Ethics, morality

If we consider our minds to be networks of signals, then we can say that it is better that the signals be more efficient and contain fewer errors.

This might be a good definition of a sound ethical position—to reduce signal error and increase signal efficiency.

In many ways, the two are the same. When we reduce signal error, we increase the efficiency of the entire system.

Thus, for any one system, such that there is a such a thing, the best ethical position would be to reduce signal error while increasing signal efficiency. That one system might stand for one human being.

But what if there are two or more systems that interact with each other?

In one sense we might say they are the “same” system, especially if interaction is imperative. In another sense, we can treat them as different systems.

If they are seen as the “same,” then reducing error and increasing efficiency will benefit the whole system (of two or more).

If they are seen as separate and not the same, there are two possibilities. Separate systems within the whole may decide to lie or cheat or they may decide not to lie or cheat.

If none of the separate systems within the network ever lies or cheats, efficiency will be increased and error will be reduced.

If one or more of the separate systems within the network decides to lie or cheat, efficiency will decrease and errors will multiply.

The separate systems can be understood to be people while the large network can be understood to be human groups. Lying and cheating or refraining from lying or cheating must be conscious acts.

Errors that just happen non-consciously (misspeaking, mishearing, misunderstanding, data mistakes, etc.) are not moral errors unless they could be or could have been avoided by a reliable method.

No network without lying or cheating has ever been achieved by large numbers of human beings. Even very small groups, as few as two people, rarely are able to achieve an ideal ethical state of no lying and no cheating. And even if they do get pretty good at that, it is very difficult for even just two people to remove non-conscious errors from their interactions.

FIML practice can greatly reduce non-conscious error between partners while at the same time providing a robust basis for increased moral awareness and increased understanding that both partners are benefiting greatly from the honesty (or ethical practice) of both of them.

My honesty with you greatly improves my understanding of and honesty within my own network and also gives me much better information about your network. And the same is true for you. Together we form an autocatalytic set that continually upgrades our mutual network and individual systems.

Clarity, honesty, and efficiency in interpersonal communication is satisfying in itself and also it improves efficiency between partners as it upgrades the self-awareness of each.

One partner could lie and cheat while doing FIML practice, but since FIML is fairly involved and somewhat difficult to learn, it is likely that most partners will do their best by each other and that most individuals will come to realize that honesty benefits them much more than lying.

I think it is fair to conclude that the best ethical or moral position to take is one that increases efficiency of signalling (talking, doing, etc.) while also reducing signalling error. The problem with doing that is people can and will lie and cheat and we do not (yet) have a reliable way to tell when they are lying and cheating.

A good way to tell if someone is being honest will be an accurate lie-detector, but even that may not be efficient or work well with the dynamics of real-time human communication.

Thus some other technique is needed. FIML can be that technique and I know of no other one that works as well. Thus a sound ethical position in today’s world would be having the aim of reducing signal error while increasing signal efficiency through the practice of FIML.

Without FIML, interpersonal communications is at least an order of magnitude cruder and thus much less efficient. FIML is not perfect, but it is much better than what we ordinarily do. If you can increase resolution and detail at will within any system, it will improve that system. If you can do that with interpersonal communication, it will improve all aspects of that system.

first posted SEPTEMBER 26, 2014

UPDATE: Notice that the fear people have about AI destroying the world is based on its learning how to deceive us. How to lie to us. When I introduced this idea to my partner this morning, she very convincingly argued that DARPA already has a much more powerful AI that is able to control the GPT programs we are now seeing and that our overlords will use the excuse that AI has gone rogue to further enslave us. That went right onto my Bayesian probability pie-chart as a big slice. ABN

Tech that measures brain waves and correctly reveals actual states of mind

This video is pretty good and I understand the reporter’s concerns, but the technology described is not just scary. It is also fascinating. It could be used in very beautiful ways. Since no one can stop technological development, it would be better to learn about it and use it for good ends rather than only condemn and fear it. ABN

direct link

Everything can be analyzed in terms of signals and the patterns they make. Chess, music, painting, science, fiction, psychology, biology, language, religion—they can all be described in terms of signals and patterns. An analog version of the digital technology described in the video above is FIML practice. FIML exists today and is designed to help partners understand each others’ signals and the patterns they make.

When the tech in the video is made widely available, FIML may become easier to do. The tech may also never achieve the profundity and beauty of FIML in the way AI music can never achieve the beauty of a live musical performance. The tech may be both cruder and more accurate than FIML, which is a fully human way of engaging and analyzing detailed brain functioning. The tech may not easily allow us to focus on the moments or brain states we want to focus on. It may provide extraneous information that crowds out the subtleties of FIML.

I look forward to trying it alone and then with my partner and do not fear having my thoughts exposed. What I do fear, though, is the tech may expose them not so well, or even incorrectly, but at the same time be hard to refute. Many might be convinced that what the tech is showing is the truth when it is not. If you want to prepare yourself for the inevitable commercial release of this tech, learn to do FIML now; learn about yourself and your partner the old-fashioned way, the fully human way which uses no external technology whatsoever. ABN

Buddhism and ethical signaling

Buddhism is very much a system of ethics. Buddhist practice is founded on the Five Precepts of refraining from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and the irresponsible use of alcohol.

In most Buddhist traditions, these precepts are often taught as if they were fundamental to the workings of the universe. But how can morality be fundamental to the workings of the universe? Why does morality even matter to human beings?

If we think of a human being as a signaling system, we may be able to show that ethical thoughts and behavior are of fundamental importance to the system itself.

Human signaling systems signal internally, within themselves, and externally, toward other people. Our most important signaling system is the one we share with that person who is most important to us, our mate or best friend. Let’s confine our discussion to this sort of primary signaling system.

If I lie to my partner or cheat her, I may gain something outside of our shared signaling system, but that signaling system will suffer. And when that shared system suffers, my own internal signaling system will also suffer because it will contain errors. It will no longer be in its optimal state. Similarly, if she lies to me or cheats me, our mutual signaling system will become less than optimal as will both of our individual, or internal, signaling systems.

My own signaling system cannot grow or become optimal without my partner treating me with the best ethical behavior she can muster. And the same is true for her with respect to me. And we both know this.

We would be good to each other anyway, but it is helpful to see that our being good to each other has a very practical foundation—it assures us optimal performance of our mutual and internal signaling systems.

FIML practice is designed to provide partners with a clear and reasonably objective means to communicate honestly with each other. FIML practice will gradually optimize communication between partners by making it much clearer and more honest. In doing this, it will also optimize the operations of their mutual and individual signaling systems.

To my knowledge, there is nothing like FIML in any Buddhist tradition. But if I try to read FIML into the tradition, I may be able to find something similar in the way monks traveled together in pairs for much of the year. I don’t know what instructions the Buddha may have given them or how they spoke to each other, but it may be that they did a practice with each other similar to FIML practice.

In any case, if we view human being as a signaling system, we may be able to claim that clear signaling—that is, ethical signaling—is fundamental to the optimization of that system.

First posted 02/03/13, revised 09/25/17

A signal-based model of psychology: part four

In the first three parts of A signal based model of psychology, we discussed micro, meso, and macro levels of human understanding and how paying attention to these levels can make human signaling easier to comprehend.

In this post I want to discuss how human signaling is normally managed and, knowing this, how we can better understand how it affects us.

In truth, there are countless possible interpretations for every moment of every day if we choose to notice them. In the material world of doing familiar things in familiar surroundings, we handle the abundance of possible interpretations by simply ignoring most of them. We put our minds on autopilot and do our tasks by accessing rote procedures and memories.

In social situations, though the stakes may be higher psychologically, we do much the same. Rather than wonder about the vast majority of communicative exchanges with others, we generally put our minds in social autopilot mode and interpret what we are hearing and perceiving according to fairly simple rules we have already established.

These rules, or principles of behavior, in my view, are roughly what people mean when they speak of “personality,” their own or someone else’s. For example, an “optimistic personality” could with considerable explanatory power be described as being an “optimistic principle that governs the semiotic network of perception and interpretation.”

This simple rule—to always reduce the multitude of possible social interpretations to an optimistic few—saves time, reduces ambiguity, and presents a nice face to the world. With just this one rule, you can establish yourself as having an optimistic “personality.” Much the same can be said for other types of “personalities.”

I put personality in quotes because I think it is a dangerous word since it tends to lead people into believing that they actually possess some inner actor or agency that defines or “expresses” who they are. Once that mistake is made, people want to develop this agency of personality by adorning it with emotions, behaviors, and expressions. Before long, it becomes a limiting act. It is limiting because in essence all personality is is a few rules or principles that govern social interpretations; a few simple rules that reduces the plethora of possible interpretations to just a few.

Since our culture does this all the time, people having “personalities” seems ordinary and even satisfying. If they are simple enough, we are able to predict how others will behave as they will be able to predict our behavior. This situation is even sort of desirable in formal or professional situations. Large groups must function by following lowest-common-denominator rules, so having more or less standard or uniform “personalities” is in the interest of most if not all large groups.

The ways that large groups build group bonding shows a great deal about basic human signaling. We have to understand each other and, thus, in large groups we have to make it easy to do that by, for example, singing songs, meeting in the same places, wearing uniforms, listening to speeches, and confining ourselves to a few main ideas.

What having a steady “personality” too often does is bring large-group rules into intimate relationships. With friends, we get to wear more kinds of clothes, say more things, and generally relax more than we can in large groups, but the underlying issue of how we interpret each others’ speech and behavior cannot be satisfyingly resolved by resorting to the “personality” rules that govern our semiotic networks in large groups.

When we reduce each other to a set of “personality” rules or behaviors, we destroy our ability to analyze and interpret the rich micro, meso, and macro semiotic networks that are a major component of the human mind. When we do that to others, we often do it to ourselves. When you reduce the richness of your own mind’s networks into a few “personality” rules or principles, you are going to have problems. And when you do it to someone else, you both are going to have problems.

You cannot communicate deeply or richly by using just a few rules. You must have ways to access and analyze your own and your partner’s semiotic networks. Micro, meso, and macro levels of understanding, of course, lie on a continuum and it is not always easy to say whether something is meso or macro. But this slight vagueness doesn’t matter very much as long as you can manipulate individual semiotics, semiotic bundles, and semiotic networks.

Most people have OK abilities for analyzing meso and macro levels, but completely lack the capacity to even perceive, let alone analyze, communicative micro semiotics, micro signals. The reason this is so is communicative micro semiotics happen quickly. They appear quickly and disappear quickly. They last just a few seconds or less. When we fail to understand the importance of these micro units of communication, we reduce our capacity for meaningful analysis so greatly it is as if we had no analysis. Without a capacity for micro analysis, we become confined to meso and macro levels—to having simple “personalities” that follow simple rules based on simple principles.

I do admit that some people like it that way, and God bless them, but I also believe that a great many people are essentially crazy due to their inability to access and analyze micro semiotics with any other person in the world. People like that will often feel lonely when with others, frightened, paranoid, scattered, unfocused, confused, angry, deeply unsatisfied. They will feel these ways because micro semiotics will frequently affect them deeply and cause them to reach for explanations that cannot be confirmed (due to no communication in this realm).

In this respect, people with more positive or assertive social strategies, will tend to be vain, arrogant, histrionic, narcissistic, committed to ideologies, causes, careers,  or religions, and so on. They will accomplish their social goals and meet their psychological needs by adopting strong personas or roles that signal a confident or well-packaged “personality” to others.

The above behaviors are a result of living in a world that ignores or discounts a massive part of life that is going on all around all of us all of the time. With no way to access micro signaling, to analyze it, understand it, or share it with anyone else, many of us become neurotic, anxious, confused, arrogant, conceited, or vain.

FIML practice can begin fixing that problem in a matter of days or weeks.


A signal-based model of psychology: part one

A signal-based model of psychology: part two

A signal-based model of psychology: part three

first posted DECEMBER 30, 2014

UPDATE: Consider the many new identity groups that have arisen since this piece was first posted in 2014. New gender, sexuality, and grievance identities especially are functioning as “personality” rules that govern the semiotic networks of large groups. This is very good evidence that human psychology can be profitably analyzed in terms of signaling. Based on what is said above, these groups are not at all surprising and can even be expected to arise.

Many individuals today are able to completely change their “personalities” based on group allegiances that are novel and very dynamic. Both sexuality and grievance are deep instincts fundamental to interpersonal communication and self-conceptualization. Sexuality is especially interesting as a basic signaling system because, for most people, it is both our most privately held instinct and our most publicly displayed. Thus an individual can decide to change their gender and also how they display it, and this can be done as often as desired.

I would maintain that attempting to shift deep psychology at meso and macro levels of signaling and instinct without having a profound grasp of their micro levels is a dangerous enterprise, especially if surgical and biochemical changes are made on this basis and doubly-especially if these changes are imposed on children. Micro levels can only be accessed through analysis of real-time, real-world micro signaling behaviors and this requires a depth of self-reflection children cannot be expected to be capable of. ABN

This is why you need FIML

FIML not only accesses individual word maps but also the maps of all communicative signs.

Here is the brain model of semantic maps.

And here is the study: Natural speech reveals the semantic maps that tile human cerebral cortex.

Here is a brief article about the study: Scans Show ‘Brain Dictionary’ Groups Words By Meaning. From this article:

Gallant says the findings contradict two beliefs nonscientists commonly have about the brain. First, that only the left hemisphere handles language. Second, that the brain has localized regions that handle specific tasks.

Edit: When you frequently access your word maps with the help of your FIML partner, both of you will become much more conscious of how these maps are structured and how they function during acts of communication.

This allows partners to make conscious meta-decisions to change and improve these maps in any way they want.

The meaning held in semantic maps (or semiotic maps) is the very meaning of your life as you understand it.

Not only do your maps form the basis of your communication with others, they also form the basis of how you understand yourself. How you communicate with yourself.

Gaining access to these maps is extremely liberating because it allows a degree of control over your own mind that few of us ever experience.

When we say that FIML has no content, no required beliefs, this can be understood as meaning that FIML gives us access to our own maps and control over them.

What you do with this access is entirely up to you and your partner.

first posted APRIL 28, 2016

Reason is signal organization

If we view the universe as being made up of signals rather than matter, what we call “reason” looks very much like a method for organizing signals.

We can visualize this and from our visualization imagine other ways signals organize.

We say something is reasonable when we cannot find elements that do not seem to be in place among elements that do seem to be in place.

In this respect, the term “aesthetic reasoning”—musical, visual, poetic, etc.—makes good sense. It explains how the elements of an artwork are put together, how they are organized.

Engineers generally reason in more utilitarian ways then artists, but there is a great deal of overlap between these pursuits.

Not all reason works only with tangibles and how to organize them. We also fit things  together in our minds by what we normally think of as reasoning, inference, intuition, purpose, and so on.

In many cases, it is simpler and easier to think of signals than matter.

Signals organize into networks that signal other networks and receive signals from them.

A more “reasonable” network organization will work better than a less reasonable one. This type of network will tend to evolve.

first posted MARCH 8, 2017

Edit 12/26/23: We can also see how our fractured world today, divided but not yet conquered, cannot come together. From almost every angle it is unreasonable or simply savage. Signals do not align, we do not even know who is in control or what they want. ABN

Psychophysics gains a new law of sensory perception that also sheds light on subjective perception

First we have to understand Weber’s Law:

Weber’s law, also called Weber-Fechner law, historically important psychological law quantifying the perception of change in a given stimulus. The law states that the change in a stimulus that will be just noticeable is a constant ratio of the original stimulus. It has been shown not to hold for extremes of stimulation. (Weber’s Law)

Hang in with this, it’s interesting.

About 200 years ago, the German physician Ernst Heinrich Weber made a seemingly innocuous observation which led to the birth of the discipline of Psychophysics – the science relating physical stimuli in the world and the sensations they evoke in the mind of a subject. Weber asked subjects to say which of two slightly different weights was heavier. From these experiments , he discovered that the probability that a subject will make the right choice only depends on the ratio between the weights.

For instance, if a subject is correct 75% of the time when comparing a weight of 1 Kg and a weight of 1.1 Kg, then she will also be correct 75% of the time when comparing two weights of 2 and 2.2 Kg – or, in general, any pair of weights where one is 10% heavier than the other. This simple but precise rule opened the door to the quantification of behavior in terms of mathematical ‘laws’. (NEUROSCIENTISTS MAKE MAJOR BREAKTHROUGH IN 200-YEAR-OLD PUZZLE)

What’s new today is Time–Intensity Equivalence in Discrimination (TIED):

We investigated Weber’s law by training rats to discriminate the relative intensity of sounds at the two ears at various absolute levels. These experiments revealed the existence of a psychophysical regularity, which we term time–intensity equivalence in discrimination (TIED), describing how reaction times change as a function of absolute level. (The mechanistic foundation of Weber’s law)

Simply stated TIED says that the intensity of the stimulus determines the time it takes to “just notice” a change in it and that that scales linearaly as intensity changes up or down. For example, changes in louder sounds are noticed quicker than proportionally equal changes in quieter sounds and this can be scaled mathematically.

TIED is a new theory and needs more research, but whether it works out perfectly or not, I think it shows something very important about our individual and shared subjective perceptions of words, gestures, meanings, intentions, implications, and so on including all semiotics.

At present, we do not have machines that can measure our subjective perceptions, but we can surely feel them. And with training, we can also decently calibrate them.

Most of us can already vaguely talk about our subjective perceptions of each other, but few of us know how to do that with the precision of Weber’s Law or TIED. This is because we are all unique and we all react uniquely to each other. On top of that, few are able to employ language efficiently enough to capture significant detail when describing subjective responses or impressions.

FIML provides a very useful method for isolating and calibrating individual, idiosyncratic subjective perceptions.

Consistent, repeated use of FIML gradually recalibrates and reorganizes the entire psychologies of both partners.

FIML has virtually no content.. FIML is a method, and as such it allows partners to gradually identify, isolate, measure, and reorganize their entire body of psychological data, however they construe it.

first posted AUGUST 13, 2019

VAERS is screaming safety signals but has no REACH because it is being deliberately ignored

VAERS is an example of free speech with no reach. VAERS was made to be an early warning system. It is screaming vaccine injury but the-powers-that-be are entirely ignoring it. Elon, do you see the danger of using word games to limit free speech?

direct link

A note to the mentally challenged: yes, you can’t yell fire or threaten people. What needs to be free is topics. Science, virology, history, religion, culture, race, psychology, AGW, socialism, etc—no topic can be excluded from our God-given right, or natural right if you prefer, to speak our minds. And no opinion on any topic can be excluded. Wrong views and stupid ideas will fall away on their own. We saw that happen beautifully within the banned and censored covid-science community, which has been a million times better than the official pure shit pseudoscience spewed by CDC, FDA, NIAID, NIH, and all of MSM. Their “curated” garbage had all the reach in the world and produced an unmitigated disaster. ABN

Musk bans Ye, a Buddhist take

Ultimately, these are just words, symbols, signs. They are not trafficked children, sex slaves, or Satanic sacrifices. In Buddhism, there are prominent stories of prominent monks spitting on a statue of the Buddha or destroying one, illustrating the emptiness of even the most revered figure of the Buddhist tradition. In America today, you can do whatever you want in public with such symbols as the flag, the cross, the Constitution, statues of historical or religious figures, the Buddha, Jesus and Mary, but not Nazis or the Star of David. “Who made you the judge?” Ye asks Musk. Musk says Ye is “inciting violence.” Ye is definitely bringing that on himself. I see him as an artist like Alex Jones. Both say things or display things others do not like. At the same time we have Satanic displays and laws allowing infanticide. I make these comments not to defend or condemn either Musk or Ye but to illustrate the extremely strong bondage of words and symbols. We can find similar bondage in terms like “The Science” or “Follow The Science”; “vaccinations” or “antivax”; “Anthropogenic Global Warming” or “Climate Change” soon to become “Climate Restoration”; “Democracy,” “equity,” “diversity,” “communism.” Words, concepts, and stories are all interrelated on many levels and always fascinating both in their beauty and foolishness. The Buddha was best known as an analyst. Analysis is basic to Buddhist practice.

In Buddhism, everything is empty including the Dharma. Before he died, the Buddha himself explicitly asked that statues not be made of him. He said that to avoid turning his teachings into dogma and his memory into a sacrosanct anti-empty doctrine that must be worshiped rather than understood, revered rather than loved and learned from. The Buddha asked to be remembered only by the symbols of a lotus branch, a Dharma Wheel, and a footprint. Obviously, most Buddhists did not obey and most of us own and cherish images of the Buddha. Oh well, no one is perfect and that transgression does not seem too bad. I was a bit proud of the world Buddhist community for not becoming too upset when the Buddhas of Bamiyan were destroyed by the Taliban. None of us liked it but all of us knew that becoming angry or violent over it is not at all what the Buddha taught or would have wanted or, stated more plainly, that would not have been the right thing to do. ABN

The swastika in Buddhism and other religions; Asian faiths try to save the symbol corrupted by Hitler

The equilateral cross with its legs bent at right angles is a millennia-old sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism that represents peace and good fortune, and was also used widely by Indigenous people worldwide in a similar vein.

The word “swastika” has Sanskrit roots and means “the mark of well being.” It has been used in prayers of the Rig Veda, the oldest of Hindu scriptures. In Buddhism, the symbol is known as “manji” and signifies the Buddha’s footsteps. It is used to mark the location of Buddhist temples. In China it’s called Wàn, and denotes the universe or the manifestation and creativity of God. The swastika is carved into the Jains’ emblem representing the four types of birth an embodied soul might attain until it is eventually liberated from the cycle of birth and death. In the Zoroastrian faith, it represents the four elements – water, fire, air and earth.


This is a fairly long article about saving the swastika from associations with Nazi symbolism and legal proscriptions against displaying it. In many Buddhist uses of this symbol today and in the past, it is turned the other way like this:

Years ago I frequented a Buddhist temple in California and was friends with the people who worked in the small book store that also sold Buddhist stuff. A few times customers complained or become upset over seeing a Buddha statue with the symbol as in the image here. Usually, they would calm down after receiving an explanation. I never witnessed those exchanges myself but my friends told me about them. I personally hope the Nazi associations can be wiped away. The swastika is an ancient symbol with deep meaning in many traditions. What if Stalin had used a cross or some other religious symbol. Would we ban them or be upset by them today? ABN

Personality disorders and signaling

In my opinion, “personality disorders” are more easily understood as signaling problems.

All types of personality disorder involve dysfunctional signaling with other people. Signals are both sent and received in ways that result in suffering.

As currently defined, personality disorders “develop early, are inflexible, and are associated with significant distress or disability.”

Thus, if there are no significant brain injuries or other biological problems, all personality disorders (PD) develop through experience.

This means that during childhood the PD sufferer has received many bad signals (and/or interpreted many signals badly) resulting in their failing to form a coherent well-functioning internal signaling system.

The way to fix this is work with the signals. And the best way to do this is FIML practice. A professional psychotherapist cannot possibly provide this level of treatment.

This brings me to a second point: is there anyone who would not benefit from improving their signaling?

Why do we view psychotherapy as treatment designed merely to make us look and feel “average”? Why don’t we instead work to optimize our psychologies every day?

The Buddha said we are all crazy. We are. We all need to work on our signaling—our personality disorders—all the time.

The distinctions between one PD and another and those who have PDs and those who don’t are vague. This is because all PD problems (absent significant biological deficits, which may include intelligence) are idiosyncratic varieties of signaling malfunctions.

If signaling is the core problem, it should follow that all acquired PD will be classifiable as some kind of signaling malfunction. And that is precisely what we see.

Narcissism is a too simple signaling system. Borderline is an unstable signaling system. Compulsive, passive aggressive, histrionic, avoidant, and so on all are variations of a poorly formed internal signaling system.

The way to study this is through interpersonal semiotics; that is interpersonal semiotic analysis of real-time, real-world communicative signs and symbols.

All people need to do this to optimize their psychologies (their internal signaling systems). Why would anyone not want to do this? Maybe not wanting to do this is the surest sign of PD there is.

The hardest part about doing FIML is finding a willing and able partner. To me, this shows how pervasive bad signaling is. Most people will do almost anything but examine their own signaling with the help of another person.

first posted

General analyses of signaling systems illuminate fundamentals of psychology

Individual psychology is a locus or node within a larger social system.

More precisely, individual psychologies are particular signaling systems within larger social signaling systems.

It is valuable to see this because general analyses of signaling systems—even those having nothing to do with human psychology—can shed light on human signaling systems, including both individual psychology and many aspects of sociology.

When human psychology is viewed as a signaling system, we can readily see that narcissism is bound to occur because narcissism is fundamentally a simplistic signal system.  (See Narcissism redefined (yet again) for more.)

When human sociology is viewed as a signaling system, we can similarly see that parasitism is bound to occur because the exploitation of one system by another is a fairly simple matter.  (See Social parasitism in ants and humans for more.)

In like manner, we can see that social hierarchies importantly have evolved because they are simple and decently efficient signal (communication) systems.

We can also see why hierarchical system often are overthrown and why they often do not arise in systems where they are not needed.  For example, no hierarchy is needed for a language system once the basics have been established.  A parasitic or authoritarian group might impose a hierarchy on a language system, but that’s a different animal.

When individual psychology is viewed as a signaling system, we can see that a great deal of what we consider “disordered” or “ill” within that system is fundamentally a problem of the signal system itself and not the “personality” we have mistakenly abstracted out of that system.

Indeed, most of what we think of as personality is nothing more than an individual signal system attempting to conform to its understanding of the larger social system within which it exists.  When science is applied to “personality” erroneously conceived, we arrive at the many psychometric tautologies on personality traits we now have.  Psychometrics have limited value for describing societies, but are frequently misleading, even damaging, when applied to individuals.  In this, they resemble BMI data which originally was used as a marker for the health of whole populations, not individuals, and which can be misleading when applied to individuals.

When we view individuals as signaling systems rather than personalities, we can immediately see that these systems can and should be optimized for better communication.  Indeed, this is the real job of psychology—optimizing individual signaling systems. Not just treating “personality” disorders.

first posted

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 MARCH 4, 2017

UPDATE 11/09/22: The above shows that what we scientifically think of today as evolution does not contradict what might be called spiritual evolution, or Buddhist evolution that happens in three ways combined: through 1) morality/ethics; 2) concentration/mindfulness; and 3) wisdom/understanding. Karma is the path of our mind as it wends through its various and numerous realities, sometimes tending toward goodness or the Tathagata, sometimes tending away. By consciously contemplating our signaling networks and describing them to ourselves and close friends we can make our signals clearer and more ethical and thus become wiser, have better understanding. The act of doing this is a kind of concentration or mindfulness. It really doesn’t matter what your religion is, including atheism or even oblivionism, honestly analyzing your signaling will change you probably for the better. ABN

Signal intensity

An important part of FIML practice is understanding signal intensity. That is, how big or strong or important the signal in question is.

FIML practice was designed to work with small signals and works best when close attention is paid to small signals. These “small signals” can be ones you send to your partner, ones your partner sends to you, or the ways in which either one of you interprets any signal at all.

Small signals are of great importance because they can be signs or aspects of larger or habitual ways of interpreting signals. Small signals can also generate mistaken interpretations that have the potential to snowball.

An example of a habitual way of interpreting signals might be a person who grew up in a less wealthy environment than his or her partner. The less wealthy partner may tend to interpret spending or not spending money differently than the other partner. This could manifest as stinginess, being too generous, or as mild anxiety about money in general. Of course, both partners will be different in the ways they interpret signals dealing with money. Their semiotics about money will be different.

FIML partners would do well to deal with these differences by paying close attention to small signals of that type the moment they come up. This is where partners will come to see how this entire class (money) of signals is affecting them in the moments of the lives they are actually living. It’s good to also have long general discussions about money, but be sure to pay close attention to the appearances of small signals.

From this example, please extrapolate to the signaling areas that matter to you and your partner. These may include anything that causes mistakes in communication or anything that causes either partner to feel anxiety or discomfort.

A good way to gain access to this perspective is to also pay close attention to how often you and your partner miscommunicate about trivial material things. Notice how often—and it happens a lot—you misunderstand each other about even the simplest of concrete, material matters. For example, what kind of lettuce to buy, where you left the keys, is the oven off, etc.

All people everywhere make many communicative mistakes in matters as small as those. If we do that in the material realm, where mistakes are easy to see and correct, consider how much more often and how much more serious are signaling mistakes in the emotional, interpersonal realm.

When you do a FIML discussion with your partner, be sure to frequently include an analysis of how big or small the signals in question are—how intense they are. Remember that FIML practice strongly encourages discussing even the very smallest of signals. FIML does that because small signals are easier to isolate and analyze; clearly seeing a small signal often is sufficient to understanding a big habit. Small signals can snowball, so they should not be ignored.


first poster OCTOBER 1, 2012

Signals and morality

A valuable and basic definition of morality might simply be “clear signaling.”

If I harm you, I am messing with your signaling, making it less clear. If I deceive you, I am doing the same.

If my own internal signaling is unclear, confused, or contradictory, I am probably going to cause harm to others whether I mean to or not.

If we see humans as signaling networks at various levels of clarity or confusion, we can remove terms like self, personality or ego. “I,” then, am a system or network of signals that interfaces and interacts with other signaling networks.

By extension, there is no need for terms like “narcissist” or “abusive personality” or any of the other many, many words we normally use to describe human signaling networks.

For example, we can see that each human does social management within their own signaling system and as that system interacts with other human signaling systems. We compose a signaling system that we want others to see and then display it.

When a person often uses social signaling to manipulate, control, or deceive others, we can say they are doing malignant or immoral signaling instead of saying they are “narcissists” or “abusive personalities.”

The advantage of removing those traditional terms that assume an intentional personhood (narcissist, etc.) is we can see much more clearly what is actually happening.

With respect to narcissism,  we can clearly say what a “narcissist” is. When narcissism is redefined as a signaling problem, we can also see that many narcissistic acts are done out of ignorance more than “selfishness.” People believe that they are supposed to be selfish or secretive or withhold important information simply because they do not know another way to act or have had long experiences with others who signal in those ways.

Of course, all of us manage our signaling systems to put us in a good light, at least to some extent. Refraining from gross behavior at the dinner table is a form of manipulating the signals you send to others. Since that is objectively a kind act, it is not narcissism.

Signaling integrity between adult friends is rarely perfect or even very good. Not because many of us don’t want that, but because we don’t know how to do it. Rather than make virtually all signals clear through a technique like FIML, we are forced instead to use off-the-shelf cultural norms to communicate our “personalities” to others.

Besides the few crude markers like punctuality, basic honesty and reciprocity, basic pleasantness, etc., it is very difficult to know another or even oneself without detailed control over the signaling we do with them.

If morality is seen as fundamentally a signaling issue, then the soundest ethical position would be to make our signaling clearer, more honest, less manipulative. Clarity depends on detail. In this light, we can say that there is a sort of moral imperative to do FIML or something very much like it.

first posted OCTOBER 24, 2014