How to evaluate something you don’t know

A fascinating post by Robin Hanson—We Add Near, Average Far—describes some of the difficulty of presenting an idea like FIML to an Internet audience.

The problem is lots of detail and many bits of evidence make it difficult for people to evaluate the overall worth of a complex idea because people tend to evaluate information of that type by averaging the data rather than adding it up.

Should we just say that FIML will make you and your partner smarter and happier? Maybe we should when discussing it online, though of course, we won’t do that.

In person, we have found people quite receptive, but that is probably due to the same effect—in person we focus on one or two results of FIML practice and we only do that if people show interest.

I think Buddhism probably has a similar problem getting it’s message across through books or film. You really have to go to a temple or spend time with people who understand the Dharma to want to take on Buddhism as a way of thinking or living.

Up close and personal, most of us realize that we live in a very complex world and that our capacities for understanding our conditions cannot be taken for granted. But when it comes to learning how to hone or augment our skills for dealing with speech and symbolic communication, we tend to look for simple answers, or abstract ones, that do not include the kinds of detail we must pay attention to. Broad extrinsic theories that provide a general picture without essential detail—and these are everywhere in psychology, religion, sociology, the humanities—simply cannot do for you what a technique like FIML can because FIML is entirely based on the actual data of your actual life, and there is a great deal of that.

I do understand why it is hard to see this. At the same time, I wonder why it is so obvious in the physical sciences and engineering that we can’t do anything properly if we don’t make sure of our data.

Why should the humanities be different? We simply cannot communicate well or understand ourselves well without good data. FIML provides damn good data.

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First posted 10/2/2012

The worst thing about the humanities

The worst thing about the humanities is so many of our insights and discoveries are used to harm people, manipulate them, propagandize them.

Another bad thing is the open, confessional, and exploratory styles of artists too often are used against them by gaslighters, scammers, back-biters.

If we cannot even allow artists and social scientists to speak openly, all of us suffer from the reduced culture that results.

Consciousness as reality itself

In Buddhism the idea that consciousness is reality and reality is conscious is called “mind only” or Yogachara.

David Ray Griffin, a process theologian, has come to similar conclusions—that reality is fundamentally conscious.

As has Donald D. Hoffman, a professor of cognitive science at UC Irvine.

Hoffman came at this subject from a mathematical angle, but arrived at a similar conclusion to Yogachara Buddhism. Hoffman says:

As a conscious realist, I am postulating conscious experiences as ontological primitives, the most basic ingredients of the world. I’m claiming that experiences are the real coin of the realm. (The Case Against Reality)

I tend to reach similar conclusions when I think about everything in terms of signals.

The advantage of thinking in terms of signals is we get a good picture of “reality” without needing to say what is real beyond the signal itself.

This kind of thinking is helpful for metaphysics but it is also extremely practical when it comes to human psychology.

Rather than posit personality types and what goes wrong or right with them, we analyze how people send and receive signals instead.

In thinking along these lines, I have come to the conclusion that most psychology as most people understand it uses “arms-length” language, the language of meso and macro signals rather than the much more precise language of the micro signals that actually comprise our shared “realities.”

The difference can be illustrated in this way: Rather than explain your most recent signal (sent or received) in terms of personality, explain it by accessing the micro-signals of short-term memory to find its true antecedents.

If you do this again and again by using a game such as FIML, you will probably come to conclusions similar to the above—that there is no deeper substance to psychological reality than your consciousness of it.

Military thought experiment Part 3

In Parts 1 and 2, we discussed how a well-organized group could: Gain control of a large society by using a small number of clandestine military operatives.

In this post I want to explore what may be indications that this already has been done to American society and how it may still be going on.

The following video explains two important refinements in our usual understanding of MKULTRA.

The first is the use electromagnetism and electromagnetic fields (broadly EM) to control people and the second is that MKULTRA did not end in 1964 as generally believed.

The video:

I would add the following point to this video: The main reason most individuals are harmed or controlled through the use of clandestine techniques is to control their communities.

Besides the clandestine use of drugs and EM as discussed in the video, psychosurgery is another way to destroy an individual’s productivity and harm their community. A lobotomy, for example, can be done with a hypodermic needle filled with ethanol. An operative with little training would be able to do it in a few minutes.

If the time is well chosen, the victim will wake up feeling they have a terrible hangover or that they are disoriented and may be getting sick.

This post is a thought experiment. I invite readers to use their imaginations to consider how easy it would be to accomplish these goals.

Furthermore, I think it is only rational to consider that something like this may already have happened in many/most societies in the world, including the USA.

Part 1

Part 2

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Edit 9/3/17: If you think EM weapons are farfetched, see this: US Embassy in Cuba hit by new sonic attack, 19 Americans have brain injuries and hearing problems.

Edit 9/14/17: More on the above story: Attacked in bed, safe a few feet away: Cuba mystery deepens.

Inventing your own communication system

If you know a system well and change parts of it to make it more efficient, that system will work better.

Evolution works this way “mindlessly” in the sense that we assume today that there is no plan behind evolutionary change. If something works better it tends to replace that which it works better than.

Another “mindless” example is AI systems that invent their own languages:

An artificial intelligence system being developed at Facebook has created its own language. It developed a system of code words to make communication more efficient. The researchers shut the system down as it prompted concerns we could lose control of AI. (Researchers shut down AI that invented its own language)

The linked article mentions other AI system that have similarly invented their own communication systems. These systems work but humans are not able to understand them.

All of this shows that communication systems have their own logic and that they can be made more efficient by pursuing that logic.

This is what FIML does through the use of a few new rules for speaking and listening.

FIML emphasizes and provides techniques for:

  • analysis of real-time communication
  • much greater accuracy in real-time communication
  • much greater mutual understanding, efficiency, and satisfaction

By improving your communication system(s) and removing error from it, FIML greatly enhances psychological well-being.

FIML works with the communication system(s) you already have. FIML does not tell you what to think.

Psychological projection is a limited concept

Psychological projection is a well-known defense mechanism used by humans to:

defend themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities… by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.

The concept has some value as an analytical guideline but can also be highly misleading by pointing analyses in wrong directions.

One wrong direction is confirmation bias where an assessment of projection can lead to cherry picking and/or ignoring counter-evidence.

Another wrong direction can arise due to the false consensus effect, which “tends to lead to the perception of a consensus that does not exist.

From a FIML point of view, psychological projection is a macro and meso level analysis which fundamentally ignores the importance of micro information. (See Micro, meso, and macro levels of human understanding.)

From a FIML point of view, a great deal of human psychology can only be understood by analyzing micro-level interactions in real-time.

This is so because only a FIML-type of analysis can access the actual micro-data that go into the formations of actual interpretations. In contrast, meso and macro level analyses arrive “fully loaded” with the biases endemic to those levels of communication and understanding.

Like the psychological concept personality, the concept of psychological projection has general descriptive value in some situations.

These concepts become counterproductive and limiting, however, when they are accepted off-the-shelf as important insights into specific situations or the behaviors of particular people.

I am very confident that micro data generally will not support most ready-made meso and macro analyses of human psychology or behavior.

Society is a cornucopticon

Cornucopticon is a blend of the words “cornucopia” and “panopticon.”

Society is a “cornucopticon” in that it provides a cornucopia of ideas and opportunities while at the same time being a panopticon that watches us day and night, thus also restricting our range of activities.

My partner came up with this blend word while we were on this subject last night.

Incidentally, bittersweet is a word that does not sound nearly as strong as it should. Since almost all experiences are to some extent bittersweet, one would think we would have more words describing this dual nature.