Jan 11, 2008

Typing Teachings, Movements, and Communities: Traders

By "traders" I am referring to the community of stock market and currency traders. Just as in backpacking, there are many different approaches to trading. Some people espouse a very technical approach, analyzing the technical characteristics of each trend in great detail, while others maintain an intuitive approach (in the non-socionic sense). Some people trade alone, while others discuss every move with their colleagues. On the whole, however, the integral type of the trading community seems to be LIE.

extraverted intuition: If there is a 'search' in trading, it is only for new information and approaches. However, this information is finite and potentially accessible to other traders, so when it is found, it is generally kept to oneself. Compared to backpacking -- a much more adventurous activity -- extraverted intuition receives even less emphasis among traders. Traders don't "go" anywhere, really.

extraverted sensing: Willpower and the desire to succeed and overcome obstacles is emphasized a lot more. The nature of trading means that many must fail in order for others to succeed. This fact injects a great deal of extraverted sensing into the community. People share stories of their financial ups and downs and how they pulled themselves together and overcame losses. However, this is not the primary subject of discussion among the community of traders.

extraverted logic: Technical details are the main emphasis in the trading community. People try out different trading platforms, indicators, methods, algorithms, systems, etc. and talk about the pros and cons of each in great detail (while taking care not to give their "secrets" away -- contrast that with the LSE backpacking community). People discuss facts about companies, markets, news, events, economic growth and decline, etc. and talk about how this might effect their stocks or currencies. We can see already that extraverted logic is applied in the context of introverted intuition (what is happening and what will happen; how one event is connected to another) rather than introverted sensing (what is needed and how to satisfy needs).

extraverted ethics: This aspect is just as repressed among traders as among backpackers. Trading is largely an individual pursuit, and success is experienced individually or in a small group, so there is no way group bonding or "fun" can occur.

introverted intuition: A great deal of foresight is required to trade, and traders encourage each other to try to envision what might happen and to be prepared for it and keep their calm when it does. Compared to backpacking, trading by definition involves a focus on the past and the future. "What do you think will happen?" is one of the most common questions among trading circles.

introverted sensing: Satisfying needs and taking proper care of yourself is deemphasized, as it seems to be almost irrelevant to success, which depends far more on the ability to guess right and see the future.

introverted logic: Just as in backpacking, in trading there are many viewpoints, but no "doctrine." In fact, the very nature of trading breaks down any doctrine; as soon as too many different people start thinking the same things and acting the same, someone else can step in and steal all their profits. This fact preserves a plurality of "doctrines" and makes practice and correct vision much more important than how well one understands trading gurus' writings. Success in trading is measured in dollar signs, not the ability to elucidate one's views.

introverted ethics: Ethics and morals are largely irrelevant to a trader's work. Compared to backpacking, there may be less value placed on introverted ethics among traders, or perhaps it is paired with extraverted sensing (emotionally supporting those you have material ties to) rather than with extraverted intuition (being nice to everyone in the world) as in backpacking? Compared to backpacking, the competitive and speculative nature of trading means that people are often nastier to each other. At the same time, if someone has experienced failure, the trading community will give him moral support and encouragement (after all, most people fail, so learning to keep one's head up and try again is key), whereas the backpacking community would chastise the person for any dumb mistakes made.

Typing Teachings, Movements, and Communities: Backpacking

To analyze the community of backpackers, I am going to have to slightly adjust the definitions I used to type teachings and religions so that they apply to the new context. For example, in a religious context extraverted logic is more about community service and building a rational, well-managed society. In the context of backpacking and other physical pursuits, extraverted logic is more about technical knowledge (esp. of equipment) that allows one to achieve the greatest results.

Where do we find the community of backpackers?
People of all different types backpack. Some go in groups for fun and relaxation. Others go solo and walk as far as they can. Some hike in 5 km, camp, and get drunk or stoned, while others meticulously build their hiking diet and count grams/ounces and calories. There are many different styles of backpacking, and many different levels of prowess and technical difficulty.

However, if you look at online backpacking communities where people talk about backpacking in the greatest depth, you find that not all viewpoints are equally represented. Some aspects of backpacking are discussed very little and are basically considered private or irrelevant, while others are discussed publicly in great depth. In other words, backpackers and the backpacking community are two different things. The first are hard to type, while the second is easy. When backpackers meet others on the trail or online, they tend to revert to the common language of the backpacking community. As I have discussed elsewhere, this is -- in my opinion -- the key to seeing what integral types (socionic 'types' of communities) are all about.

So, among the backpacking community:

extraverted intuition: The "searching" aspect of outdoor experience is welcomed in backpacking, but is not widely emphasized. People think of new adventures and look for new ways of experiencing backpacking and share them with other backpackers online and in person, but when discussing them they quickly switch to discussing the technical details of what they want to do or have done rather than focusing on the search itself.

extraverted sensing: Will and personal power are sometimes important aspects of backpacking, but they are not widely discussed in the backpacking community. In many circumstances the "will to succeed" and "overcome at all costs" is frowned upon, because you can die. The physical danger inherent in backpacking, the non-competitive nature of 99% of it, and the length of time spent outdoors means that people must be cautious and take care of themselves rather than try to overcome obstacles through the use of willpower. extraverted sensing is subdued in the community as a whole.

extraverted logic: Discussion of technical details and characteristics of gear, routes, food, etc. is ubiquitous in the backpacking community. "What is the route like?" "What backpack do you recommend?" "What are the advantages of a tarp over a tent?" etc. are extremely common questions asked. The answers require a knowledge of the technical characteristics (weight, fabrics, coatings, price, where to buy, who has used it, durability, etc.). The more of this kind of knowledge someone in the backpacking community has and shares, the more he is esteemed. In fact, in almost all cases the decision to join a backpacker's forum is based on the need to discuss and learn about technical details.

extraverted ethics: Emotional bonding and fun group experiences are not the main focus of the backpacking community. In fact, many serious backpackers hike solo, precluding any emphasis on extraverted ethics except for sharing adventures when they get back (where they still focus on technical details rather than the fun they had). For extraverted ethics, go to a children's summer camp, but not to a backpacking forum.

introverted intuition: The sublime, meditative, or spiritual aspect of communing with nature is rarely the object of public discussion among backpackers, though it can be read about occasionally in essays. Much more important than the ability to feel nature's vibes and experience inner growth and creativity is the ability to stay alive, warm, and well-fed by tending to one's physical needs and responding to outdoor conditions. introverted intuition is deemphasized and considered private.

introverted sensing: Developing the body and being attentive to its needs is of great importance in backpacking and is discussed all over the place in great detail. Community members encourage each other to maximize their physical enjoyment by improving gear, diet, and on-trail choices. Temperance, balance, and realism are upheld, as well as finding individual solutions to the physiological needs that come up in the outdoors. All of this is discussed in detail.

introverted logic: Backpacking has a poorly developed system of ideas, or 'doctrine,' so there is not much to study. Practice is considered far more important than study and correct interpretation of writings and principles. An public emphasis on introverted logic in the backpacking community would seem strange and hardly appropriate for the activity.

introverted ethics: The "moral" or "ethical" aspect of backpacking is rarely discussed outright, but it does receive emphasis. For instance, backpackers who "leave no trace" for those who come after them are applauded, while those who behave disrespectfully are condemned. The general culture of the backpacking community is one of great respect and courtesy, and people go out of their way to be polite and nice to each other. Compare this to the previously discussed communities of socionics and Gurdjieff, and you will see a stark contrast. However, politeness and civility are more values than topics of discussion.


Of the information aspects, extraverted logic clearly receives the most verbal emphasis in the backpacking community. Its complement, introverted ethics, is also clearly valued, though not discussed at length. Next we see a very strong emphasis on introverted sensing, with a rejection of the extraverted sensing approach, which would apply to competitive sports, but not to backpacking. So the integral type of the backpacking community, in my judgment, is LSE.

Backpacking in the Former Soviet Union (added 3/18/2008)

There are backpacking related activities where a extraverted sensing + introverted logic approach is more dominant, for instance group expeditions in severe conditions where a chain of command is an absolute necessity. In the Soviet Union this type of mountaineering was dominant and carried over to regular backpacking as well. Mountaineering clubs would apply a hierarchical chain of command and strict division of responsibilities in situations where it was not actually necessary, in effect "practicing" for future expeditions where such an approach would be vital. In the U.S. this would be called "army-style backpacking" or something like that. In the Soviet Union this style of organization was basically applied to any kind of collective work or production related activity and came from Communist ideals as implemented by Lenin (extraverted sensing introverted logic) and Stalin (introverted logic extraverted sensing).

In essence the whole field of mountaineering in the USSR and former USSR is geared towards preparing people for difficult mountain climbing expeditions. Hikes, passes, and summits are given different "categories," and hiking clubs structure their hikes to be at a certain category of difficulty so that they can receive a certificate and be recognized for their achievement. Even the regulations for visiting wilderness areas (which are usually ignored) were made with the assumption that backpackers would be visiting wilderness in organized groups having a clear chain of command. Only now is the practice of independent backpacking beginning to gain ground on the "machine" of organized mountaineering, in part due to the much greater ease of individual travel, the greater availability of consumer goods (including adventure gear), and the vastly greater amount of information now available from different parts of the globe and on forums and blogs. Such factors tend to weaken the monopoly of introverted logic + extraverted sensing systems.

This goes to show how the same type of activity can be given completely different information emphasis in different places depending on factors of a higher order.

Jan 5, 2008

The Socionics 'Game'

I would like to continue the ironic tone of my previous post and talk about what involvement in the socionics sociopsychological realm does to participants. I have a very low level of group affinity, so taking a detached look at the socionics community and comparing it to others out there comes easily to me.

In essence, I see the socionics community as a game or training ground where participants practice being ILEs. As I have already written, ILE is the integral type of socionics as a sociopsychological realm. Socionics "culture" is passed along through interpersonal interaction much more than through books and articles on the subject. If one simply stumbled across some writings on socionics and took no part in the socionics community, one might easily take the ideas or descriptive framework of socionics and inject one's own cultural values into them.

That is what happened to me. During my first year of studying socionics, I discussed it only with my immediate teacher and perused books and articles about it. I had no idea, for instance, that typing people could be a public event, that different people might have different opinions on people's types, or that there existed socionics based social groups where people gathered to socialize more than to learn or practice socionics. I was in for a shock when I came face to face with the introverted logic and extraverted ethics aspects of socionics culture that I hadn't foreseen at all: specifically, the focus on definitions and classifications and using socionics as a platform for social bonding and group formation.

When one is by oneself, one can apply bits and pieces of socionics or any other systems however they feel like. But when you get together with other socionics enthusiasts, you inadvertently switch to the "group language" -- which is ILE and Alpha quadra based. This means:

  • venturing forth any kinds of theories or hypotheses that might explain how things tie together (note: real-world phenomena, so extraverted intuition, not introverted intuition)
  • writing up your thoughts for peer review and discussion (logical analysis, especially with regards to theories rather than real-world actions/events = introverted logic)
  • sharing observations about "this type" or "that type" (observations are almost always within the context of a category -- introverted logic -- otherwise, they are not for general discussion)
  • bringing up new texts for discussion and to "figure out what it means" -- e.g. "have you read so-and-so's article on thinking styles?" (introverted logic and extraverted intuition focus, given the nature of the vast majority of socionics articles)
  • publicly typing everyone who shows up (putting people into impersonal categories = introverted logic)
  • livening up group interaction every now and then with fun and games (compensatory extraverted ethics and introverted sensing)

Maybe this all doesn't sound that remarkable. Maybe it applies to any sociopsychological realm? Well, let's imagine socionics had a completely different cultural focus...

  1. "Hey, come over to my house tomorrow. I'm going to be performing some socionics work on some people and I need your help. I can't figure out how to do a few things."
  2. "What does socionics say will match this shirt better? My old stonewashed jeans or these forest green slacks?"

  3. "My socionics experience for the day is that I felt angry at my friend for not inviting me to the party, but then I thought of how Gammas and Deltas interact, and I was able to forgive her inside of me." "Thank you. Does anyone else have anything to share?"

Obviously, to hear anything like this would be absurd and laughable to the extreme.

So basically, the socionics community offers us a place where we can practice generating insight and large-scale generalizations, hone our logical and analytical skills, use a bit of academic-like mumbo-jumbo now and then, and gain practice building charts and other graphics. It's pretty darn good mental training -- much like taking a couple college courses in logic or math analysis or something like that.


A common theme of social psychology is that our social behavior is a lot more programmed than we generally suspect. Alas, at times I feel sad that socionics turns people into unwitting ILE drones, me included (at least when I'm "in" socionics). It modifies people's natural tendencies, causing them to argue over things they wouldn't normally care about (as well as find humor in completely new places). If it's any comfort, the same happens in other established sociopsychological realms, so this is hardly unique to socionics.