IGS Discussion Forums: Institute of General Semantics Topics: "Resignations Announced" thread was closed after one post....
Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Saturday, June 14, 2008 - 09:10 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Hi Phil,

I might suggest that we look at the current Institute of General Semantics mission statement.

We might take that and move down a level of abstraction to describe what has been or could be done in the service of that mission as formulated. What might also be useful is gathering some information with respect to what seems to have been the results of those things that have been done. An important aspect of this is having or finding some way to measure not only the results but how the actions taken produced the results in question.

What are the statistics over the last decade with respect to each activity mentioned? Who is the audience reached? How can we measure "success" with respect to the mission statement?

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Saturday, June 14, 2008 - 10:54 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Hello Tonto, Thank you.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Saturday, June 14, 2008 - 07:24 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Dear Nora,

My one line post was in response to yours, not to Jackie's. But due to multi-tasking, Jackie's post got put in ahead of mine. I was not here to amend it and make it clear.

I'll make my remark more explictit for you. Your post, it should be noted, came from someone (you) who just resigned two significant posts in the organization. The fact that you subsequently pointed out that you had information from your recently resigned duties which you interpreted as indicating specifically that I was "not on your membership list" seems to have suggested that you were drawing lines between members and non-members (in which class you seemed to have placed me). I thought this ironical in the light of your recent resignations, hence I addressed you as Tonto - not Jackie.

Gary, and anyone else...

How can we measure progress toward meeting mission objectives. Can provide more extensional formulations of our mission? Something more measurable?

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Saturday, June 14, 2008 - 09:39 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Like quite a few other present and past members, associates, and seminar participants, etc., I came to general semantics as a result of having read A. E. Van Vogt's The World of Null-A and its The Players of Null-A. There was one salient feature presented by Van Vogt that caught my imagination with respect to culture. The residents of Venus, all Games-Machine selectees, exhibited one particular characteristic (I abstracted). They came to the defense of the planetary society en-mass spontaneously as each one saw the need for action independently and acted - as I recall.

That a society might exist in which individuals were trained to exercise reason, delay evauation until enough information was known, and then act in corcert with others - without conflict with each other - to achieve ends appropriate to the evolving situation ... this motivated me to dream the idealizations many a science fiction fan knows.

When I discovered that the Institute of general semantics surprise, delight, surprise "really" existed, that idealistic dream became channeled into this world.

Will the Institute of general semantics ever achieve its forecast position is society as the dominate training facility for selecting the placement of individuals according to their scientifically measured potential?

Some appear to have never outgrown that perspective. It's been a long time since that initial exposure, and much of my life has been devoted to following the path of science - empirical science - but with the building of hypothetical models (through abstraction and induction) and, importantly, testing of the models using mathematics, logic, and deduction.

The more I learned the less accurate Korzybski's map began to appear. Conseqently, I turned my attention to the formulations and where they came from in the history of our culture, science, and philosophy. It became my personal project to trace the sources, formulate the theoretical foundations, and note such aspects as are no longer current science as well as to integrate these into my personal organisim-in-my-environments-as-a-whole dynamically evolving model, update formulations as necessary when sufficient information is obtained, and to surmise other alterations as necessary to prserve the overall coherence and functionality of the system - which Ben has begun to call "neo-general-semantics".

Does one have to be a "member" of a group - any group - to be working towards a better understanding of one's "real" and "virtual" environments?

Can Van Vogt's conception - that with sufficient information and the requisite training we will "all" arrive at the same conclusion as to what action to take when - have any rationality?

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Sunday, June 15, 2008 - 11:23 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Four Keys to Political Success and some Commentary.

Personally, I do not think general semantics training is enough to get individuals to conduct personal agendas "publicly" - that is, with complete openness and with full cooperation with others doing the same. The recent "fractional" disputes among those exercising the power of the administration of the Institute of General Semantics seem to be adequate testamony that our "animal" natures - to seek "success" - (beat others to get a good job, beat others to get good "stuff" [compete for property and status]) dictates that we engage in covert "selfish" (for "me" and "mine") behavior. And, as information (time) - binders, we do it so much more and faster that our non-symbol-using cousins lower down the phylogenetic scale.

History has also proved, time and time again, that people succumb to the reward system that underlies our venier of "civilization" - the system that has a much longer history of evolution that our recently acquired symbol use.

Our individual beliefs, ideals, desires, and experiences all vary, producing a plethora of individual purposes - including individual delusions that one's own preference is somehow "good for everybody" - purposes often not consistent with those recorded in the symbol system.

If we are to have some ideal system, we had better have a "realistic" map of the territory we are trying to deal with - one that is not "contaminated" with "intensional" beliefs and values that cannot be empirically corroborated by our "god" (science) and its dictates as to how to conduct our affairs.

Korzybski, in calling man a "time-binder", produced a map that suggested to many that we somehow "differ" (ale "above") from the other products of millions of years of evolution. Why are we the dominant species on the planet? The simple answere is that we competed for resources "better" that all the others - better in the pure sense that we got more - more control, more land, more energy, more of everything we need to survive as a species - nutrition and the opportunity to reproduce and increase our species number, mass, and control of our physical environment.

That, my friends, is what we are dealing with, a tough customer who has brought more species to extinction as a direct result of its actions that any other phenomenon in the history of our planet. We are destroying the very environment that produced us. Like the closed bottle experiment with a bananna and two fruit flies - with a screen to keep them in, population explodes exponentially ... for a while, until the capacity of bananna to support more generations is exhausted. Then the population falls off until eventually no survivors exist.

The sunlight powering this planet is like the air in the fruit fly experiment. It can get in and be used in an unlimited supply, but the ratio of usable raw materiels to waste products is continually changing as a function of the population.

We are stripping the sun's energy stored in the form of coal and oil faster that it can be used. We are taking carbon out of storage and putting it in the atmosphere. The ratio of waste products to usable resources in our environment is dynamically changing as a function of our population. Population growth in developed countries is already beginning to slow. The "exponential" curve of population has reached its knee, and is beginning to decrease it's rate.

A Klingon probverb states "Only a fool fights in a burning house."

Well folks, our symbolic environment in the form of science has been telling us that we are in a "burning house" since the 1960's. Half a century later we are still "fools" - save a very few.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Sunday, June 15, 2008 - 11:33 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Now that I have returned from my most recent dance lesson, I see that not all my prior post got on the board. Here is the continuation:

Can we learn to "really" cooperate?

The disputes within the Institute of General Semantics administration...

Each has a view of a possible and desired future for the role of general semantics in our culture as well as the Institute of General Semantics with respect to that role. But more than that each of us has both overt and covert conscious, as well as unconscious, needs and desires with respect to both what is to happen and how it to be achieved, and these three directions, overt conscious, covert conscious, and unconscious, often are not consistent with each others as both means and ends.

General semantics seminars in the past have included "organismic self-awareness" training - a step less than "analysis" that can halp bring some of the unconscious into our consciosness.

General semantics seminars in the past have include logic and mathematics training - particularly as applicable to Popper's philosophy of science - as well as consciousness of abstracting. This can help reduce fallacies in reasoning - bringing "logical fate" to the path from premiss to conclusion - enhancing concensus.

That leaves covert conscious means - which generally involve something like "my will over your will" - competition for some need satisfaction, not just the phisiological lower levels, but the higher levels too, and this is where awarenss of politics and the strength of our evolution as competitors can be used - hopefully to mitigate overt (and possibly some covert) disagreements.

Who likes to watch team sports or individual sports competions - such as the Olympics? Who likes to watch the stock market to see which companies are getting ahead of which? Who likes a mystery story? Who likes "Who-dun-it?" movies? Who wants their kids to get better marks that the other kids in school? Who wants to add to this list? That's a small sampling of what we're up against.

It ain't the best, but I think the United States Constitution with the approach of a govenment of laws modifable by concensus is a decent start.

Unfortunately, history has also told us that concensus limits us to mediocre solutions - the real genius - break out of the box - innovations do not come from group cooperation; they come from "maverick" individuals that break out of the restraints of concensus (read "conformity").

What shall we do?

Now that other posts have intervened...

David... Where does "us vs them" begin and end? Is general semantics not for all? You wrote I would hate to be a citizen in a world where any society whatsoever could become the “dominate training facility for selecting the placement of individuals according to their scientifically measured potential.” What do you think the premises of general semantics applying science more rigorously in every walk of life lead to? Van Vogt followed the premises to a clearly logical end. You see a loss of individual freedom in the strict and comprehensive application of scientific principles to social human behavior? It's probably a good thing that Korzybski did not keep the original title: "human engineering". Your example, however, doesn't fit, beacuse it was not "science"; it was intensionally dominate belief systems. As I have often said, "All manner of evil things has been done in the name of [multiple choice: a) Love, b) God, c) Family, d) Country, e) some of the above, f) all of the above, g) all of the above and many other reasons]".

James, "DOS" for your brain? DOS never worked very well, and windows is still worse. Both operate on linear, though asychronous processes. Our brains work on massively parallel archetecture. General semantics is a highly abstract and hence very limited model of the process of abstracting - written before significant brain science was known. It's much too abstract, weak, untested, and largely untestable.

Who said the Institute conducted research? Let's have a list of published results. The institute mostly prosteletized Korzybski's formulations, occasionally adding and incorporating something new once and a while, and occassionally embarassingly stopped mentioning some. "T-groups" and encounter were added. Organismic self awarenss was added. "Colloidal processes" fell by the wayside as not a major means of neurological processing.

Korzybski presented before nervous disease and mathematical societies with speculative claims. Were they ever tested thouroughly, as the commitment to science would dictate? Were they ever tested at all in any scientific way?

Here's what the institute needs to do.

1) Formulate every claim made for general semantics.
2) Describe how such a claim might be tested with scientific methods.
3) Identify any which do not admit of any means to be tested.
4) Indentify any research that may have been done that addresses any claim.
5) Apply rigorous scientific-mathematical analysis techninques to the result.

Out of this should come a list of
1) Corroborated claims
2) Disconfirmed claims
3) Untested but testable claims.
4) Untestable claims.

The Institute also needs an organ and process that tracks the latest scientific research results and integrates such results into the body of formulations, revising general semantics formulations as it goes along, as is a characteristic of a self-correcting system.

I had thought that that would have been some of the duties of the former category of "honarary Trustees" as in the earlier version of the bylaws of the Institute. "... Honary Trustee ... is in sympathy with the various aims and objectives of the Institute of General Semantics, and is willing to render advice and counsel on the Institute's activities, etc., related to his particular field." (Quoted from the 1947 bylaws)


"Sizzle" sells steak, because people have been conditioned to associate a sound with the satisfaction with a basic need - hunger. The "smell" sells popcorn without the layer of association, as we have millions of years of evolution associating the smells of food, though hot buttered popcorn has not been in our evolutionary history long, fat dripping on fire has - perhaps as long as "true" language. The smell of fat on a fire correlates directly with the experience of eating, but more closely than hearing because the sense of smell is a much older - phylogenetically speaking - sense. Chemical interactions form the basis of smell. Not so sound. Sound mechanically stimulates nerves that send signals to brains. We don't need brains to respond to chemicals - every little bacteria does it. (I told you the sense of smell was an OLD sense).

So the salesman's sound bites capture our attention, but a couple of more can be added.

A friend of my is fond of asserting that "perception is reality" in the marketing area.

Politicians say that if rumors are not denied, they become fact.

To "sell" general semantics it must be peddled like snake oil. It must be made to sound like something that will cure our ills... hmmm... Didn't Korzybki try that? - with the Nervous Disease people?

My Score business advisors have stated that the second most important thing to having a product (or service) is letting people know you have the product (or service).

Have we been doing that? Well enough? Can we say what our product is succinctly? Can we show that it does, in proven fact, satisfy some basic and important need?

What? You cannot say what general semantics "is"? You say we can't use the word "is"? ... That's an identification?

Well, then, Do we or don't we have a product? If so what IS it? ... preferrably in ten words or less. Can't do it? tisk, tisk, tisk... we can't tell anybody we have what we cannot say it is.

Heard enough?

Wait, there's more...