Updated

Glossary

External links are indicated with 🌐. Other links are to this site.

A


Alexander Technique

A training of expanded awareness, often undertaken by actors, musicians, and athletes, with which to get out of one’s own way, and allow performance to flow instinctively. Some use it as a mindfulness practice to not only break habits of moving, but habits of speaking, thinking, feeling, and being. Invented in the early 20th century by F.M. Alexander (no relation to rationalist blogger Scott Alexander, or architect Christopher Alexander who set forth 15 fundamental properties of beauty).

B


Big Five personality traits

A framework of five personality traits commonly measured in psychology to form an overall description of someone’s personality. Openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism (sometimes given the acronym OCEAN).

C


civilizational redesign

Imagining detailed new ways of arranging, replacing, or redefining large institutions or systems, such as government, schools, a labor market, shipping, or inventing new institutions. Challenges include how to align short term incentives, how to correct against corruption, inflexibility, “cost disease” (costs of education and health care keep going up and no one is quite sure why) or the “principal agent problem” (a representative, authorized to act on behalf of someone else, has different priorities from them). Civilizational redesign might even extend to things such as changing physical housing stock, to make it easier to arrange one’s family structure in new ways, such as reinvigorating multi-generational family life, or multiple unmarried childless adult friends living together. All the pieces of civilizational redesign feed into each other.

comparative religion

Comparing and contrasting different ways to identify a problem at the root of the human condition; its solutions; ways to get to the solution; and those who are exemplars who have blazed that trail. Seen from modernity, religions are ways of providing truth claims which are either correct or incorrect. Seen from metarationality, each major category of religion considers a different problem to be fundamental to the human condition, and so, they should not be assumed to be providing answers to the same questions.[1] And, to a certain degree, many are not providing truth claims, so much as a ritual way of being. But that, too, is solving a different problem than one which is assumed to be solved with answers. On any topic, getting to what the problem or question is, is a big part of metamodernism.

consilience

Agreement between the approaches to a topic of different academic subjects, especially science and the humanities.

cognitive behavioral therapy

An approach to therapy for some types of depression or anxiety disorders for some people, under the belief that thoughts, emotions, and behaviors all influence each other. Through practice, you train yourself to notice and challenge yourself when you’re engaging in patterns, like blowing up something small into a catastrophe, making universalizing negative generalizations, assuming something reflects on you personally when it has nothing to do with you, all-or-nothing thinking, or filtering out positive things to only notice negative things.

D


developmental theory

Cognitive complexity continues to develop during adulthood. There are several models of this, such as that of Jean Piaget, the Integral Theory of Ken Wilbur, and the Spiral Dynamics model of Don Edward Beck, Christopher Cowan, and Claire Graves. Psychologists Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey have a model of five stages of cognitive development through increasingly complexity. Kegan has published popular books about it 🌐. Three of the stages occur during adulthood. He defines systematicity as the capacity to use “because this, therefore that” chains of justification, which is not needed or usable at stage three. Depending on whether you use Kegan/Lahey’s or Piaget’s tests, roughly 2/3 to 3/4 of adults remain at stage three even if they reach old age. Systematicity is solidified at stage four, roughly a quarter of the population. Systematicity is still needed and usable at stage five, but this brings the capacity to switch between systems when appropriate, or combine or create new ones. Stage five involves the recognition that developmental models themselves, while useful, are partial, approximate, and sometimes misleading. Developmental theory models are often applied to society, corresponding to the stages as applied to individuals. For example, Hanzi Freinacht identifies 🌐 animistic, faustian, postfaustian, modern, postmodern, and metamodern stages, reflecting Kegan & Lahey’s stage 2, 3, 3.5, 4, 4.5, and 5, respectively.

E


Effective Altruism

Effective Altruists 🌐 (“EAs”) rank charities by how effective they are at converting charitable donations into the measurable relief of human suffering, rather than by how the charities make donors feel. The movement is mostly popular with financially-successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and other technologists. Many Effective Altruists make two explicit claims:

  1. That they have a personal individual responsibility to change the entire world, globally.
  2. That the most effective way to do so, by far, is to have a financially-ambitious career, acquire as much money as possible through that career, and donate it.

empiricism

Empiricism is a philosophical stance, as distinct from that which is empirical. The traditional philosophical definition of empiricism is ignoring reasoning as inferior, in favor of observing with one’s eyes. Empiricism is contrasted with rationalism in its academic/specialist definition, a debate as old as the ancient world.

erisology

The study of disagreement.

F


fluidity

In his book Meaningness 🌐, David Chapman describes modes of social organization, ending with current-day atomization enabled by the internet, a kaleidoscopic stream of out-of-context bits of meaning, in which nothing fits together coherently. Fluidity 🌐 is a hypothetical next mode which there is no One Final Way, but unlike in atomization, there can be ways or a way. It restores the positives about each previous mode:

  • From the premodern era, a sense of secure meaning in community, without narrowness and material poverty
  • From the systematic mode’s elegance, effectiveness, and enabling of nation-scale institutions, without its oppressive rigidity
  • From the countercultural era (in the US, this was Hippies and the Moral Majority), the positivity, thickness and breadth, without their opposition to rationality (by the colloquial definition)
  • From the subcultural era (such as punk), the diverse and creative subsocieties, without their parasitism
  • From the atomized mode’s appreciation for nebulosity and provision of universal access, without its triviality

Chapman writes:

Fluidity incorporates the accurate insights of nihilism and [its opposite] eternalism, recognizing that meaningness is always both patterned and nebulous. Likewise, the fluid mode acknowledges structures of meaning without attempting rigid foundations. Its values are collaboration, creativity, improvisation, intimacy, disposability, aesthetics, and spiritual depth through community participation.

frame problem

The "frame problem” in artificial intelligence is to predict the effects of an action in a particular situation. First-principles reasoning usually doesn’t work well, because nearly any aspect of the situation might be relevant to the outcome. Rather, we rely on perception, habitual rule-of-thumb methods, and real-time improvisation. When those fail, we can usually clean up the mess without great difficulty, so we don’t need to anticipate all possible breakdowns.

G


Gendlin Focusing

A therapy technique that brings your explicit awareness to things that you are inexplicitly aware of at an unconscious level. The six steps 🌐 are: relax and stay aware of what’s happening inside your body; keep at a certain distance from that; attach a word, image, or phrase to it; go back and forth checking whether that word, image, or phrase feels right; ask a question about it; and linger for a moment in a friendly way on whatever happens.

H


hyperstition

A self-fulfilling prophecy. Sometimes an idea about people’s actions becomes real in their actual actions, and so, many social transformations take place when enough people believe they are taking place. A hyperstition is a prediction which causes itself to come true. It’s also true of many personal transformations. If you refuse to believe that you can start a company, for instance, that will make it harder to start one. Believing in yourself is necessary (although in itself it is not sufficient). “Hyperstition” is often praised as a solution to indecision and inaction: if you don’t know whether it’s true (so the reasoning goes) better to act as if it’s true, and find out, than to do nothing, and never find out. According to Sir Karl Friston’s theory of how the brain works, you move your body by predicting your body will move, which causes it to move. And so without hyperstition, you would be motionless. For another example, see quasimodernity.

I


Interintellect Salon

Interintellect 🌐 is an online salon held over teleconference on a regular basis since 2019. It hosts presentations and discussions on many of the topics discussed on this page. Some sessions of Interintellect are available on YouTube 🌐, but sessions can be attended live by joining the group on their website 🌐. Also see The Stoa.

Integral Theory

Ken Wilber’s personal and societal developmental theory of stages: orange, green, and yellow. Orange is mostly rationality by the academic/specialist definition, plus individualism and competition. Green feels spiritual and communal, but is sometimes opposed to rationality by the colloquial definition. Yellow corrects both, combines them, and switches between them as appropriate.

Internal Family Systems

An approach to psychotherapy which addresses the different parts of one’s self, with contradictory drives and functions, as if they were different people. You are more insistent with other people on some matters than you are of yourself. In other matters, you’re more forgiving of other people than you would be of yourself. And so on. In order to access your way of relating to others (more compassionate, holding them to a higher standard, or whatever is lacking), but apply it to your self, you roleplay your parts actually talking to each other. This helps you get along with yourself or coordinate with yourself, as you would get along with or coordinate with others. But only if you have correctly identified the parts. For example, a part which is prone to angry outbursts might be protecting another vulnerable part that was hurt in the past. Here is a transcript of a complete conversation in which the IFS modality is used 🌐.

J


K


kayfabe

A term from pro wrestling. A fake scripted competition with a predetermined outcome, that the audience pretends to believe is real with a wink and a nod. When wrestling (the original sport) began to be extremely boring but also high-risk, kayfabe emerged to increase interest and decrease risk, resulting in wrestling as a spectacle but not a sport. When large systematic institutions have a lot at stake in their success (again, boring and high risk), they decline into obsolescence and are no longer viable, at which point they can only perpetuate themselves with the spectacle of kayfabe.

L


legibility

One definition is from James C Scott’s “Seeing Like A State” 🌐. Nation-states, companies, and other large groups need to measure things in order to coordinate. So they need to change things to be measurable, and therefore more controllable, at a mass scale. This has been happening ever since the invention of agriculture, because grain is more measurable than many other foods. When all you have is a standardized cardboard box, you change things to fit in that size and shape even if most people don’t like the standard. Another definition of legibility concerns the ways human beings make themselves socially legible, fitting a standardized type (see this site’s page on Vibes). Postrationalists frequently talk about not wanting to be legible in this way.

M


metamodernism

Metamodernism 🌐 is contrasted with the premodern era, the modernity era, and the postmodern era. Metamodernism involves switching between systems, perspectives, and reference frames as necessary, using them as tools, not The One True Way. If you try to restore faith in individualism, science, democracy, & human rights by defeating postmodernism, you’ll find that awkward, because postmodern criticisms are correct. Metamodernism, however, also values systems as crucial, so long as they are not fixed as The One True Way. Metamodernism combines the benefits of modernity with the postmodern critique, to construct a positive future.

metarationality

Metarationality 🌐 evaluates, selects, combines, modifies, discovers, and creates rational methods, rather than following existing ones by rote. Rational methods are rationality by its academic/specialist definition. Do not mistake metarationality for irrationalism or anti-rationalism, which oppose rationality by its colloquial definition.

modernity

The late nineteenth century, and most of the twentieth, was the height of modernism, which scaled up to social structures with more people, requiring legibility and abstract impersonal formulaic processes and procedures (“rationality” under the academic/specialist definition) which served as a labor saving device to make that possible.

N


noosphere

The sphere of human consciousness and mental activity, especially in regard to its influence on the biosphere and in relation to evolution. Our environment can be thought of as a complex system of interactions between lithosphere (ground), atmosphere (air), hydrosphere (water), biosphere (life), and noosphere (the techno-social complex formed of laws, markets, norms, technological inventions, and psychological motivations).

O


P


postmodernism

The critique of modernity. The abstract impersonal formulaic processes and procedures of modernity were systems of “because of this, therefore that” justifications, in theology, politics and supply chains, in which the labor saving aspect had gotten so far out of control that they became a blind idiot god with no one really in charge. Modern systematicity acted as though there is One Right System and it can be applied not locally, but globally, by a centralized system. Postmodernists pointed out this centralizes power to whoever already has it. They also pointed out it’s not acting on an accurate understanding of reality.

postrationalism

Some rationalists decided they don’t want to be part of that movement any more. The postrationalists mostly operate on Twitter in a community called TPOT (This Part Of Twitter). They do not have any disagreements with rationalists on specific claims. What they don’t like is rationalists’ way of talking, their vibe, sounding like they’re all up in their heads and impersonal. Most post-rationalists emphasize dancing, music, sexual attractiveness, fashionable dress, exercise, meditation, procreation, having a good cry, and poetry. Lots of rationalists were already doing these things, but with the wrong vibe. Where rationalism emphasizes making accurate predictions, postrationalism emphasizes how people make each other feel and what they mean to each other. They also don’t like to be legible.

premodern

A mode of social organization based on relationships and tradition, which was suitable to coordinate a multi-generational village. You do things because you are unaware of any other choice; everyone you know has always done it that way. Sense-making was pre-packaged. When Francis Bacon invented progress 🌐, he was considered weird for his suggestion that because of our actions, the house your great-grandparents built might not be the same house your great-grandchildren live in. When we began to justify things with an explanations, this led to the expectation that things should be explained and justified, which had not previously been necessary. It could be considered the dawn of modernity.

pseudo-pomo

A simplistic reduction of all systematicity as always being in the service of power and nothing else. An expression of a pre-systematic stage of personal development as in developmental theory. Pseudo-pomo replaces systematicity with the naked self-interest of identitarianism, i.e., loyalties to personal particularisms and relationships. Examples of systematicity include elections, education and credentialing, law, medicine, science, or neutrality in journalism, all of which are to be replaced by premodern small groups. Those who are pseudo-pomo expect this to work at a societal scale through the same sky magic which they assumes delivers food to their table, clean water to their faucets, and cat photos to their phone. Further reading at "Postmodernism Vs The Pomoid Cluster 🌐 by John Nerst.

Q


quasimodernity

This word is not commonly in use, and has no accepted standard meaning, because it was invented so there would be a word in this glossary beginning with Q. But if this word came into usage due to being invented for this glossary, that would be an example of hyperstition, similar to what happened to Agloe, New York 🌐.

R


rationalism (academic/specialist definition)

Rationalism is a philosophical stance, distinct from rationality, which is a thing you do. The traditional philosophical definition of rationalism means ignoring the evidence of one’s eyes as inferior, in favor of reasoning from first principles. This contrasts with empiricism, a debate as old as the ancient world.

rationalism (Silicon Valley definition)

The 21st century movement branding themselves Rationalists 🌐 seek to improve the ability to make decisions and accurate predictions, reducing perceptual limitations, fantasies, preconceptions, ignorance, self-interest, and social group bias. Bayesian probability is popular in this movement. It emerged from guest posts by Eliezer Yudkowsky in economist Robin Hanson’s blog Overcoming Bias 🌐 2006-2009, which led to the movement’s central website Less Wrong 🌐 in 2009, when Yudkowsky wrote The Sequences 🌐. Other popular online rationalist communities include Scott Alexander’s blog 🌐 which has meetups all over the world. 21st-century Rationalists were inspired in part by ideas which floated around in the thought-soup from C.S. Peirce’s 1878 “How To Make Our Ideas Clear”, Alfred Korzybski’s General Semantics in the 1930s, & W.V. Quine’s 1951 “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”, a lot of science fiction, & Zen Buddhism, among others. (See Rationalism Before The Sequences 🌐 by Eric S. Raymond.)

rationality (colloquial definition)

Thinking and acting in deference to the preponderance of evidence and reasoning. Contrast with anti-rational, irrational, wishful thinking, magical thinking, pretending, coping mechanisms, rationalizations, and the loyalty of insider-group favoritism.

rationality (academic/specialist definition)

Formal, systematic, explicit, technical, abstract, atypical, non-obvious ways of thinking and acting, which have some distinctive virtue relative to informal ways. Often involving methods or techniques. Rationality often involves explicitly thinking through formal rules, or a formulation which abstracts a problem to eliminate irrelevant detail. Contrast with mere reasonableness, which most of us perform throughout a typical day without thinking it through with language: improvised, implicit, concrete, and so obvious as to need no attention or explanation. See systematicity.

S


secular meditation

Meditation methods that don’t refer to, or depend on, any particular religious or cultural framework. That makes them broadly available and easily approachable. It also helps avoid dubious metaphysical baggage. On the other hand, secular meditation systems tend to be watered down, and so may not take you very far. They may also inherit errors and risks from their sources in religious traditions, in ways that can be difficult to notice until too late.

sense-making

Sense-making 🌐 is the process by which people give meaning to their collective experiences. The inability to do this is sometimes called the meaning crisis, and often implicated in the inability to solve other emergencies.

solarpunk

A political aesthetic movement of art and stories, started on blogs, mailing lists, and Tumblrs, to inspire a desirable way to imagine an ecologically-sustainable future. It attempts to replace dystopia in the public imagination of the future. “Solar” for ecology and brightness; “Punk” because it is a subculture; an aesthetic; a vibe.

Stoa, The

www.thestoa.ca 🌐 is an online salon held over teleconference on a regular basis since 2020. It hosts presentations and discussions on many of the topics discussed on this page. Sessions of The Stoa are available on YouTube 🌐, but sessions can be attended live by backing their Patreon 🌐. Also see Interintellect Salon.

systematicity

The capacity of an individual or a society to master rationality (by its academic/specialist definition). When a civilization or society has this capacity, that is modernity. When an individual has this capacity, that is the fourth stage of psychologist Robert Kegan’s five-stage developmental theory.

T


TPOT

An acronym that stands for This Part Of Twitter, a Twitter community known mainly for postrationalism and just vibing. They try to keep themselves illegible (i.e. confusing) so that they cannot be categorized and attract a Twitter mob. Frequent participants in TPOT call themselves Ingroup. From this, in March of 2022, there sprung Vibecamp, an in-person gathering of more than 400 Twitter users at a children’s summer camp outside Austin, Texas.

U


unconference

At an unconference, the attendees decide what the sessions will be about during the event itself. They break off into discussion groups, based on which attendees want to talk about which proposed topics. Some entire events are unconferences, while other events have an unconference component. There are a variety of systems for attendees to self-organize. Forrest Landry has a related system called Ephemeral Group Process 🌐.

V


Vibes

A vibe involves a momentary sensory impression, a mood, an emotional texture, and a stance (a position which has more to do with an attitude than a worked-out ideology). Art subcultures express a vibe through music & clothing, but many other subcultures express a vibe through jargon & linguistic tics. The Crystal Palace had a Queen Victoria vibe, the Merry Band Of Pranksters bus in the 60’s had Ken Kesey’s vibe, 90’s subcultures especially had vibes like punk rock musicians, but vibes in our internet-atomized mode of social organization are more fleeting and combinatorial. It’s not just people who have vibes-- a scene especially has a vibe. “Vibing with” a group means synchronizing with other people present. However, Fluidity Forum is intended to have multiple simultaneous vibes, none of which is dominant.

VUCA

An acronym which stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity.

W


weirding

The Great Weirding was a period of time from 2008 onward (dramatically accelerating in 2016), in which the world woke up to the accelerating collapse of industrial-age normalcy. In a series of essays 🌐 on the blog Ribbonfarm, Venkatesh Rao introduced the concept of The Great Weirding, and declared we are entering the Permaweird. “A relentless parade of decade-sized weeks.” World events don’t fit into a clear narrative, as factions of “heroes” and “villains” reverse their places to take opposite positions. They have always done so, but it has sped up, so the situation isn’t stable for any meaningful time. And some phenomena are not personal; impersonal events cannot be blamed on, or credited to, the team with which you identify or antagonize, as easily as before. Without a stable narrative, most people “lost the plot” and were left permanently unsettled.

X


x-risk

When people think that something can cause everyone to stop existing, those who think so will call it an x-risk. X is shorthand for an existential threat, i.e. a threat to existence.

Y


Z



  1. This analysis of comparative religion borrows a lot from “God Is Not One” 🌐 by professor of religion Stephen Prothero. ↩︎