The major parts of this model are:
You’ll see that it’s convenient to label the parts of the island with the parts of the model.
|south||discovery, entry||where a person enters an island of perspective|
|west, east (the coast)||propagation, war||where a person advertises an island of perspective|
|center||analysis||where a person questions puzzles from inside the perspective|
|north||exit||where a person transitions from one perspective to another|
The metaphor is that a perspective is like an island. A beautiful oasis island. We arrive on an island, (on the southern coast,) fight from the edges of an island, consult with wise guys in the center of the island, and eventually, one day, leave an island. Off the north coast. We depart to land on a new island.
The idea is that, over time, the course of our lives, we make our way through several “islands” of perspective, always moving northward, as we work things out.
My belief is that:
When we discover a new collection of ideas that appeal to us, that we accept, we begin the process of rapidly assimilating them. This is a period of romance. We learn as much as we can, as quickly as we can. We fall in love with the ideas. We re-evaluate so many things in our lives, using the terms of the framework of the new ideas.
It doesn’t have to be an emotional exuberance. This applies just as much to the dispassionate, cold, skeptical, analytical man, as it does to the romantic fool lover. No matter how rational a person believes that they are, they are, in fact, at every turn, applying heuristics and following “smells” (Wiki:CodeSmell). We cannot help but follow up on what makes complete and total sense to us.
The discovery of a new set of ideas is a liberating experience, it feels great, it makes our lives so much nicer, it makes things glow, and it makes things make sense, and so we rapidly devour all the ideas we can find.
We call this the “South” side of the island, because the idea is that as we progress, we move “up” (North) with time. So this is where we’re first getting into the idea. From the south.
If the ideas continue to mean a lot to us, then we continue to learn them. We learn about the variations and internal subtleties. We learn about how to model various situations within the terms of the ideas. We gain the skills and add density to the map. We become seasoned experts at the ways and wherefors of the various paths of argument.
We also start to identify ideas that disagree with this perspective, ideas that we know are wrong. We experience a dissonance when we hear people saying the things that we disagree with, and we are compelled to speak. And we do. We tell our arguments. We respond to others.
We voyage (off the East & West coasts,) and make our way to other islands, to talk with other people. What this means in the material world, is that we go to SlashDot, we go to KuroShin, we visit other wiki, other blogs, we go to all these other websites, and we talk with the people that we encounter there. Hopefully, they are SelectivelyOpenMinded to our position, hopefully we are not an UnwelcomeVisitor. When we hear the things we disagree with, we make our arguments, and UnderCut arguments that we disagree with. We (unconsciously, in many cases) identify people who may be interested in our island of perspective, and show them the way to the Southern entrance.
We will encounter people who have different ideas about things, and then there can be a clash. It can be nice and friendly, and it can be heated and mean. It doesn’t matter so much, for the sake of this explanation: Just that there’s a debate, an argument, an exchange of thoughts. Undercuts undercut still other undercuts.
Now, let’s suppose that someone has a good point. We’re debating with someone, and lets say that they completely disarm us. Not just merely making us look bad in front of others: No, they have honest to God, met every single argument in fairness, and have undercut our points in ways that we don’t know how to respond. What then?
Do we change our ideas? On the spot? No.
Why? Is it because we’re bad? Is it because we’re too stubborn?
Think about this question for a moment. Think about it. Think back: You’re in some news forum, SlashDot, KuroShin, whatever, – and you’re arguing with some idiot. And you’ve proved him or her wrong on every point. You were young, the argument dragged on for days. Think about this kind of situation now.
Why didn’t they change their mind? Are they just dumb? Are they just dense? What’s going on? Actually think out your personal explanation, before reading on.
We do not change our ideas. But what do we do?
We remember those points.
And we take those points back to “base,” to get the answer to it. We ask the elders, the wise men & women, we consult the books, or perhaps we just sit down, think it out, and calculate over it ourselves, based on what we’ve learned.
If we find an answer to the good point, we add it to the groups arguments database (informally held in our heads, these days, though some of us use a WikiDebateBase, and in the future, we may have Futures:ArgumentGraphs?,) and then start innoculating the inhabitants of the island so that when the opposition uses that formerly-good-point, they’re made to look like fools (again, an “UnderCut.”)
No perspective is perfect, though. We believe sometimes that we have found final perspectives, but- it never happens. The perfect perspective could never be expressed. If there is a perfect perspective, it is a deeply spiritual thing, and only communicable through special, spiritual channels, most likely.
And those imperfect perspectives out there: They probably have something to them. They’re probably valuable, they probably have some point. No matter how much you hate another perspective, there’s almost always something of value in there. I cannot think of a single perspective that I have ever found that did not grant something of value.
Within the safety of our friends’ trust, I believe that our minds, for the most part, just keep cranking away.
From an argument we had 3 years ago, some point from it is just sticking, and we haven’t found a good answer to it. That one point- it just sticks in our head. Crank, crank, crank, the gears turn.
And we discover, that- our model has a hole in it. There’s something just really wrong there. And this is an important wrongness- this is something that’s really meaningful, and we need something to solve it.
Now, maybe it was just an IntegrationAndIdentity conflict. Perhaps a few adjustments will make everything okay again. But then, maybe not. Maybe this is one where you’re going to have to go somewhere else.
But the thing is: You look outside, and all you see are enemies and allies, but you don’t see anything that can fill this hole.
Your mind is now receptive. You’re not receptive to everything. Rather, you are receptive to something that will fit some pattern.
You’ve earnestly learned some things. You know that. There’s no going back to ignorance. But you’ve also learned some things that you can cast away. You can safely drop them, especially if you’re going to learn something valuable.
At some point, you discover that new thing. You’ve sampled a few alternatives, but you’ve picked one that seems worthy of investing time into.
You can’t simultaneously go after all of them, of course: A human mind can only hold so many ideas at once, after all.
You say goodbye to your friends, or leave silently. You’ve got a stack of books in your hand, and some great fresh new ideas.
These are the ones! This is great!
Some times, I just have too much to say.
I want to eventually delete the following, because I want this page to be TrustedLinkLanguage that we use, and aren’t embarrassed to recommend to others.
That said, parts of it should stay. The section on Jurgen Habermas, and the section on Debate, since these are both things that we’ve said we talk about on CW.
But the stuff on super-freudianism, artificial intelligence, samsara, and the quotes- should probably go after a while.
This is the kind of thing I want a HalfWiki for. I don’t feel that the community should have to lug these kinds of things around. It’s bad advertising.
I feel strong symphaty between the way I think, and the things Jurgen Habermas says.
For example, he says that it is essential that people are talking in solidarity with one another, in order to evaluate the truth of a thing rationally.
I am skeptical that people can do this with groups they have DeepDisagreement with. But they can have it within their own group. That is, I believe groups of aligned people do hear outside arguments, and they do think about the meaningful ones, in their hearts. And I think they are compelled to speak, and that they do talk about the ideas amongst themselves. Whether in public or in private, I’m not concerned- it just seems to me that, and this is from first-hand experience in my own life- people question and change. And Jurgen Habermas’ conditions seem to be met. They analyze the ideas from within a safe harbor of people who understand each others language, from within the safe harbor of people who like them and earnestly want to solve dilemma together.
And it’s out of this that people become receptive to new islands of thought.
The story I’ve just told, about the passages of perspecive- it says specific things about debate.
As a consequence of this story:
That is, when you tell someone that they’re wrong during a debate, they’re not going to say, “Oh, golly, I guess you’re right.
If that were the case, then we would all be very spineless, and incapable of developing our thought. We could never determine truth. We could never determine truth, because we could never form the whole ideas in our heads. As soon as someone gave us the slightest hint of something we didn’t understand, we’d be snatched away. We wouldn’t say, “Well, let me go check what my people have to say about this first…”
We’d just immediately leave. And that’s not learning. That’s not understanding.
KnowledgeIsBasedInTrust. Always. Without bonds of trust, there can be no knowledge.
SuperFreudianism is the belief that anything good or positive is false. It’s a prima-facie heuristic. You just hear an idea, and go: “Would that make people happy? It would? Okay: It’s false.”
The point of this part of the page is to say: I think it’s easy to slip into SuperFreudianism when we observe the stubbornness of others. I think it’s easy to think: “These people, all of them- they’re all crazy. They’re never going to change their minds. They won’t change their thoughts. I think this way, because it’s all I’ve ever seen.” It’s just a few short steps from there into SuperFreudianism. (There’s a lot of paths to SuperFreudianism.)
I admit that what I say: It’s not voiced in the most scientific way. I don’t have a whole lot of references to give you. I don’t have a lot of credentials.
But I can refer you to something you have some experience with: Your own life.
You can ask yourself: Did I ever change my opinion?
How did it happen?
I’m going to bet that, most of the time, it was in the quiet of your own thoughts. And while you were thinking, you remembered important things that other people said. There’s no safer place than your own thoughts. And we can hear other people’s voices within our thoughts. We remember things.
It’s kind of neat how one idea spoken by one person can hang with us for so long, for so many years, and then just pop itself in at the right moment, when we’re sorting something out.
I don’t think that we can take the path of rationalism to be the one way. It’s a great path, and it can do very useful things for us. But we tend to falsely believe that it will do everything for us. The worst is when we believe that we are rational, or mostly rational, and most everyone else isn’t. It’s just plain false, and it doesn’t matter who you are, when you are.
But abandoning the illusion of pure rationality doesn’t mean we’re just casting in the wind. We’ve seen that our mind can give us useful thoughts, even if we didn’t follow some rational process to get it. It doesn’t mean that it’s a “magical” process, requiring spirits and fairy. (Nor does it mean contrarywise, either.) It simply means that the world is complicated, and cybernetic systems do some pretty funky stuff underneath.
We will likely produce pure Machine Intelligence within 50 years.
See also: A much longer discussion on SuperFreudianism.
This page does not say that there is no absolute truth.
Nor does this page say that our ideas are infinitely malleable, and we just go from random island to random island, hopping from belief to belief, never figuring anything out.
People sometimes criticize science, saying: “If the scientists ideas keep changing, then how can we say that we ever learn anything?”
Scientists do indeed keep changing. And sometimes they are way off the mark, frequently embarrasingly so, for long periods of time. But they have a way of coming around, and the process seems to work pretty well. At the very least, we have machines to demonstrate the mastery we have gained. Making machines isn’t exactly trivial.
I strongly believe that humans are far more reasoning than we believe.
We look at people, and say, “That person is ignorant, they’ve always been ignorant, and they always will be ignorant.” But I want to say: That person is rational. Their life may be focused in a different place than yours. But they almost certainly have learned things that obsoleted everything that they had ever known before. And they’ll almost certainly do it again.
I believe that everyone, (more or less,) is a scientist of their own life. That they perform experiments, that they guage results carefully, that they think things over, that they get results, and true results at that.
I think that the postmodernist hypothesis is false, and that this story I’ve just told is a demonstration of a truth that appears to be a falsehood.
See- it has two sides. There’s the view from the outside, and then there’s the view from the inside.
The view from the outside is that there are all these stubborn people, with all these complex reasons and arguments and ideas, and they’re not going to listen to you, and we’re only going to listen to them with the secret hope of actually getting them to listen to us, and all these horrible horrible things. You know: I think that when we’re criticising other people, that we’re actually observing our own stubbornness, and we’re actually so sure that they’re wrong because we feel that we’re the same way, and we’ll be damned if we let them beat us to the bunch. I believe strongly that the rule we measure others by is the one we judge ourselves by as well. I think “projecting” isn’t something that just some people are guilty of- I think it’s all of us.
But I’ve digressed.
At any rate: I think there’s truth. I’ve observed myself discovering things, and I don’t go back on what I’ve discovered. I just discover greater complexity, usually a year or two after vigourously arguing my side with someone else. I understand from the outside that it can look like there’s no truth, that there’s no basis, that there’s no convincing. But my private experiences in my mind convince me otherwise.
A post-modernist must, after all, believe in post-modernism. Surely this betrays itself.
Oh, look- here's an interesting web page.
In the other direction, there is the idea that humanity is a horrible, horrible, horrible mistake, and that surely, we will create artificial intelligences that will be everything that we are not.
The artificial intelligence will be the purely rational actor, and will not make meaningful mistakes in its thinking process. (Though we’ll allow for some minor ones, just so we don’t sound naive or utopian.)
The idea of the “purely rational actor,” and the idea that a super-intelligence would be super-rational, is wrong on so many levels in so many ways, I’m not even going to begin to try and discuss it here, on this page.
That said, I want to draw attention to something, that I think should be interesting to the AI crowd:
The resulting work would be something similar in shape to the Theory of the Firm.
That is, you’d find the boundaries of the various “transaction costs.” Things such as: How many ideas lumped together form an island of perspective? How many sub-groups can it maintain for so many people? How long does it take to learn the ropes of an island of perspective? How much time is spent in debate? How long does it take for an agent to go through the PageDatabase, to find the answer to some puzzle? How much communication is required to make sure that understandings are not lost, but that honest-to-goodness errors are uncovered?
I can’t quite place my finger on it, but I perceive weights to these things. At a certain granularity of thought, it isn’t worth it to get greater refinement of thought. That is, we simply must be error-tolerant, because our abstractions must contain errors. They are simulations, after all, and a simulation is a managable and controlled form of a real thing.
The idea of “Samsara” is that there is a wheel of life and death. Souls reincarnate over and over and over, on the Wheel of so many lakhs of lives. Some say the process goes on forever, some say it is finite, usually they have some idea of how to short-circuit the process or get off the infinite loop forever.
Is this a Samsara theory?
Are people hopping islands, over and over, never to find the right perspective?
I don’t know. It’s hard to say, really- these perspectives tend to be very finite things.
We can imagine one of Asimov’s planet intelligences, or one of the Culture Minds, calculating away, trying to build a perfect equilibrium of some sort inside itself.
I do not know how to answer this one, it is something that I contemplate frequently myself.
I do not believe that the Spirit is the same substance as the Mind. (I reject mind-body dualism, I accept spirit-mind dualism. The body is made of the same sort of stuff as the mind, as far as the spirit is concerned, by the metaphysics that I understand.)
It may be possible that the created worlds are made to reflect the spiritual worlds. The spiritual worlds may not be able to come to a completion until the finite worlds come to a match. We can imagine that the worldly intelligences are a mirror that is being polished. If this is the case, then there is an end-game scenario: Perfection is achieved, and it’s happy land all over, both inner and outer. This is a “heaven-on-earth” scenario, or, more likely, a “heaven-on-the-universe” scenario. Maybe “heaven-on-the-multiverse.” Whatever.
Then there is the possibility that the created universe is a horrible, horrible mistake, created by a demiurge, or something like that. Perhaps finite and infinite are in a competition, and infinite is just wating for finite to die, so that it can carry on without the burden. While I know and respect many spiritualists who believe this way, and think that the world is just a trap, I cannot accept this, for some reason. My heart just simply cannot accept this way. I cannot believe that the world was created to be destroyed, or ignored. If God, or the fundamental chord of life (should the G-word mean the wrong thing to you,) made a tricky existance, even by proxy (the demiurge,) – such a thing just doesn’t make any sense. More importantly than any mental reasoning: I earnestly perceive the spirit in the actions of people who are engaged with this world. This is a perception of spirit, not thought or emotion.
So, I believe that humanities (and, our family will soon include our beloved AI’s and post-humans) passage through the world is for some meaningful end or process.
And if the process is never-ending, I believe that that process is one that leads to better life, whatever that means.
Small wheel turning by the firing rod,
Big wheel turning by the grace of God,
Every time that wheel turn round,
Bound to cover just a little more ground,
Bound to cover just a little more ground!
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might, that His arrows may go swift and far.
Excellent page, thank you very much !
I agree with a lot of things (samsara doesn’t speak to me very much, and I don’t know much about postmodernism, but I can relate to SuperFreudianism).
I’m not worried that people don’t change their minds when I think they should, I know I don’t change my mind in similar circumstances. however, I am worried that though this process works fine at the individual level, at the social level, there are always enough people on different islands fighting each other, and though they may all end up realizing fighting is stupid / boring or changing their minds, new recruits will fill in the gaps.
I see this a s a bit of a board game, where players have their pawns on different islands on the boards - except that there are several game boards, and you have pieces on all of them, though you may not realize it. movement may be impossible on one board but possible on another. Now, Lion is trying to get people to get their pieces off the “SuperFreudianism” square
(Hmm, the “game” metaphor might be bad. I want to add that when I talk about games, I’m thinking much more about mechanics and a shared world than about winning and loosing - there are some board games with no winners or losers !)
I think I understand what you mean by the board game metaphore; I have seen it- people moving their pieces from island to island. Multiple boards, but they are related to one another. Yes, yes, I agree.
And I do think that the perspecties are like rooms: There are people entering, and there are people leaving.
But it does seem that large groups of people move through phases.
Some perspectives are permanent features of the world. Some perspectives live very short lives, never to be thought again afterwards.
But I do believe in one-directional growth. I do believe that there are perspecties that, bar brain damage or radical carelessness, are never returned to. If they are revisited, it’s something that happens with very different eyes, and can’t be the same again. It is essentially not the same space.
I don’t argue in this page that fighting between groups is useless. I think that points earnestly do communicate through- though it may take years before the participant has enough understanding to fully understand and confront the difficult points.
Perhaps we can take some points from this:
This concept of “debate” may be more useful.
It makes sense to me.
That said, I wouldn’t want to automatically discard in-the-trenches arguing and debate. That could be dangerous.
Great point, Lion. You’re right, people don’t change their minds in the heat of battle, but they do later.
Partial summary of ongoing discussion (possibly flawed, please adjust):
HelmutLeitner defined a “perspective” as “something that you can change rather easily, at your own will, like moving from one island to the other”. However, he defined “worldview” to be something that you can’t change that at will, something that “just happens”. He thinks that the islands in the metaphor are more analogous to worldview, not to perspective.
He believes that one can emulate the thinking of someone who has a different worldview, although one cannot actually have two worldviews.
SamRose views PassagesOfPerspective as primarily about the process of perspective change, rather than about relationships between abstract objects such as “perspectives” or “worldviews”. The islands in the metaphor represent states in this process.
Sam doesn’t define perspectives as something that you can change by will. He defines “perspective” and “worldview” such that your ability to change your perspective is limited by your worldview.
He said that the only way he’s found to go beyond the perspective or worldview of the individual is for a group of people to incorporate and intelligently combine multiple perspectives and worldviews. He opines that although there are some brilliant individuals who can look at problems in many different ways, those individuals will never be able to compete against the intelligently combined viewpoints of many different people.
Sam said that he believes this page as is addresses the individual case but does not talk about how things can change when the presence of a group allows this new process to occur (note: what name shall we give this new process? AggregatingMultiplePerspectivesInGroups?? GroupsPermitDiverseWorldviews?? other ideas?).
The kinds of questions I seek to answer, are things like:
This is not intended to say anything about mental agility, or “how many worldviews or perspectives can we or should we consider at once,” and so on. I assume that the average person is capable of simulating other people’s perspectives in their head, and considering reality from those angles, and so on; My 5 year old daughter is quite capable of this, as are I suspect most kids and adults.
If we have a pluralistic position, it is still a position. It is open to some section of those pluralities, disinclined to others, and shuts out still others. Our SeedIdeas may include other perspectives, or they may not. There are bounds and boundaries and finite-ness. Like Yuko says in XXX-holic, “All worlds are small;” It does not matter how broadminded we imagine ourselves to be.
This particular story of islands and transitions is like a biological, ecological explanation. I don’t think it really makes sense to say, “This doesn’t happen;” Rather, I think it’s more appropriate to ask, “Where does this happen? Where does this not happen?” …and so on.
I do believe this essay, which I wrote more than a year ago, neatly answers many of these questions.
It explains the kinds of feelings and thoughts someone has as they take to a worldview.
It explains that the reason that a person STILL disagrees with you, is because they have a basic trust in a worldview. They do not trust that they themselves totally understand it.
It suggests that there could be progress, though not necessarily. (“It’s hard to go backwards.”)
It explains how we come in and depart from a perspective, or society holding that perspective.
It explains that these perspectives (such as Libertarianism, such as Anarchism, such as Catholicism, such as X, whether labelled or unlabelled,) are as much a social thing, as they are a purely idea thing.
No doubt, there will be some things that we will want to say, that this model will not work well for. “Where is this model useful? Where is this model useful? What models work better in those other places?” – I would be interested in answers to those questions.
I agree with Sam, about aggregating and the value of collective input, and so on.
That said, I don’t think it happens with people who are outside of the boundaries of permitted thoughts.
For example, if we were to talk with a religious fundamentalist, we cannot come to agreement: “No, you can’t require that my daughter mutilate herself.” (And so on.)
When we aggregate, we aggregate within the realm of the permissible. We recognize our shortcomings, and the need for greater, social intelligence.
In the diagram, this happens at the center of the island.
In the terms of the model, “There are islands within islands.” But the mmodel starts to fray.
Within the basic set of understandings about Physics, there are people studying Superstring theory, there are people studying quantum gravity, there are all these different things people are studying, different intuitions and methods and hunches, and so on. But they all basically accept that physics is worthwhile study, and so on, and accept that they have worthy partners.
Where they collaborate with others, such as (say) a biologist, or a computer scientist, or some other person or group, they do so with a minimally shared platform of agreements: “We share this cause,” or “We are dedicated to solving this problem,” or “We are both answering this question, and trust each other’s ability to answer,” and so on. The biologist and the computer scientist are not going to consult with people who they think are crazy, in the area under consultation.
The islands model doesn’t do so well at describing cooperative efforts with diverse subject bases; Some other diagram I think would better describe that scenario.