Sunday, November 18, 2012

Reality Testing

Reality Testing is one of the Four Pillars of Triology.

Reality is the universe outside your own consciousness that existed before you arrived and will persist after you leave. Reality consists of all the objects and processes of Planet Earth, the behavior of others and even the processes of your own mind and body, which don't always behave as you expect them to. To get what you want out of life, you have to actively explore, dissect and monitor reality to determine how it really works. Theory alone is not enough and is bound to lead you astray if you don't constantly test it in the field.

A central tenet of Triology is that you have to aggressively explore reality, using it to continuously hone your theories. Even if you don't know what to do with your life, exploring reality is a useful endeavor in itself that might eventually lead to a mission. Whenever possible, you should step out of your comfort zone, travel, conduct experiments and personally dissect things that don't match your expectations. Get your fingers dirty. Don't think you understand something because you read a book about it or researched it on the internet. Those are only uncorrelated facts. You understand how the facts fit together only by having direct personal experience in the environment in question.

This all may sound obvious, but humans have a built-in bias against reality. The usually prefer self-serving theories that don't match the facts. They would rather stay at home than explore. They prefer facile political theories over actual experience. Reality testing is an acquired skill that we have to consciously cultivate in ourselves. It doesn't always come naturally.

Our preference for fantasy started in our childhood, which was an artificial world created by our parents for our own protection. If we were lucky, our childhood universe seemed to truly care about us. When we wished for something (and expressed our wishes to our parents) those wishes often came true. There was a semblance of justice in our world: rewards when we were good and punishments when we were bad. We didn't have to worry much about real-world economics—like where our food and shelter was coming from—because our parents took care of that. We were benevolently protected from the harsher realities of the world so we had a chance to grow. The inevitable downside, however, is we were poorly prepared for "real" reality outside the fantasy bubble.

The unprotected reality of the outside world is radically different than our childhood universe. The brutal fact is, reality doesn't care about us. It follows its own rules and goes its own way regardless of how we feel about it or what our wishes are. Take gravity. It obeys a set of laws that you have no personal influence over. You can either learn how gravity works and work within its restrictions, or you can flaunt gravity and insist that it conform to your own desires. If believe with all your heart that you can fly, you may climb to the top of a tall building and jump off, but who do you suppose is going to win—you or gravity? The belief in your heart doesn't change the laws of gravity. The sad fact is, gravity doesn't care about your plans or dreams. It's not going to modify itself one iota for you. There is no justice to gravity, no karma or spiritual link between us and it. Gravity does whatever it is already programmed for, and it is your job to figure out the program or suffer the consequences.

All of reality is like that. It has a structure of its own which is indifferent to your needs. You can sometimes get gravity to do what you want, but only by taking the initiative to explore and understand it then adjust your own behavior accordingly. Don't expect reality to coddle you like your parents did. You have to coddle it.

Of course, reality could be an illusion, some sort of virtual-reality projection pumped directly into our brain, like in The Matrix. Indeed, we don't know for a fact that reality is real, but for now it is the best reality we have, so we might as well work with it. If you defy gravity and fall flat on your face, it sure seems to hurt, and that's all we need to know to respect it. Even if reality is an illusion, it's a damn good one, far better than any computer stimulation. You can spend your whole life exploring reality—as some of us do—and still only scratch the surface of its many avenues and nuances. The most amazing thing about reality is that no matter what bizarre new thing you discover, it always turns out of be consistent with the rest of reality—an advanced feature you won't find in any other software program.

Reality is big, really big, much bigger than you can possibly hold in your head. Instead of trying to process it all at once, we construct theories about reality and use those theories to guide our behavior. Theories are handy little pocket-size maps of reality that lack detail but give you an overview of the big picture. Reality is all the roads, alleys, buildings and details of a city. A theory of reality is a map showing you just the main streets. The map helps you get from Point A to Point B by distilling certain aspects of reality into a compact and useful form.

Life is the process of constructing theories, exercising them, then reaping the consequences. Whenever you take an action in the real world, you are exercising a theory, a certain set of assumptions about what you want and what the world can give you. Reality then responds to your action by giving you what you expect or something different. If reality gives you something unexpected, it's a good sign you need to modify your theory. This is part of a healthy scientific cycle: create a theory, test it, then discard or fine-tune your theory based on the results. Follow this simple formula, and you should construct better theories over time, ones that yield more of the results you want and fewer surprises.

Where humans go wrong is they become invested in their theories and refuse to change them when reality doesn't cooperate. They ignore the feedback reality is sending them (denial) or find some other way or evade the information, perhaps by withdrawing from reality altogether.

Let's say you believe you can fly. That's your theory, based on a childish wish. You test your theory by jumping off a small ledge while waving your arms frantically, but of course you crash to earth. Your pain suggests the theory isn't working, and an intelligent person might conclude that the theory needs to be scrapped altogether, but that's not always the way people work. Some might conclude that the fault lies in the ledge. It's not high enough! These people try higher cliffs and get hurt even worse, but they still won't give up their theory. They refuse to modify their theory in the natural way in response to reality's messages.

Why would anyone engage in such counterproductive and self-destructive behavior? The simple answer: investment. If you have already announced to everyone that you can fly, have planned your future on it and even sold tickets to your future flying demonstrations, you are emotionally invested in your theory and won't give it up easily. If you accept the message reality is sending you, then you also have to accept the loss of your past investment. You would have to endure some form of regret or damage to ego, which are the hardest things for humans to accept.

There is no end to the psychological gymnastics people will engage in to avoid regret or loss of face. In one form or another, this usually involves suppressing the messages reality is sending us. We would all prefer to kill the messenger rather than receiving an unpleasant message that threatens our invested theories.

Reality testing is a pact with yourself that you are not going to let your theories stand in the way of data. We need theories to survive, but reality is the ultimate authority and must be respected. To avoid becoming trapped in self-destructive theories, we must aggressively pursue reality. Instead of turning away from potentially disturbing data, we must turn toward it and track it down. Whenever you have some free time, you should be actively exploring the world, especially into territory that initially makes you uncomfortable. Don't retread the same old ground you already feel comfortable in, because that won't teach you anything.

Or you can just stay home. Frankly, this is the default human condition. People like to repeat the same behavior over and over because this makes it harder for bad news to intrude. If you never explore the outside world, or do it only in a predetermined way, there is less opportunity for your theories to be disproved.

Avoiding reality's messages feels more comfortable in the short term, but it sets you up for disaster in the long run, because one way or another reality always wins.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Quick Start Guide

Congratulations on the acquisition of your new body! Through mysterious processes inexplicable to all of us, your consciousness has been installed in the body of a male or female of the species homo sapiens, which itself has been installed in a specific location on Planet Earth.  By now, you have had a chance to experiment with your body, get used to the motor controls and explore the basic parameters of your world. Now let's start talking about higher processes: who you are, where you are going and why are you here.

You may ask, "What is the meaning of life?" but that's really the wrong question. The question you should be asking yourself is, "What do I do now?" One way or another you have to take actions in the world, and life's "meaning" will eventually flow from how you decide to behave. You may not know where your life is ultimately headed, but you can still make intelligent choices for today, based on the information right in front of you.

[Under Construction]


Here are some tools and concepts to help you implement the Four Pillars....

  • Intervention — Every attempt to help others is an "intervention". You are intervening in the natural course of events to try to produce a different outcome. Intervention is noble and is our ultimate purpose on Earth, but every attempt is costly and risky.

  • Theory of Existence — Who exactly are we and what is consciousness? What happens to us when we die? The answer: No one really knows! In the absence of wider knowledge, we must respond to the world as it seems to be.

  • Serendipitology — The future is inherently unpredictable, so we have to be ready to jump when unexpected opportunities come our way. Serendipity is not just luck but a carefully crafted skill.

  • Alienism — The needs of the world will always outstrip our resources, so how do we decide what or who to care about? The answer lies in seeing yourself as an alien visiting Earth. What would your responsibility be?

  • Maintaining your Tools — You can do good for others only to the extent that you have the tools to do so. A significant portion of your resources must be devoted to maintaining and expanding those tools.

  • Theory of Value — You know for sure that you are a conscious and feeling creature. You can only infer this about others. How much are their feelings and well-being worth compared to your own?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Predictive Hedonism

Predictive Hedonism is one of the Four Pillars of Triology.

Entry not yet written, but the article linked below provides a good overview...

Glenn's Earlier Work

2012 Essay: Predictive Hedonism: Where Meaning Comes From


Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Pillars of Triology

Jefferson Memorial, Photo by Glenn CampbellTriology is a philosophy of life based on several key concepts called "The Pillars". Each is useful but can't by itself tell you how to lead your life. We have a complete philosophy only when we put them all together.

To get started quickly in life, check out our Quick Start Guide.

The four Pillars are...
  1. Predictive Hedonism — Pure hedonism, doing what feels good right now, will only take you so far, but when you start predicting your own feelings far in the future and planning to address those needs, you start to build a decent life.

  2. Triage — The process of rationing your resources for the greatest possible effect. Whatever you decide to do, your resources will never be adequate, so you have to actively choose how to parcel them out.

  3. Field of Responsibility — If you have only limited resources and the needs of the world are huge, it becomes critical to know where your responsibilities lie. By understanding your responsibilities as a "field" that extends out from you, affected by your own past actions, it becomes easier to decide how to direct your resources.

  4. Reality Testing — Reality has its own structure, independent of our needs, wishes or theories. To accomplish anything in the world, we must explore and test reality to find out how it really works.
For tools concepts to help you implement the above Pillars, see the Triology Toolbox.

Triology Defined

"Triology" is a word I made up on Oct. 12, 2012. (See Etymology.) The dictionary definition might look like this...
tri·ol·ogy   /trēˈäləjē/
Noun:1. The study of triage.
2. Triage philosophy.
3. A school of philosophy that contends personal actions can be evaluated only in terms of the other things that could have been accomplished with the same resources.
The word rhymes with "geology" and should not be confused with "trilogy" (a collection of three works).

Triology is a "prescriptive" philosophy, meaning it is mainly concerned with helping you decide what to do rather than describing existence. Instead of asking, "What is the meaning of life?", Triology asks, "What should I do now?" You find meaning by doing. You can ponder, analyse and endlessly debate what life is, but it is all for naught if no personal action comes out of it.

Triology is based on four guiding principles, called The Pillars. In a nutshell, these principles say you should (a) plan ahead for your own comfort (predictive hedonism), (b) carefully choose how you spend your limited resources (triage), (c) choose what you are responsible for based on how far you are from the problem (field of responsibility), and (b) constantly test the outside world to see how it really works (reality testing).

Etymology of "Triology"

I invented the term "triology" (pronounced "tree-ALL-ogy") on Oct. 12, 2012 and started this blog the next day. The term existed before me but not in the sense I am using it: "the study of triage" or "triage philosophy". (See Triology Defined for what I think the word means.)

The term is intended to describe a whole system of philosophy, like "objectivism" or "rationalism". In fact, I could have called my new philosophy "triagism", but that doesn't roll off the tongue too easily.

On Oct. 12, I was driving through Maine, trying to think of a single simple term to describe the philosophy I had been thinking about for years. Triage has always been a key part of my system, so I riffed on that. Triology may echo the term Scientology™, which I had been thinking about at the time. I think Scientology itself is nonsense, but I am intrigued by the idea of whole system of philosophy that people build their lives around. I had just seen the movie The Master about a week before and it no doubt played a role in my thinking. (I found the movie both awful and a hoot at the same time.) Unlike Scientology™, I don't plan to trademark the term or set up any money-marking organization around it. You are welcome to take anything your want from my philosophy for free. Just remember where you got it!

One who studies triology or triage is a "triologist". If someone else's ideas are similar to mine, you could call those ideas "triologistic".

I'm still debating whether "Triology" should be capitalized. I tend to think it should be when referring to the whole system of knowledge, much like an organization or religion would be capitalized. My philosophy has really made the grade when people start using it in the lowercase (triology), as that would assume it is a real world in the English language whose meaning people now take for granted.

To learn more about my philosophy, start with The Pillars or visit the Welcome Page.

UPDATE: Nov. 30, 2015

I've revived my philosophy and decided to name it Triagism after all. Here is my new video announcing my philosophy....

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Triage is one of the Four Pillars of Triology.

In medicine, triage means the sorting of patients and the assigning of resources to them so the maximum benefit is achieved. We can extend the term to all kinds of resources and all any kind of intended benefit. The fact is, your resources are always insufficient to address the needs of the world, even the immediate world around you, so you have to ration them out in such a way that you achieve the greatest possible effect.

The most dramatic example of medical triage is in the battlefield. If there are a hundred wounded soldiers and resources to treat only ten of them, who do you treat? The choice can be gut wrenching. Some soldiers are so badly wounded that they'll probably die anyway. If you devote too much medical care to them, you are taking it away from soldiers who need only a little help to survive. At the other end, some wounded soldiers will probably survive no matter what you do, so you don't want to expend too many resources on them either. Instead, in a situation of limited resources and dire need, you want to direct the bulk of your efforts to the moderately wounded but savable patients who will most benefit from the care. Everyone wants care, but you have to say "No" to most of them. By making the hard choices at an early stage, you maximize the survivors while inevitably making enemies in the process.

The same concept applies in every aspect of your own personal life. No matter what you decide to accomplish, the resources at your disposal are never adequate to the task, so you have parcel them out for the maximum effect. Merely the fact that a need exists does not mean it is wise use of your resources. Whatever you do has to be the most productive use of those resources.

Triage alone does not give you a mission. It cannot tell you what to do with your life (which will be tackled by other aspects of this philosophy), but once you decide on a goal, triage helps you approach it efficiently. If you decide your mission is to save lives, then triage will help you decide how to go about it so the most lives are saved.

Glenn's Earlier Works