agreement/alignment nonmonotonicity postulate with intimations towards rigorousness

Say there is person or group A and person or group B.

A and B agree-ish and/or align-ish on or with respect to X and disagree or disalign on or with respect to Y.

(X and Y could be norms (like driving on a particular side of the road), so, in that case, the content of X and Y wouldn’t matter so long as everyone is in agreement. Or, X and Y can be closer to “truths,” where the specifics matter as such—but, even in that case, there’s something normative going on, in how a “truth” is mutually “formatted,” “symbolized,” “situated,” “expressed,” “utilized,” “enculturated,” “contextualized,” “accommodated,” etc.)

We could say that A and B, with their agreement/alignment on or with respect to X share a local close-enough isomorphism with respect to X.

The word “local,” above, is important! (There might be a better, more precise word.)

I use “local” because, generally (not universally, that is, at-least-always-sometimes-and-at-least-often-but-not-always-without-exception), here is a postulate about the human mind:

Call this Mark’s Agreement/Alignment Nonmonotonicity Postulate:

(postulate part 1a)

Sometimes, if a persons/groups A and B believe/agree/align on X and disbelieve/disagree/disalign on Y (granting, here, that both X and Y are true/good/something), all things being equal, person A must first disbelieve X before believing[/agreeing/aligning] on both X and Y.

(Here, the disbelieving is what leads to the disagreeing and disaligning.)

/(postulate part 1a)

(postulate part 1b)

The first part of this postulate (1a) is true for some person (A or B) even if that someone has read parts (1a) and (1b) of this postulate. That is, personal knowledge of postulate part 1a does not exempt someone from having belief dynamics according with postulate part 1a.

/(postulate part 1b)

What postulate part 1 implies is that, the process of coming to more global agreement generally has at least transient disagreement built in at a very fundamental level. That is, if there’s seeming local agreement, generally, even that local agreement isn’t stable during the process of coming to more global agreement.

This is counterintuitive, that local agreement can suddenly become disagreement, and that total disagreement seems to be increasing, and that this can be a good global thing even if as the process of coming to agreement might be coming closer to breaking down entirely. Watching for this may be helpful for riding out the increase in local disagreement.

(postulate part 2a)

All things being equal, one can’t assign much credence in advance at to whether they’re A or B or whether any particular belief/agreement/alignment is X or Y.

/(postulate part 2a)

(postulate part 2b)

Personal knowledge of postulate part 1 does necessarily convey information about whether one is A or B or whether any particular belief/agreement/alignment is X or Y.

/(postulate part 2b)

Postulate part 1 is a claim about how (body)minds work. If some person or party claims part 1 is true, and some second party comes to believe or provisionally grant that part 1 is true, that second party may also assign higher credence in other claims by the first party being true. And, so, knowledge of postulate part 1 and its statement can be statements of power and therefore potentially coercive.

Imagine a second party saying to the first: “We agree about X and disagree about Y. I claim Y is also true. I also claim that you will disagree with me on X before you agree with me on Y. Given those claims, I also claim that any future disagreement about X is at least a weak sign that I’m right about both X and Y.”

Postulate part 2 is is indirectly derivable from postulate part 1 (not done here) and is stated “top-level” because it’s something of a corrective on part 1 being used in a potentially coercive way.

So, postulate part 2 could be used as a bit of shibboleth, in that if someone states part 1 and does not state part 2, then something wonky might be going on with that someone in terms of how they’re relating to the process of coming to agreement.

(postulate part 3a)

Finally, recursing on part 2, a person knowing postulate parts 1 and 2 does not exempt someone from postulate parts 1, 2, and 3. That is, again, all things being equal, one can’t assign much credence in advance at to whether they’re A or B or whether any particular belief/agreement/alignment is X or Y. Which is to say, the corrective of part 2 doesn’t necessarily make someone “better” on any particular dimension including on the “knowing postulate part 2” dimension and the “knowing postulate part 3” dimension.

/(postulate part 3)

(postulate part 3b)

And, so, coming to know/believe/agree/align on which X and Y are true, useful, etc., is facilitated by and may require non-zero egalitarianism and humility for both A and B. That is, seeming certainty, non-provisionality, or a belief in “completely/perfectly dominating special knowledge with respect to X or Y” will destroy the group truth-seeking/agreeing/aligning process.

/(postulate part 3b)

Further, provisionally assuming the above, any joint epistemological/aligning process must be resilient to non-zero strife, friction, etc., in principle, in order to have a chance of succeeding.

And, to meta-agree, to jointly make an environment somehow truly safe for disagreement, and therefore the possibility of more global alignment, may be a sociology-complete/civilizational-complete problem in the limit.

Seamless Hyphenation [draft]

Sometimes people who are *not* novelists, bloggers, entrepreneurs, management consults, programmers, parents, financiers, CEOs, politicians, scientists, traders, consultants, models, etc., find that they want to *become* novelists, bloggers, entrepreneurs, management consults, programmers, parents, financiers, CEOs, politicians, scientists, traders, consultants, models, etc.

Sometimes it seems doable, or one can do some low-cost experimenting to see what it might be like; one has enough time, enough savings, few enough obligations. Though, sometimes it seems like that ship has sailed–too little time, too little energy, money, health, youth, something.

(All of this applies to not only “career,” “income,” “impact,” something. All of this also applies to things like wanting to be cool, loved, loving, confident, etc., too.)

In any case, I think people often oscillate between, on the one hand, excitement and optimism about becoming something different, and, then, on the other hand, at least at the extremes(!), a sense of resignation, futility, or despair.

People do change their lives, all the time, of course. People accidentally find their niche, or have an epiphany, or a catch a break. Something “just starts working.” And/but, people also have the intuition that some kinds of big life changes can be quite hard, can realistically take years or a decade, and often involve some kind of safety net, which might just be youth; or parental support; or savings from a former, high-paying life; or hard-won, opportunity-costly knowledge about how to be frugal; or a tremendously supportive community, or other significant resources.

In any case, a question one might ask, is how might someone *systematically* become something/someone different? (And what are the pitfalls and paradoxes involved in that!?) And, here, for the moment, we’re at least *temporarily* setting aside questions of food, shelter, money, opportunity cost–just, what are the gears-level things that need to happen, for true, deep, change, on the level of, say, “deep bodymind”?

Those gear-level things are somewhat outside the scope of this blog post, but there are at least two reasons that change of this kind is so hard. One is at least counterintuitive, and the other is at least paradoxical.

The counterintuitive thing is just how much, how expansively, how seemingly heterogeneously the things are, that sometimes need to change, for a person to change. One typically doesn’t have a model, a feel, a sense, of what all these things might be. They all fit together at “the level of mind,” but teasing them out, semi-explicitly, can look pretty weird. It’s maybe stuff like this:

  • self
  • personhood
  • world
  • universe
  • eschatology
  • cosmology
  • the experiential/phenomenological field

The above items aren’t mutually exclusive, though they’re arranged somewhat in order of expansiveness or inclusivity. You might note that I phrased it above as these items *themselves* need to change. That might seem kind of weird–the “universe” needs to change, for you or your life to change?

What I really mean is that your “model” of “the universe” needs to change, rather, the “very preflective seeming” that is, in part, your “physically embodied, moment-by-moment anticipations” that somehow involve “the universe,” that need to change. (One’s “model” could be the reflective, explicit part of that.)

People change, all the time, for much less. But, sometimes, the whole universe needs to change.

Items in the list above might be counterintuitive for different reasons, but I want to focus, in particular, on “personhood.”

People often have the experience, even when they kind of like the different parts of their life, of all those parts not quite fitting together. Something is bursting at the seams. But, their life goes on, their relationships continue, maybe indefinitely, their career continues, maybe indefinitely. So, it’s not exactly the “external” roles and obligations that are bursting at the seams, they just keep happening, steady state, but instead one’s “sense” of all of it, one’s embodied feeling, sense, deep-down planning, the constellation of sensory anticipations and physical actions that make up them doing all of that:

Somewhere there’s a little bit of shearing, a little bit of grinding, a little bit of jamming, and so there’s some stress, some shortness with loved ones, some muscle tension, ongoing “unsurprising surprise,” because something, somewhere isn’t able to learn.

For there to be, instead, costless ease, a seamless life, sometimes a person’s very concept of a person needs to change, maybe subtly.

The way this goes, is, usually, a person’s intuitive concept of all the ways a person can be becomes more expansive, the basis vectors change, and then a pin is dropped, on the map: YOU ARE HERE…and perhaps you could be THERE. The voice can be soft. The reconfiguration profoundly shocking. This is sometimes on such a low, low level–the sensemaking of the blooming, buzzing confusion–it changes.

So that’s the counterintuitive piece; now, there’s the paradoxical one.

We’ve all heard things like this before, “what you resist, you’re stuck with.”

There’s such danger in “deliberate, systematic, directed,” change. First, where we’re pointed is usually somehow incorrect, some deep error of conceptualization or misunderstood personal preference, ignorance about the personal goodness/badness/possibility of the thing. That’s usually fine, when one starts with little bets as well as care, to mitigate overcommitment! (Granted, the bigger and more monolithic the decision is, the higher the potential stakes. College majors and career decisions, I hear you.)

Second, though, and this one is killer, “directed change” can sometimes mean away from something, in this case, parts of yourself, and this can be disastrous. So instead of away from yourself, you must somehow, at least first, if not forever, move towards yourself:

For you to become anything *else*, anything truly new, for you, you must somehow, simultaneously, become ever more *yourself*, in some sense, as you always, already, now and forever *were*, and will forever *be*.

And this is sometimes terrifying, the feeling of fucking cruel, cosmic joke. What if one hates oneself, seemingly irrevocably and irreparably? Sometimes: self-disgust, cringe, shame, horror–all of which, that you will always have been, written into the past, written in stone. Who wouldn’t, sometimes, want to reflexively try to smash all that out of existence? A bifurcation, a discontinuity, at least a forgetting, by you and everyone else–and then, finally, you can start to live your real life.

But no. That’s not how it works; that’s not what minds are. Usually, maybe, probably always, for the deepest changes, at least, you have to go back, all the way, for all of it. [Note: “Going back,” can *also* become a top-down, smashy thing, if one isn’t careful…………]

It turns out, in the end, in the end, in the end–that it’s ok. All the things you thought and did, your causal history goes through structure preserving transformations–the feel of it gets to change, almost nothing is what you thought it was, no matter what it was and is. It’s ok.


A bit of a tonal change, here:

I thought young kids often spontaneously hyphenate their aspirational professions? (I thought this was more of a thing, but google is failing me.)

  • “Librina” (a librarian ballerina)*
  • magician-scientist (that was/is me; true story)
  • (Please add yours in the comments…)

Update: Commentators, mostly on twitter, have submitted these, to me:

  • pirate-paleontologist
  • doctor-cashier
  • actor-hacker-wizard-scientist-spacecolonist-author
  • rock star-author
  • lawyer-comedian
  • hypnotist-ventriloquist-novelist-librarian adventurer
  • carpenter-chef
  • hairdresser-engineer
  • musician-wizard
  • “I just wanted to have an adventure and be in love”
  • I wanted to be a mad scientist geneticist president and make War Pokémon
  • physicist-mathematician-inventor.
  • archeologist-artist
  • Unfortunately I can only offer mycologist, which is non-hyphen, but still weird enough to be notable.
  • Space Wizard-Scientist
  • Supervillain-artist
  • book store owner-pilot-ballerina-writer-witch
  • transhuman-pilot
  • flaneur-consultant

Here’s some more, maybe tongue-in-cheek, though pretty indistinguishable from those above; this online article** suggests (additional) grown-up versions:

  • makeup artist-influencer-accountant
  • lawyer-model-blogger
  • actor-director-entrepreneur
  • digital-strategist-ice skater

And, here’s even more, quick-imagined by me; I think lots of people crave a sort of heterogeneous seamlessness:

  • homemaker-adventurer
  • avenging valkyrie-mom
  • dad-entrepreneur
  • spouse-astronaut-world saver
  • financier-bitcoin millionaire-lover-traveler
  • blogger-scientist
  • captain of industry-community organizer

To be sure, sometimes having a “hyphenate” career or life (or multiple jobs) is an act of desperation.

But, modulo resources, privilege, and more, and often even then, with the right tools and avoiding counterintuitive and paradoxical failure modes, why not?

To be sure, as well, you may have to walk through hell and give up far more than you ever thought you’d get in return, and what you finally end up with may look nothing like you thought it would, and that might be heartrending on the front end.

But you may end up with a seamlessly satisfying life.


* [last accessed 20201114]

** [last accessed 20201114]