top who do almost anything they want.

How do those groups know which one is on top? I am not sure they do. Is NSA domestic surveillance actually an attempt to find out?

If you know everything about everybody and you know how everybody is connected to everybody else, can you know for certain who is at the top?

If so, that will be a first in human history. I do recognize it is possible, though there would be problems with who controls the data, who analyzes it.

A basic point I want to make in this post is that power is very much about meaning, about semiotics. If you can exercise power and not be stopped, you know something about your semiosis. That sure as heck is not the Buddhist way to go about it, but that is the way a great deal of power and semiotics actually works in this world. Power defines meaning.

When this function of power and meaning gets down to the levels of ordinary people, it greatly affects what we say to each other and how we think about each other. Basically, far as I can tell, it causes most people to live in fear because we all know that if we say anything unusual, other people will start wondering about us. If we say the wrong thing, someone will be offended and talk behind our back, or worse.

So it becomes dangerous to say a great many things, or at least very difficult. Almost every subject of real interest is shrouded in semiotics that permit just a couple of standard views. Don’t like Obama, vote for Romney, what’s your problem?

I point all of this out because it is crucial for understanding who we are to understand how ideas, semiotics, and cultures are formed. We live in hierarchies. In hierarchies, the top people determine a great deal of the semiotics of that society. They further their semiotics and prove it to themselves by exercising power. Those people themselves cannot really ever be certain that they know their true position in the hierarchy. How much less can ordinary people expect to know the truth of the semiotics that trickles down to them?

Not everything is stuck in a culture you can’t control and can’t be sure of, but most/much of it is.

In this context, FIML practice allows partners to examine and discuss all aspects of the semiotics they hold in common or as individuals. Since FIML provides partners with a very good level of interpersonal certitude and the means to reinvigorate this certitude at any time, FIML allows partners to say what they want to each other without being misunderstood. It provides a freedom of speech and expression that allows the mind to bloom in ways that normal adherence to normal cultural semiotics cannot.

Just as politicians and powerful people can never be sure they know what others are thinking or where they stand, so ordinary people can’t either. All of them are trapped in the semiotics of their culture, which is usually a hierarchy. It is only through FIML or FIML-like techniques that individuals can free their communication systems from the need to create meaning through self-assertion or submission.

first posted as How do we know where our semiotics come from? on JULY 25, 2012

FIML is especially good for and accessible to very sensitive people who pick up on communication signs much more than most people and who love having those sensitivities but do not know how to manage them well

If your head is often boiling with ideas, associations, memories, signs and signals from people and the world around you and you love it but maybe it’s driving you crazy… and you have a partner who is similar or at least understanding, then you will love FIML and become good at it if you try.

Buddhism and KOBK: Kill-or-be-killed

Buddhism holds that the human realm is ineluctably characterized by delusion. That means the human realm, NOT individual humans.

KOBK is a deep feature of the human mind, at both societal and individual levels. At the societal level (more than a small group), KOBK cannot be eliminated. This is so because large groups always communicate on levels that do not represent the fullness of human subjective experience; and this causes serious mistakes to arise and accrue, leading to clashes, violence, war. From a Buddhist point of view, this might be thought of as the basis for the delusion that always binds human life until at an individual level, it is seen through and completely understood causing enlightenment or freedom from all delusion and the cessation of rebirth in the human realm.

In Buddhism, a full understanding of suffering, dukkha, the First Noble Truth yields complete enlightenment instantly.

Before we attain that stage of existence, Buddhism councils us to behave compassionately toward all other sentient beings while keeping our spiritual eye on ultimate wisdom, total liberation from the dukkha of the human realm.

Buddhism does not reject new ideas. KOBK is a game-theory explanation of one reason the human realm has always been characterized by delusion and suffering. This analysis of KOBK should not in any way encourage any intelligent person to consciously engage in KOBK behaviors (except in some kinds of self-defense). If KOBK is fully understood, it should help us as individuals and friends to better access the ultimate reality of the Buddha Mind, the Tathagata, Logos, God.

In Buddhism we did not “originally sin.” We are originally good but we are living in a pretty rough place. If we understand that many people with enormous earthly power feel forced to engage in KOBK, we will better understand this realm.

further reading: How to understand the deep strategy of earthly political power: KOBK

The evolutionary advantage of playing victim

Scholars from the Immorality Lab at the University of British Columbia created a victim-signaling scale that measures how frequently people tell others of the disadvantages, challenges, and misfortunes they suffer. Those who scored higher on this victim-signaling scale were found to be more likely to virtue-signal—to outwardly display signs of virtuous moral character—while simultaneously placing less importance on their own moral identity. In other words, victim signalers were more interested in looking morally good but less interested in being morally good than those who less frequently signal their victimhood.


You could expand this to include the groupiness of the hard left. Playing victim requires an audience. Also requires an ideology that forces others to pay up. ABN

Archdiocese of LA nixes religious exemption for vax

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has said it is not providing religious exemption letters to individuals who object to receiving a vaccination against the coronavirus. If all this stuff wasn’t controlled by the same command structure, some power structure somewhere would have our back, even if just by chance. This is what you see when a coordinated intelligence operation spends decades identifying positions of power and influence and targeting them for control.


We are seeing the same phenomenon in the medical profession where the vast majority of doctors and nurses are going along with pseudoscience dictates from agencies, governors, medical boards, and hospitals to not allow effective therapeutics for early covid or even when people have gone to the hospital. I do understand that doctors risk losing their licenses, but is there really no way they can speak up? Weakness and fear from all our important institutions while Fauci strides forward, always wrong, never questioned. He is a psyop media cartoon playing grampa to the gullible. ABN

Mass psychology and the corona crisis.

This video can improve our understanding of where the totalitarian covid rules are coming from, why they are accepted thoughtlessly by so many, and how we can communicate effectively with those who believe and/or follow those rules unquestioningly. Desmet explains that a prior state of “free-floating anxiety” is a necessary precursor for the kind of “totalitarian hypnosis” we are now seeing all around us. In his view, only about 20-30% of any population will not be susceptible to the totalitarian mindset. ABN

Schizoid Personalities

The person whose character is essentially schizoid is subject to widespread misunderstanding, based on the common misconception that schizoid dynamics are always suggestive of grave primitivity. Because the incontrovertibly psychotic diagnosis of schizophrenia fits people at the disturbed end of the schizoid continuum, and because the behavior of schizoid people can be unconventional, eccentric, or even bizarre, nonschizoid others tend to pathologize those with schizoid dynamics—whether or not they are competent and autonomous, with significant areas of ego strength. In fact, schizoid people run the gamut from the hospitalized catatonic patient to the creative genius. (link to original; scroll to Chapter 9, Schizoid Personalities)

This is one of the best essays on psychology I have seen in a long time. Highly recommended. I bet the whole book is good, but all I have read so far is this chapter. ABN

first posted AUGUST 31, 2020

Cultural semiotics – whatever works is the rule

Cultures are made of and held together by semiotics. They are formed and exist within self-referential semiotic networks or matrices.

Semiotic cultural matrices exist solely because they work. This is why virtually all of the world’s cultures are based on falsehoods.

It doesn’t matter if something is right or wrong as long as the people within a culture keep buying the story. Once they stop buying it, the culture disintegrates or changes.

Disintegration has been the fate of almost every culture that ever existed and there is little or no chance that any culture in existence today will survive for long.

Some culture can reasonably claim contiguity with an ancestral culture dating back thousands of years, but the two are never the same. In that sense, all of us can claim contiguity with “our” cultural pasts, just as we can claim genetic contiguity with the past. It is unlikely, though, that you would recognize any of the cultures of your distant ancestors, let alone want to be part of them or even like them.

The simplicity and falsity of culture can be seen in almost anything that communicates to large numbers of people, but especially when the thing being communicated is emotional.

An example in today’s USA might be the use of the word “offense” or “offended,” as in “I am offended by what you just said.”

If the speaker said something clearly offensive, like cussing out your mother, most of us would dismiss them as drunken fools and be done with it. Some of us might want to fight, but I bet no one would say, “I am offended by what you just said!”

Being “offended” is a semiotic that carries a special meaning and a special charge. It usually comes as a surprise to the speaker, causing them to hesitate and wonder what they have done wrong. It almost always seems to require an apology and the admission that the “offended” party stands on higher ground.

But how can you “offend” without doing so knowingly? I might not like it when you stepped on my toes, but I would be a fool to feel offended if you did it accidentally.

The truth is when most people claim to be “offended” they don’t really mean it. What they mean is “you failed to show me respect in the way I demand.”

That is a very different semiotic. It often works like an ambush or a trump card that gives the listener control of what has happened and will happen next. Reason should prevail in these instances, but it rarely does because the “offended” thing works better.

Rather than “offend” anyone by illustrating this point with some recent examples from the news, please recall your own. Imagine occasions when you have heard or read about someone claiming to be “offended” by what someone else said or did. Short of direct insults, which are rare, the “offense” will almost always reduce to “failure to show respect” for some code of speech or behavior that the speaker did not know.

Being “offended” is a powerful charge that amply reveals the tackiness of cultural bonds, for it works even among people who otherwise think of themselves as reasonable.

first posted in a more innocent time JUNE 12, 2014

On Freudianism and the assertion of interpersonal meaning

Freudianism is an extreme example of the assertion of meaning where there is none, or very little.

It is extreme for two reasons: 1) because it is scientifically groundless and 2) because so many people believed it.

Communism, many religious beliefs and practices, fads, styles, ethnic myths, many “historical” misinterpretations, and much more are examples of false meanings that are asserted and believed by large numbers of people.

You could say that pretty much all human culture is a similar stew of strongly asserted falsehoods mixed with some facts.

Freud was an interesting writer and his ideas were and are worth considering, but they should have remained minor points in the history of psychology and never become “meanings” that influenced the entire Western world.

In this respect, Freudianism is an excellent sociological or macro example of what individuals do psychologically, on micro and meso levels with themselves and others.

Humans are extremely prone to append or assert meaning where it does not belong either because there is no “meaning” in that context or because the “meaning” being asserted is incorrect.

Freudianism shows how powerfully and massively wrong we often get meaning and how wrong our analyses of human thought, emotion, and behavior can be.

At the macro level of trends like Freudianism, we can and should have asked for evidence.

At the micro and meso levels of human psychological understanding we can and should ask for evidence or confirmation from the person or persons about whom we are asserting psychological meaning.

If you do this frequently with a trusted partner, you will begin to see that many of the “meanings” you append to that partner and to yourself are false.

False macro meanings like Freudianism can be corrected through science. At the micro or meso levels of the individual, wrong meanings can only be corrected through a practice like FIML.

In the future we may be better able to understand micro and meso levels of interpersonal meaning through the use of brain scans, but even brain scans need interpretation and will be difficult to use during real-time, interpersonal interactions.

See Micro, meso, and macro levels of human understanding for more on what is meant by these levels.

first posted DECEMBER 3, 2015