To vent or not to vent?

Venting is a common concept in American English.

It is a metaphorical word connoting other metaphors with similar meanings: blowing off steam, getting something off your chest, getting something out, getting it out there, clearing the air, etc.

I think it would be much better if we greatly demoted these small metaphors and replaced them with plain speech, such as: I want to speak about something with you and hope you will listen to me and provide some feedback.

Speech is sacred. Speaking honestly to someone who listens honestly is always transformative. Our common metaphors for needing or wanting to speak with someone too often obscure the beauty and profound potential of these important speech acts.

Another distantly related point to this is all the deconstructing going on right now in American society.

What I want to say to you about this is simply: any technique used to deconstruct America can very easily be used against any society anywhere in the world during any period of time.

All groups can be deconstructed easily because all groups are fundamentally simple. They are lowest-common-denominator communication systems shared by their members.

A little deconstructing and intelligent analyzing can be good, but too much is destructive. It’s much easier to destroy something than build it. And building new or better things does not always mean destroying established things first; in fact that approach rarely works.

Dangerous times, dangerous thoughts, dangerous acts

This fictional exercise appeared over three years ago but it rings even truer today. We are living in dangerous times. We’ve seen what China has done. We know what Antifa is doing. Here’s something else that might happen.

The earpiece crackled in Jake’s ear from one of the handheld radios they were each tuned to. They’d picked up a couple of dozen surplused Motorola LE-only encrypted radios on eBay, and after a lot of work, Gene had programmed them all to use a normally unused simplex channel reserved for the authorities for tonight. All anyone else would hear was a brief bit of static with the factory encryption, but they still stuck to brevity codes.
Jake calmed himself. He knew the signs of buck fever, and he took a few moments to stretch his whole body, starting with his toes, and ending with his fingers. It wouldn’t be long now, and he didn’t want to be fighting adrenaline when the moment came.
The van he was in was non-descript. It was the twin of one belonging to a local business the next city over, and the plates on it would be back in the morning, with any luck at all. Inside was dark and quiet, but he could already hear the noise of the protesters as they moved down the main street, closing at the speed of a 6000-footed caterpillar, fueled by youthful exuberance, and a healthy amount of stupidity. Well, they were about to get a lot more education than what they’d gotten at U Cal, and he was happy to be a teaching assistant tonight.
He focused on the intersection, and checked over his gear one last time inside the darkened vehicle, as the sounds of yet another leftist temper tantrum grew louder by the moment. (Tomorrow)

Scientists reckon “active civilizations” exist in the Milky Way

A new cosmic-scale estimate on the evolution of intelligent life figures that “there should be at least  a few dozen active civilizations” in the Milky Way.

Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Nottingham, Christopher Conselice who led the research, explains: “There should be at least a few dozen active civilizations in our Galaxy under the assumption that it takes 5 billion years for intelligent life to form on other planets, as on Earth.” Conselice also explains that, “The idea is looking at evolution, but on a cosmic scale. We call this calculation the Astrobiological Copernican Limit.” (Research sheds new light on intelligent life existing across the galaxy)

Buddhist cosmology has long claimed that the universe is teeming with sentient life.

Two other basic ways to figure the probability of intelligent “communicating civilizations” existing in the universe are:

  • from a strictly materialist point of view or
  • from the view that we are living in a “mental universe.”

From a materialist point of view, conscious life is a sort of ordinary phenomenon that could arise on many planets under a wide variety of conditions; therefore it must have arisen many times in the cosmos, including within the Milky Way.

From the “mental universe” point of view, thought itself is a fundamental part of the cosmos underlying everything in the universe; thus the evolution of many intelligent “communicating civilizations” besides our own would be expected.


Has the second wave of a bio-attack begun?

A new “extremely severe” outbreak of coronavirus has been discovered in Beijing and Canton.

“Yang Zhanqiu, a deputy director at the pathogen biology department at Wuhan University, told state media he believed the new outbreak involved a more contagious strain of the virus than the one that hit Wuhan at the beginning of the pandemic.” (Beijing coronavirus outbreak: travel restricted to tackle ‘extremely severe’ situation)

I hate saying this but there is a high likelihood this is the next wave of CCP’s bio-attack on the world, especially USA.

The worst case and probably most likely (because who attacks the world without a strong followup?) is CCP has already vaccinated the most capable one-half of its population against this or even more lethal waves down the road.

I am not sensationalizing this one bit.

Read this for important background information: The Secret Speech of General Chi Haotian.

At times like this, it is important to let your imagination run wild.

Fact: CCP loses the trade war and thus its very lucrative perch as dominant parasite on the world trade system and covid-19 appears.

Fact: Covid-19 was very effective at destabilizing the capitalist world order and weakening USA.

Fact: As covid-19 wanes, a worse version appears.

I hope none of this is true but only a fool will ignore it.

Indeterminacy of translation and FIML

I betray my poor education by admitting that I had never heard of W. V. Quine’s “indeterminacy of translation” until last week*. My ignorance is especially egregious as I have worked as a professional translator for many years.

Maybe I had heard about it but had forgotten. I am being self-reflective because FIML practice is deeply, fundamentally concerned with the “indeterminacy” of translating one person’s thoughts into another person’s head.

Quine’s thesis is not just about translating from one language to another, though there is that. It is much more about the fundamental impossibility of determining what anything means well enough to “translate” it into another context, a next sentence, into another person’s mind, or even “translating” your own speech from the past into the context of your mind today.

If I had known about Quine, I probably never would have thought of FIML because his ideas and the slews of papers written on “indeterminacy of translation” surely would have made me believe that the subject had been worked through.

As it was, I have plodded along in a delightful state of ignorance and, due to that, maybe added something practical to the subject.

In the first place, I wholeheartedly believe that speech is filled with indeterminacy, which I have generally called ambiguity or uncertainty. In the second place, I have confined my FIML-related investigations mainly to interpersonal speech between partners who care about each other. I see no solution to the more general problem of indeterminacy within groups, subcultures, or linguistic communities. Until brain scans get much better, large groups will be forced to resort to hierarchical “determinacy” to exist or function at all.

For individuals, though, there is much we can do. FIML practice does not remove all “indeterminacy.” Rather, it removes much more than most people are aware is possible, even remotely aware is possible. My guess is FIML communication provides a level of detail and resolution that is an order of magnitude or two better than non-FIML.

That is a huge improvement. It is life-changing on many levels and extremely satisfying.

FIML does not fix everything—and philosophical or “artistic” differences between partners are still possible—but it does fix a great deal. By clearing up interpersonal micro-indeterminacy again and again, FIML practice frees partners from the inevitable macro-problems that micro-ambiguity inevitably causes.

Moreover, this freedom, in turn, frees partners from a great deal of subconscious adhesion to the hierarchical “determinacy” of whichever culture they are part of. Rather than trapping themselves in a state of helpless acceptance of predefined hierarchical “meaning,” FIML partners have the capacity to sort through existential semiotics and make of them what they will with far less “indeterminacy,” or ambiguity, than had been possible without FIML practice.


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*that would not be over five years ago now

A signal-based model of psychology: part two

If we consider humans to be complex signaling systems or networks, then it is readily apparent that each human network signals within itself and also is connected by signals to other networks.

In A signal-based model of psychology: part one, we said:

the only significant interpersonal signaling data we can really know with significant certainty are data noticed, remembered, and agreed upon by two (or more in some cases) people engaged in significant interpersonal communication (signaling).

More recently, in Indeterminacy of translation and FIML, we discussed W. V. Quine’s thesis, which describes;

the fundamental impossibility of determining what anything means well enough to “translate” it into another context, a next sentence, into another person’s mind, or even “translating” your own speech from the past into the context of your mind today.

When we analyze a person based on vague ideas like “personality,” “psychology,” or “cognition,” we are principally assigning ambiguous referents to amorphous categories. We have more words but not much more understanding.

Cognition is a huge grab-bag of a word that means almost anything, as do the terms psychology and personality.

If we replace these terms with the concept of signaling networks, we gain specificity. For example, rather than analyzing the “cognitive-behavior” of a person we can more easily and profitably analyze their signaling.

The advantage of examining signaling rather than “cognitive-behavior” is signals are quite specific. They can usually be defined pretty well, they can be contextualized, and their communicative intent can be determined with reasonable specificity.

To be most effective, signaling analysis works best if we abandon the idea that we can accurately analyze the signals of someone else, especially if we do not analyze our own signals at the same time.

Moreover, a signaling analysis will work best if we do it with:

  • someone that we care about and that cares about us
  • someone with whom we can be completely honest and who will be completely honest with us
  • someone who is willing to spend the time to do the analyzing

Sad to say, it can be difficult to find two people who fit together in those ways, but that is how it is. Much of this problem is due to social expectations, which presently greatly reduce opportunities for clear, honest communication. And much of this is due to how we normally conceive of a person, as a bundle of vague things that cannot be pinned down.

The ideal signaling analysis will be done between close friends with the above qualifications. A signaling analysis will not work well, if at at all, if it is done between a professional and a patient. A professional psychologist would do the best for their patient by teaching them how to do signaling analysis with a friend. If they don’t have a friend, maybe one can be found; if not, a different approach should be used.

But you don’t have to have “problems” to do a signaling analysis. Everyone will benefit from it.

Signaling analysis works because partners learn to work with good data that has been generated between them during real-life situations. Having this data allows partners to do micro, meso, and macro levels of analysis on it. And these different levels help them see the specifics of a particular signal exchange, the immediate context of the exchange, and the larger social or historical context from which the exchange has derived some or much of its meaning.

For example, if clear data on a tone of voice has been agreed upon, both partners can then explain the micro antecedents and context of that data, the meso context of those antecedents, and if necessary the macro context that gave rise to either or both of those. The same outline applies to all micro data, be it tone, gesture, word choice, body language, reference, etc.

With practice, a new way of understanding communication will arise in partners’ minds. Rather than having a vague “cognition” about some poorly-defined “emotion” or “personality trait,” partners will find that they can benefit much more by simply analyzing what actually happened based upon data they both agree on.

It is very important for partners to do many analyses of specific micro-data, a single word or phrase, a single tone of voice, a single gesture, etc.. The reason for this is we can’t accurately remember much more than that. When we try to do more, we are pushed immediately out of specific micro data into vague meso or macro generalities that constitute nothing more than general categories with general references to other general categories. Rather than analyzing something that has actually occurred, we instead argue about general emotions, vague traits, unsubstantiated assumptions about “personalities,” and so on.

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On Social Media Bias, Trump’s Executive Order & the China Data Threat—FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr

Carr discusses how the FCC will deal with an absence of “good faith” in social media’s handling of the free speech rights of its members. He also talks about how the Communist Party of China has been using media to conceal it’s real role in the spread of the coronavirus. Carr is a clear speaker and provides many useful insights into how the FCC will deal with these and other matters.

Empathy’s evil twin and our need to understand it

Empathy literally means the capacity to recognize the emotions being experienced by another sentient being.

It is almost always bound up with sympathy and compassion. Empathy as we normally think of it is a good thing, a liberal thing, a Buddhist thing, a kindly thing. But is that a good thing?

When I first read William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience in my late teens, I adored the poems and illustrations of the Songs of Innocence and largely disliked or ignored the Songs of Experience. I liked the joy, innocence, and passion of the Songs of Innocence but not the sober truths of the Songs of Experience.

Culturally, as far as I can tell, America is infatuated with the innocence of empathy, but not the sober truths that should go hand in hand with it.

If all people were nice and kind and never did bad things, it would be good to be innocent about empathy. But not all people are good. Indeed, most of us are only good sometimes and some of us are really bad a lot of the time.

Do you have the capacity to recognize the emotions being experienced by a person intent on doing harm? Doesn’t our current sense of what empathy entails leave out empathy’s evil twin, the bad emotions and intentions of other sentient beings?

I don’t know if it is still true today, but Japanese tourists visiting the USA used to get mugged and raped at levels well above their percentage of the population. The reason was, and maybe still is, they were too innocent and could not perceive the evil intent of their new “friend” or the cool dude asking them for the time.

This happened because Japan has less violent crime than the USA and because Japanese tourists were not able to imagine or read American situational exchanges. And this shows that empathy for evil is based both on expectation and culture, which are close in nature.

The Buddha said that we can only really know another human being after long association. Even he cautioned about being innocent and empathizing only with the good we see in others while failing to recognize the bad.


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