Synthesis of subagents: exercise

by Julija Kobrinovich 14 min read20th Sep 20192 comments

12


What topics is the exercise related to:

1. Mitigation of cognitive distortions such as the stereotype of physical attractiveness

2. Sequence "Multiagent models of mind", article “Why Subagents?”

3. article "Being the (Pareto) Best in the World"

Two sources are the basis for this exercise:

- the idea (and practices) of Western esoterics on “biners neutralization” (in particular, quite widely and extensively it is described in the book “The Great Arcana of the Tarot” by Vladimir Shmakov, I don’t know if the book is translated into English)

- the method for developing the theme in screenwriting (in particular, “Substance, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting” by Robert McKee)

Here, I describe the exercise as I practice it – a cross between the two initial variants, and intended for self-development.

Two words about what esoterics has to do with it:

1. The academic study of esoterics - one of the areas of my interests.

2. If we consider the Western esoteric tradition from a psychological point of view, there are many methods and techniques aimed at “convergence” and “neutralization” of opposing personality traits/emotions/ ideas. It is enough to recall the alchemical procedures and visualizations, where the elements of fire and water “merge” together. It seems to me that in this body of knowledge, there is a lot of useful and undeservedly forgotten things.

By the way, is it rational to have prejudices against “esoterics”? :) And do you have it?

I use the exercise in two versions.

The purpose of the first one:

  • remove the severity of the confrontation between the opposing ideas or subagents
  • if possible - to achieve their synthesis.

It is like a Double Crux. With the difference that:

  • exercise is purely intellectual, without focusing technic. It does not require you to merge completely with the role and feelings of the investigated subagent
  • unlike the Double Crux, the opposing subagents do not ‘negotiate,’ but merge, becoming the expression of some new value that they ‘did not understand’ before.
  • it reduces the initial “weight “of any arguments of this subagent (both” for “and” against”).

I use the same version of the exercise to mitigate cognitive biases – such as, for example, the physical attractiveness stereotype; good mood in sunny weather and a bad one in rainy weather; distortions of self-esteem.

I don’t know how well it works for everyone. I tested it only on myself.

The purpose of the second one:

  • to “expand” the competence of the “neighboring” subagents so that one task or project can cover several “needs” of the different subagents. (Implementing the principle of "Being the (Pareto) Best in the World")

However, for this, it is necessary to identify areas where the “needs” of the subagents intersect, having the maximum utility.

Different utility functions of different subagents are best illustrated by the picture in the article “Why Subagents?”, demonstrating path dependency in preference selection on a 2D graph, on one axis of which “utility” for subagent 1 is plotted, and on the other – “utility” for subagent 2.

In this modification, the exercise helped me to create something like a 3D map of my subagents, as well as to “configure” them in a more optimal way.

Again, I do not know how much my experience is reproducible. I am curious about what result you will get.

In addition to the psychological benefits, the exercise helps to learn to think broader, and I find it just intellectually funny.

Biner: An Idea I take from esoterics

A “biner” is simply two opposing ideas or two motives that draw in different directions. - Beautiful / Ugly, Knowledge / Ignorance, “I want to do push-ups”/“I don’t want to do push-ups.”

In Western esoterics is considered, that only one thing indeed “exist” – positive pole of a biner. Its opposite - negative pole - emerges automatically when the biner is activated.

In order not to write many times the “positive pole of a biner” and the “negative pole of a biner” I will use the terms Center (positive statement) and Shadow (the opposite statement, motive or idea).

For example, Centers are “Beautiful”/“I want ice cream,” their Shadows - “Ugly”/” I need to go to the store for ice cream ... no, I guess, don’t want it.”

Between the Center and the Shadow lies a spectrum of “intermediate solutions” – their androgynes:

  • Oh, amazing! - Beautiful - Cute - Normal - Unhandsome - Ugly - What a nasty thing!
  • “I want to do push-ups!” - “I’ll do it ten times, and then we’ll see.” - “I should do some push-ups.” - “… but not today.” - “... To do push-ups?” - “No, I won’t do this” - “Push-ups are harmful!”.

Complete androgyne is the “central” androgyne; it contains 50/50 of Center and Shadow statements.

If we are talking about ideas, then in the complete androgyne they are most weakly manifested, and if about subagents, then, most likely, an unstable (or stable) balance of akrasia will arise.

Opposed poles of biner (ideas or subagents) can be merged in the synthesis process if you can find and construct what they express on “higher level.”

Moreover, the highest “energy” – i.e., the action potential – belongs to a complete androgyne (the pendulum “I want ice cream”/“I am too lazy to go for it” at any moment can swing into a full-fledged action or final rejection from it), and the lowest “energy” has a synthesis of biner.

Therefore, the exercise has two variants:

1. I am looking for “synthesis” – if I want to neutralize, or at least assign less “weight” to the preferences of individual subagents.

2. I am looking for a “complete androgyne” – if I know that this area of activity or role is essential to me, and I want to express it in an even more optimal way.

Following the idea that the Shadow does not have an independent existence, I assume that all subagents are always “internally” paired.

In other words, the subagent “I want to do push-ups” - and it’s opposition “You can kill me, but I will not do push-ups!” - represent the Center and Shadow of one subagent.

Shadow is “forces of resistance,” it doesn’t have its existence. Because if there is no question of sport, it doesn’t affect decision-making.

It is the Shadow of a subagent that “engages” other subagents in the decision-making process to gain more weight. “I want to do sports (Sport).” “I want... but (Shadow of sport) later, now there is an interesting TV-show (Entertainment)... [and later] - I have just eaten, and after eating it is prohibit to engage in sports (Mom-so-said-20-years-ago)!”

The essence of the method:

1. Find the Center of the subagent – its value. - Center is the option to which the subagent has assigned the maximum (from its point of view) utility function.

2. Describe the Shadow.

3. Study the Center and the Shadow, using specific examples, each of which will be their manifestations as extreme as possible.

4. Consider the entire range of androgynes between the Center of the subagent and its Shadow, coming up with a few specific examples

5A. (Synthesis Search Exercise) Integrate Subagent and its Shadow (this is the most difficult, but the funniest) – In this aspect, the technique is a bit like a Double Crux. – As a result, the “weight” of the subagent’s arguments is reduced.

5 B. (Complete androgyne Search Exercise) Integrate two different “positive” Subagents, so that they reinforce each other, giving each other a “weight of votes” when making a decision. – In this aspect, the technique is similar to the ideas discussed in the article "Being the (Pareto) Best in the World", since it involves changing not the attitude to the activity, but changing the action itself, or changing its emphasis.

The whole method is a constant movement across levels from abstract to concrete, and vice versa from concrete to abstract.

Example 1. Just an intellectual warm-up

Let us choose the abstract idea of Light as our subject

1. Idea – Light.

2. The opposite – the absence of Light – Darkness.

3. The choice of specific “extremes” will determine in which direction I will continue to think – physical or psychological. If “physical” - then I will choose the photon / no photon if the psychological - the ability to see / blindness.

Suppose the first one: photon/absence of photon

4. The field of all intermediate states is all gradations of the electromagnetic spectrum. The Complete androgynes (probably), is a photon with an energy of 50 GeV (50% of the most energetic known photon).

5. Synthesis: something that is both a photon and not a photon, and has a lot of “hidden” energy My knowledge of physics suggests two options: - virtual pair “photon-antiphoton,” disappearing in a negligible time in a false vacuum- superposition of two light waves - similar, but 180 out of phase, which, when added, give 0 at a particular point (for example, during the destructive interference experiment)

If we chose the “subjective” plane: ability to see / blindness, then

4. A spectrum of androgynes is all possible qualia of colors and vision accuracy, associated with the quality of ability to see. Complete androgyne – healthy vision.

5. Synthesis: - someone who can see everything with absolute precision and clarity.- and at the same time - blind.

To resolve the contradiction “sees” and “blind” you need to rise to a “level higher,” realizing that the ability to see is not the ability of vision, but the ability of the mind.

Therefore, the synthesis could be a scientist or a prophet, or a project implementer (all who can “see” the causes and consequences of events).

If I were to use the exercise to develop the book’s theme, I would also do a “level down synthesis” – looking for something “worse than the worst” – for example, a prophet who makes a fatal mistake, or a sharp-eyed archer who does not see his wife’s betrayal happening literally “under his nose.”

The development of a character would go through the stages “Center,” “Shadow,” “Synthesis up,” and “Synthesis down” - in any chosen order.

For example, in the first part of the story, the protagonist is a religious leader, confident that he receives prophecies from the deity indicating how to lead his community (value – “Ability to see”). Then, he learns that all his predictions were fake because in reality, his closest ally manipulated by him (“Blind Prophet”). As a result of the struggle for power, the main character loses influence and finds himself in an underground dungeon (“Blindness”). Where he comes to the values of rational and scientific thinking (“Synthesis”), with the help of which he is freed and regains power. (The End :) )

Example 2. Synthesis of opposing subagents – to reduce the “weight” of the particular subagents when making decisions.

For example, there is a choice – to agree for work with more pay, but less free time; or to prefer all those cool things that I can buy for the additional money.

And I want to REDUCE THE ACUTE OF THE MONEY QUESTION to choose based on other criteria, and not to rationalize the decision that has already been made unconsciously.

1. It seems that the Central value for the “activated” subagent is money.

2. Will “stretch” it to extremes to reveal more precisely the Center and Shadow: a multibillionaire and a homeless beggar.

How are they different? – Ability to acquire and quantity of property, i. e. the investigated value is “purchasing power, “or more precisely –” ability to own” something. T

he choice of “specific extremes” is the first psychological marker – what do I mean by “Money”? In this case, it turned out that this is “the ability to own.” But for another person (or for me in a different situation), it could be “security,” or “proof of self-worth to society,” or something else.

3. What are even more remote examples I can come up with for “own”/ and “not be able to own”?

More power than any modern multimillionaire (I think) possessed the ancient Egyptian God-Pharaoh: he owned everything on his land – even without having to “buy” it.

Less “power to own” than a beggar has a slave – he does not own his own body and his own time; a drug addict – he does not own his desires, or a madman – he does not “own” his consciousness. I choose to focus on the dichotomy” God-Emperor “-” Slave.”

4. There are various “quantities” of “ability to own” in the range between these two extremes – from a wealthy person who does not bother to earn money, but who still knows the limit of allowable expenses for himself, to a person who barely survives, earning pennies.

Somewhere in the middle is the “Complete androgyne” – the “average person,” who, in principle, is satisfied with his wealth, and what he owns, and the amount of free time he has.

5. Synthesis: someone who possesses “everything.+ someone who doesn’t even own himself + someone satisfied with the state of things – and not wanting more.

As a concrete expression of synthesis, the following come to my mind:

1) Pauper Mystic. - A person who possesses “everything,” but this “everything” is beyond the concept of money, - and he does not need anything from what the world has to offer; also he does not have “himself” in the sense that he subordinated himself to the inner spiritual discipline.

2) The Lion King (from the film of the same name, particularly in the scene where the old monkey lifts little Simba over the whole valley) – he does not have “everything” because he bought this valley, but because he feels himself responsible for this place, and feels himself the owner of this place. And he “does not possess” himself since he will make anything (including self-sacrifice) to protect peace in the valley. (Which legally can “belong” to the English colonists, or any other four-legged individual who said to herself “I responsible for this place”).

In the dramaturgy “worse than the worst” could be: the god-emperor, whom his priests keep on drugs; a beggar-madman who believes that he is Napoleon; the god-emperor, compelled to obey the most severe daily routine (as it was in ancient China); the king who was kidnapped and sold into slavery; a slave who was secretly seated on the throne, etc. – Such extremes catch us emotionally.

Such a study of values is convenient to do in the form of 2x2 table. (But I don't know how to do it here):

Value: Ability to own (money)

  • Multibillionaire;
  • God-Emperor;

--> The one who owns everything Shadow:

  • Beggar;
  • Slave;
  • Mad man, Prisoner

--> The one who does not own even himself Androgynes:

  • A man who inherits a million and spends it wisely ... or unwisely;
  • A man on the verge of begging;
  • The one who earns a lot, but gives the maximum of his earnings to charity;
  • The one who purposefully creates capital

Complete androgyne: Just an "ordinary" working man, who is happy with everything

Synthesis:

  • Pauper Mystic
  • The Lion King

How does this all relate to the main question: Should I agree to a more monetary, but also more time-consuming work, or not? (Unless other considerations are not raised, of course).

During the synthesis, it should have become clear to me: “money” for the decision-voting subagent is a measure of how much I “own the world.” Or at least that part of the world that I can call a “home” (my district, my city, my country), and at the same time maintain a sense of “contentment” with myself.

But you can “own the world” without any money. Only by changing status in my own eyes – and becoming, like The Lion King, “the owner of the valley.”

As a result, the “money” factor gets less “weight” when deciding on a job. As well as when making other decisions, where “money” = “acquisition of things.”

One more example: I love learning. Very much. But at the same time, it saddens me that time erases information, I can’t remember everything.

This synthesis is not to make any decision, but to reduce internal discomfort. The same technique is used to reduce cognitive biases when considering ideas such as Beautiful / Ugly, Smart / Stupid, Expensive / Cheap, etc.

Value: Knowledge

  • “Eternal student”
  • Scientist-universal
  • An AI that has all the knowledge in the world. And which is continuously producing new data.
  • Total, the extreme expression of the idea: An algorithm that produces new knowledge

Shadow: Destruction of knowledge

  • The knowledge that is not applied, but only accumulated
  • The knowledge that prevents the creation of new knowledge
  • Prohibition of knowledge
  • A noise that absorbs information
  • Total, the extreme expression of the idea: A virus that destroys information

Androgynes:

  • A scientist who knows a lot in his field – but is ignorant in other areas, including ordinary life
  • A student who uncritically absorb any information
  • A “practical” person who refuses to know more than he needs to live
  • Sherlock Holmes, eager to forget that the Earth turns
  • A priest who knows the religious texts – but does not see that they do not correspond to reality.
  • “The map is not the territory.”

Complete androgyne: A person who is continuously learning, testing in practice and structuring his knowledge

Synthesis: something that produces knowledge + something that destroys knowledge

  • The search for knowledge, for example, by a genetic algorithm, which destroys un-perfect “past generation” of information.
  • Search for erroneous or insufficiently accurate information and its clarification
  • “Destruction” of arrays of particular knowledge due to the conclusion of generalizing formulas and principles.
  • Translation of (numerical) data into (analytical) knowledge
  • Sleep: during sleep, the brain structures information, some (important links and data) goes into permanent memory, other (classified by the brain as unimportant) is erased.

-->The process of acquiring knowledge involves both gaining and losing information. - > Subjective reduction of ”pain” from the forgotten things.

Pitfalls of the method:

  • sometimes it is just challenging to find a synthesis. You need to give yourself time to think well. Or look for the necessary background information.
  • as a result of a properly executed synthesis, the “weight” of the arguments of the corresponding subagent is reduced. But do you want to reduce it? This could be anti-adaptive.
  • if the exercise is performed to remove internal conflicts, then to achieve a permanent effect, you should repeat it with some frequency.

Example 3. Searching for Complete androgyne – to include additional subagents in a specific activity.

The purpose of this exercise is to find activities and projects that are fun and beneficial not only to one subagent, but to as many subagents as possible, and ideally help integrate the individual into a holistic agent.

I assume that the subagent who acts as the Center of desire and his Shadow (forces of resistance), taken by themselves, both are destructive forces.

For example “I want to run,“ driven to fanaticism, leads to injury and exhaustion, and “I do not want to run or do any other sports” – reduce the duration and quality of life.

At the same time, “I DO NOT WANT” “drags” other “game participants” to its side (I want to watch a movie; I want to play a game; I want to finish this work project today ... hmm, it is already midnight).

As all “stories” with subagents are very subjective, I give here as an example excerpts from my internal work.

I want to write books. I wanted this all my life. But at the same time, something prevented me from doing this and continues to interfere. - Circumstances, procrastination, work, family, etc.

1. Value – to write fiction novels

2. The opposite – not to write. But if I do not write, then what should I do? - Watch movies? Work? ... these are not opposites. The actual opposite is to live.

3. What is the real difference between Writing and Living? - The way of living the experience. The experience lived in imagination or bodily; a carefully reflexed and structured experience, or a spontaneous and chaotic one.

Extremes: lock yourself in the attic and fantasize – or go on an expedition to the Amazon with only a compass.

4. Androgynes:

  • six months a year to travel, and six months to write fiction,
  • going in safe tourism, and lying on your travel blog about incredible adventures along the way,

Complete androgyne: a situation where I experience incredible adventures on odd days, and on even days I carefully record and analyze them (and the world stops and waits)

5. What should a Complete androgyne express?

  • bright emotions and adventures
  • reflection, connections, and structure
  • both “external” and “internal” life is equally rich

What other variants of Complete androgyne are possible?:

  • develop and train myself to keep a specific type of diary and a precise vision of the world: notice all vivid things that are usually hidden in a routine, comprehend them - and organize my life in a “structure” that is so lacking. And then, perhaps, to release an exciting adventure memoir.
  • deliberately invent Adventures, organize them in a story - and to live these adventures
  • learn to “live” my own and others’ books with the maximum “effect of presence” (there are NLP-technologies for this)
  • use imagination to model my life situation-for example, carefully describing worlds of alternative solutions
  • master lucid dreams, and live in this state all that will be in my future book.
  • maximally gamify my life, turning it into an analog of RPG-fiction

Are there any subagents in my life that ALREADY implemented: bright emotions and reflection?

  • ”From the side” of active life, I have - martial arts classes and sports competitions
  • ”From the side” of observation and search for some “meta-knowledge“- the study of esoteric teachings, philosophy and science. As well as the hobby of diary and narrative techniques.

Thus, these three subagents are already linked to each other, and it is possible:

1) to create one project, which would include interests of all “participants” (albeit not equally)

2) to find the benefits of each subagent in the activities of others, strengthening them. For example, from my top three: - write fiction- do karate- study the esoteric teachings of the world

  • The “fiction writer” peers into esoteric teachings to take something new for the created world or heroes, and in karate – to reproduce on paper the real martial art experience and knowledge of proper techniques for describing combat clashes.
  • “Esoteric” with the help of science fiction “models” how it could be if this or that axiom about the world indeed was real and the practice of meditation helps me to be more focused and “grounded” in karate.
  • The “karateka” makes models combat interactions using fiction and seeks the spiritual principles of martial arts in the esoteric. I also physically perform the fightings that I think up for my books - this helps me to reinforce new technics and introduces an element of the game into my karate classes.

Thus, doing one thing – creating a fantastic book – I satisfy the needs of three different subagents. Even if for two of them to a lesser degree than for “main” one (after all, for mastering karate the benefit of 1 hour of karate exercises is higher than 1 hour of composing a battle scene).

Pitfalls of the method:

  • instead of adhering to the Complete androgyne to deviate towards compromises, that do not satisfy any of the subagents.

For example, I could combine “write” + “do karate” = “become a sports journalist.” – But “utility” for “write” and “do karate” in this case would be close to 0. Or “write fiction” + “esoteric interests” (+ “make money”) = “invent my religion” (how Ron Hubbard did) – But all my subagents “vote” that this is not the case, what they want.

  • instead of trying to fuse opposites into androgynes – “mix” them trying to be multitasking: read books during push-ups; fantasize about the plot of the book - when I need to work out martial art techniques, etc.

Ideas for exercises:

1. Define the complete androgyne and synthesis of the following ideas:

  • Democracy
  • Flight
  • Warm sunny weather
  • Rationality

2. What are three essential things you did today, or are planning to do?

  • What subagents are behind these tasks?
  • Define for one of this subagents the field of androgynes and the Complete androgyne properties
  • Based on the Complete androgyne properties, what other your subagents could also be ‘involved’ in this task?
  • How could this task be changed to fit them more?

Summary

1. The idea of exercise is that opposing ideas/desires/ subagents can be merged in two ways:

- “vertical” - looking for something mutual for them at “level above.” As a result, the “arguments” of relevant idea or subagent receives less “weight” compared to other ideas and subagents.

- “horizontal” - looking for an activity or more complex idea, which expresses both opposing parts of an idea or subagent equally. In this case, such an androgyne can be “loaded” with meanings that are relevant for several other subagents.

As a result, you can invent an activity that is more important to the entire ensemble of subagents, and that requires complex competence.

2. Besides, exercise is also an intellectual challenge. It’s fun to do it, especially in a group - when it comes to integrating ideas and searching for complete androgyne for ideas and deeds.

3. This is my first post here and I hope that the exercise will also be useful for the rational community.

12