Feb 27, 2007

An Integrated Social Science

One of the topics I think about a lot is the nature and workings of human society and the role of different kinds of people in society. Science seems to have an insufficient understanding of these things at the moment. Sociology studies society at a whole, minimizing the role of the individual or of different kinds of individuals. Psychology studies the individual, but doesn't look at the implications of differing personalities on society as a whole. Personality psychology studies individual differences, but not the results of these differences. Social psychology examines the mechanisms of social relations, but not the differences between individuals. Economics describes production-related behavior on the micro and macro scale, but doesn't consider how production niches are pursued on an individual scale, or the psychological and biological basis for choosing different niches. Political science tries to understand the nature of power structures, but not the role of different kinds of people within them. And so on. (Please correct me if you are competent in any of the fields I have listed and believe I am misrepresenting them.)

Do you sense that the picture is incomplete - that the social sciences lack an overarching philosophical framework? I certainly do. Basically, what is missing today is an integral approach that would put each of these separate fields in their proper perspective and show how individual differences between people play out on the psychological, interpersonal, societal, economic, and political level - in addition to recognizing the commonalities between people that are already described well by these fields.

An integrated social science would show how the societal level reflects upon the individual and how the individual level reflects upon the societal. We would know what kind of people rise to power in different circumstances and different kinds of power systems, as well as the psychological effects on the individual of living under different power systems. We would know what kinds of people are responsible for generating different kinds of social relations and movements and would understand which economic and political conditions bring which tendencies to the forefront.

I'll bet some readers might think I'm going to suggest that socionics can provide this framework. More zealous socionists indeed see socionics as precisely this kind of overarching philosophical framework. However, I am skeptical, because of the underdeveloped empirical basis of socionics. I don't think modern social science will accept a philosophical framework that introduces arbitrary new categories without demonstrating that they are essential to an understanding of phenomena. This would go against Occam's razor. Socionics as a discipline, however, can be very useful to the individual, even if a lack of empiricism often makes dialogue difficult between socionists. At the very least, it has opened my eyes to a lot of very interesting phenomena. If socionics develops an empirical backing, it may be able to provide very valuable insights to contribute to an integral social science.

I personally know of two approaches which are working towards an integral social science. One is Ken Wilber's "integral psychology," which attempts to integrate worldwide esoteric teachings regarding different states of consciousness and developmental stages with modern psychology and sociology. This is very interesting, but so far Wilber seems to have barely touched on such fields as economics and political science. Also, he focuses at the subjective experience of individuals much more than things that can be objectively measured, which may lead to problems with future scientific research in the field. Nonetheless, this approach seems promising.

The other approach is the ever-expanding paradigm of Darwinian evolution and natural selection. Evolution has been successfully applied to physiology and - as of the mid-20th century - to human behavior (via evolutionary psychology). In the late 1970s a new field of inquiry - "memetics" - was born that attempted to apply the concept of replicators to social phenomena (mainly trends, fads, belief systems, ideas), as well as the development of the brain.

Philosopher Daniel Dennett has described the theory of evolution as "universal acid" - a substance that eats through anything, even the container that holds it or the ground that it drops onto. Dennett and others have tried to show how evolution brings us to a new understanding of value systems and morality - areas far removed from what natural selection was originally intended to explain. Incrementally, Darwinism is being applied to more and more of the social sciences.

In my opinion, evolution by natural selection is the concept that is most likely to establish a common framework for understanding the social sciences and the interrelations between them. This process seems to be well underway. In psychology (especially in the West) non-empiric approaches are gradually being marginalized (Freudian psychoanalysis, transpersonal psychology, humanistic psychology, and others), despite their intuitive appeal. As more and more empirical instruments are being developed - primarily through the use of computers and information technologies - it is becoming easier and easier to test hypotheses in the social sciences. And evolution is the theory with the firmest empirical basis in probably all of modern science.

Despite the lack of genuinely empirical studies and fundamental research in socionics, I believe its basic principles actually fit very well into the evolutionary paradigm. I have explained how in a separate article that is all about socionic phenomena but makes no mention of socionics itself. Evolution can help explain why there are differences between people and why there are different varieties of personal relationships.

As socionics and personality psychology develop more clever and effective tools for empirical research, it should become easier to detect defining differences between people. For example, height and weight might be very easier to measure, but they probably play a much less definitive role in interpersonal relationships than other, externally invisible factors. Some people today say of personality typologies that they are unsupported by scientific research and thus are "baloney," but they are wrong. Science has not yet developed the tools to detect definitive personality differences that have been evident to people for thousands of years who have observed these differences in the course of their day-to-day interaction with others. The fact that these differences have been described in different words using different systems does not mean that they do not exist objectively.

Evolution is also helping out the social sciences by highlighting parallels between the animal world and humans' social relations that allow us to look at our species from without and gain a wider perspective. Those who research wild dogs, primates, lions, and other animals which are genetically not far removed from humans find a wide span of personalities, social relationships ranging from altruistic friendship to domination and submission, and social structures that share close similarities to those we find in our own species. Research in genetics and neurobiology, now part of the evolutionary framework, is constantly adding new pieces to the puzzle.

Natural selection - which raises our understanding of competition to a whole new level - can help us understand what's really going on behind the scenes of economic interaction and production. The concepts of comparative advantage and production niches - which are fundamentally Darwinian - apply just as much to human relationships as they do to national economies, as some economists have suggested (I wish I could cite something here).

A consideration of evolutionary factors affecting personal relationships would also help flesh out socionics, which currently suffers from its appearance of maximalism. Socionics seems to simplify some aspects of personality and relationships and has a hard time accounting for characteristics that depart from what is described by its model. Many socionists would disagree with me, saying that by introducing such concepts as "accented functions," one can add flexibility to the socionics model. However, socionics cannot explain why some people's functions would be "accented" in the first place (except by assuming some previous intertype influence on the person that led to a continual emphasis of that function). Economics, psychology, and social psychology - underpinned by evolution - on the other hand, can provide simpler explanations for departures from socionic patterns.

Obviously, a lot of research remains to be done, and it is unlikely that socionics would become part of any integral social science without undergoing some sort of metamorphosis in order to become more like a natural science. The same can probably be said of other social sciences. But this is what might well happen in the future as our technology and scientific understanding advances.

Feb 26, 2007

Balancing the Internal and the External

As Jung explained, each person has both extraverted and introverted mechanisms, but betrays his dominant orientation under pressure and in times of stress. Each of us has a certain tendency to take one's own instrument a bit too far and ignore the other side of life, unconsciously expecting that "the socium" - i.e. society and the people around us - will take care of the rest for us. Often they do, baited by our valuable Ego-block "goods."

But other times, for various reasons, no one comes to the rescue. This is the chronically imbalanced (and often non-dualized) individual. Even dualization doesn't completely fix the problem of finding a balance between the internal and the external. With a dual nearby, one may find that, after an initial balancing-out where partners "soak up" each other's strengths and build up their own Super-id block, yet more energy is loosed to direct towards one's strengths, and the problem of keeping balance simply moves up to the next level of self-realization.

This is why, after the mechanisms of dualization have done their work and the hormone bath of passionate love is past, self-development requires will and effort. You need to consciously value the areas that balance you out and strive to maintain them and not let them go down the tubes as you coast down the road of least resistance.

For extratims, the path of least resistance is to be drawn into the external world with its chatter, competition, interchange, and rewards so much that you cease to maintain and develop your inner world or do the hard work of improving your skills and thoughts.

For introtims, the path of least resistance is to focus on developing and improving inner products and experiences that either have little or no real-world application, or you simply neglect the task of introducing people to them.

Examples of these are easy to find around us. However, successful people of extraverted and introverted types alike display competency in both the extraverted and introverted realms. Some examples:

Charles Darwin (ILI) was a pronounced introvert who almost spent too long of a time developing his ideas and could have missed his chance to be the first to publish them. However, he made the effort and carefully wrote a book that others would understand easily (and not only himself, which some ILIs are prone to do).

Vladimir Horowitz (ESE) was an extraverted performer who managed to take the time early on to submit himself to concentrated discipline and meticulously develop the piano skills necessary to achieve fame.

Garrison Keillor (IEI) is a rather quiet introvert who made the effort to take his rich inner experiences public and create a radio show that people would actually listen to.

Thomas Huxley (IEE), "Darwin's bulldog," was a master at exchanging ideas and engaging public discourse who took the time to become a specialist in his field (and not just chat about everything that is interesting as some IEEs are prone to do) and work on his understanding of different theories to the point that he could recognize Darwin's as being superior.

As we can see, great achievements involve a combination of internal and external effort. The internal component creates quality and depth, and the external is responsible for correctly assessing societal needs, expectations, and competition.

Feb 23, 2007

The Man Who Can Move Anything

Wally Wallington is a man who can singlehandedly move very heavy objects - not with the aid of machinery or even brute strength,but rather using simple mechanical means.

Here is a 6-minute video showing him moving many-ton stones using techniques that he believes may have been used to build Stonehenge.

First, some non-socionic insights on the nature of invention.

What this man has done might not seem too incredible. Anyone might have come up with this if they had just thought about it long enough. In fact, most inventors would agree that "ingenious ideas" come simply after thinking about things long enough.

Some ideas come through reflection and concentrated thought. Others come only through activity and application. It may be a common Myers-Briggs stereotype that intuitive types are more inventive, but socionics basically accepts that people of all types can be equally inventive, but they tend to display it in different ways. More generally, people demonstrate inventiveness and competency in areas related to their strong functions and conservatism (and often incompetency) in their weak areas.

So, now on to the man's socionic type.

As I have said, we can't type the man based on his inventiveness alone or even on the field of his inventiveness. What he has shown in practice, someone else might have been able to describe in theory. However, the process by which he arrived at his invention suggests sensing. He had to have the persistence and patience to spend long hours doing essentially physical activities and obtain enjoyment from them. Everything in this video suggests that the day-to-day process of turning stones, building scaffolding, and shifting weights around in clever ways is an enjoyable "flow" experience for him. Since these things engage physical receptors and involve direct physical contact with objects, we can associate this with sensing.

If he were intuitive, we would expect him to have spent just enough time on practical applications to get the general idea and realize that this was possible. He would very likely have spent a greater proportion of his time, for example, on looking for information in books on ancient construction techniques.

The other dichotomy that is easy to observe is logic. Wallington is not at all emotionally expressive, but speaks in a plain, matter-of-fact style about what he is doing and the characteristics of the blocks. When the huge stone falls into place, his enthusiasm is incredibly restrained: an expressionless "looks good" is all he says about it while everyone claps.

Now, which "vertness" of these elements dominates? extraverted logic or introverted logic? extraverted sensing or introverted sensing?

Since he is concerned with the logic of objects themselves - and not systems or interrelations between objects - we can suppose that this is extraverted logic. This is supported by the fact that it is clearly extraverted ethics that Wallington "suppresses" - not introverted ethics. He keeps a lid on all displays of emotion and excitement.

Next, it seems that Wallington's focus is on introverted sensing rather than extraverted sensing. He is not out there to "conquer" or "subdue" the stones, but rather to enjoy himself. Erecting things is clearly a pastime that he is happy to enjoy in solitude. His general air is one of relaxation and not mobilization.

Now we are down to two options - LSE and SLI. Both are very credible, but SLI seems more likely due to his relaxedness and air of simplicity and down-to-earthness. However, these are also common characteristics of LSEs, so I can't rule that out until I read more about him.

Feb 9, 2007

IQ and Socionic Type: The Smartest Man in the World

What socionic types would you expect to have the highest IQs?

How well does IQ reflect your ideas of intelligence?

What is intelligence?

These are some things to reflect upon when viewing this video about the smartest man in the world - Chris Langan - who has an IQ of around 195:
part 1 - part 2 - part 3 (around 10 minutes each)

I have an opinion about his type. What do you think? (please comment)

I will present my version of his type in exactly one week, on February 16th.

VOTE COUNT (voting now closed!)

We have 8 votes here:
LSI - 2
ILI - 2
Visitors are pretty sure he is a logical type (7 out of 8) and are split 50-50 regarding rational/irrational, extratim/introtim, and sensing/intuition.

If we add votes from the thread at the16types, taking care not to count people's votes twice, we get the following combined statistics (counting only the clear votes where people gave one version):
ILE -2
LSI - 3
ILI - 3
LSE - 4
(also given as alternate options were EIE and SLI)
Now everyone is basically certain he is a logical type (14 out of 15), and a slight majority thinks he is extraverted (9 out of 15), rational (9 out of 15), and sensing (9 out of 15).


First, let's work on formulating our observations from the videos and try to find some words and phrases we think would describe him well, and some that would describe him poorly.

Describe him well:
- tough
- controlled
- self-contained
- [potentially] controlling
- not easily intimidated
- physically confident
- demanding thinking style
- coherent thought processes
- highly verbally proficient
- highly confident of his own judgments
- prone to make harsh judgments
- even, matter-of-fact speaking style
- restrained smiles and laughter
- uses some crude comparisons
- prefers strong statements

DO NOT describe him well:
- meek
- mild
- emotional
- externally expressive
- fidgety
- flighty
- finicky
- easy-going
- light-hearted
- bubbly
- bursting with ideas
- tangential
- wishy-washy
- constantly on the move
- unconventional appearance
- distant
- absent-minded
- dreamy
- imaginative
- enjoys speculation
- unsure of himself physically

Note that most, but not all of these traits are closely related to socionic types and dichotomies. We are simply "flexing" our observation muscles and making sure we are able to generate accurate descriptions of the person we are studying, regardless of how we diagnose his type.

That being said, I am convinced he is an LSI.

In my opinion, Langan's most outstanding trait is his sense of controlledness of behavior and thought. He continually submits his thoughts and behavior to certain strict bounds, of which he is highly aware. This is an expression of introverted logic. Every thought is carefully and confidently expressed. There is no room for doubt or vacillation (there may be in his worldview, but it is not a part of his dominant behavior). Thoughts are clearly delineated and judgments are well thought-out and often harsh and absolute. His movements are well-controlled and contained and convey a sense of restraint and confidence. No wonder he is a convincing bar bouncer.

Langan frequently demonstrates extraverted sensing - not only via his "mobilized" physical state, but also in his speech. He makes frequent use of strong words and phrases like "I booted his ass out of the house" and "our country is led by a bunch of dunces." Such phrases and their accompanying intonation show agressiveness and a readiness to back up one's words with decisive action or force if necessary.

Here's Wikipedia's biography of Langan for additional insight.