Australian General Semantics Society Inc.




Seminar Summary - 12th October 2013


"All" our questions about how we can bind time
were be answered today!

The basic GS principles behind this formulation,
practical and written exercises and more were explored.

Led by Pauline Callaghan and a cast of the thousands who went before her
(from whom she is time-binding.)

WritingThis is a "living document", subject to ongoing evolution as recollections re-emerge from our memories of the event, and are re-evaluated in light of ongoing experience and reflection.  It will never be "the full truth and nothing but the truth", or "a map that expresses everyone's notion of the territory"!

We started with a simple explanation in Thinking and Living skills – p4.
and then the article on time binding following by Sawin – p 8-11
and his article from ETC 47/3 – p. 300. 
(Our very-own David has met Sawin, and told us a little about him.)

First, some of the passages from  Bruce Kodish’s Korzybski - a Biography, about time binding.   He said that on p17 says that originally Science and Sanity was going to be called Time Binding, the General Theory.

We read p. 124 of AK’s bio, where he comes up with the idea of time binding. Then a few definitions;-    Korzybski classified three levels of  “binding” in life-forms:

The simplest level is called “energy-binding,” that is, the storing of energy for later use.  All life-forms do this, but plants do only this. 

The second is called “space-binding,” that is, moving from one place to another in order to accomplish various survival tasks.  Plants don’t do this but most animals do. 

The third level is called “time-binding,” that is, the transmission of information and knowledge and abstractions from one time to the other.  It is through time-binding that we can know about and learn from the past, and through time-binding that we can pass on knowledge to the future.  The ability to time-bind also means that we have the capability to improve our condition, to change our “nature” over time.  This also can mean that we have the responsibility to do so, and to do so for the better

A definition: The human ability to pass information and knowledge from one generation to the next. Korzybski claimed this to be a unique capacity, separating people from animals. This uniquely human ability for one generation to start where a previous generation left off, is a consequence of the uniquely human ability to move to higher and higher levels of abstraction without limit. Animals may have multiple levels of abstraction, but their abstractions must stop at some finite upper limit; this is not so for humans: humans can have 'knowledge about knowledge','knowledge about knowledge about knowledge', etc., without any upper limit.

Animals possess knowledge, but each generation of animals does things pretty much in the same way as the previous generation, limited by their neurology and genetic makeup. For example, at one time most human societies were hunter-gatherers, but now more advanced means of food production (growing, raising, or buying) predominate. Except for some insects (for example, ants), all animals are still hunter-gatherer species, even though many have existed longer than the human species. For this reason, animals are regarded in general semantics as space-binders, and plants, which are usually stationary, as energy-binders.

We note that certain animals, such as dolphins and whales, seem to have very elaborate systems of communications.  Time binding is done via a variety of mechanisms and processes such as education, publishing, social rules, infrastructure that constrains and guides human behavior, stories and language, symbols etc

“... man improves, animals do not;
man progresses, animals do not;
man invents more and more complicated tools, animals do not;
man is a creator of material and spiritual wealth, animals are not;
man is a builder of civilization, animals are not.”
—Korzybski, Manhood of Humanity, p. 186.

“Time-Binders — Each generation, through symbols, especially language, gains from and builds upon the experience of past generations. We learn from each other, and pass on this knowledge. Korzybski called this process “time-binding”, and considered it important enough to serve as a basis for defining humanity.”

“Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”  -- anon. of ibid.

  1. We considered a number of definitions as set out in our early material.
  2. We considered Wendell Johnson’s def p.162 in People in Quandaries – He mentions an important characteristic of time binding – being able to talk to yourself – diaries, dream diaries, looking at information you had previously worked on and pick up on things you had forgotten, etc,   Also talked about self-talk – which is not normally mentioned in time binding, but it is probably an aspect of time binding that affects us most deeply on a personal level – how we talk to ourselves makes a considerable difference as to how happy, resourceful, confident etc we are.
  3. People in Quandaries – p.163 – shows time binding on WIGO –Read what it says – with wigo diagram and get David to explain it using the diagramme.

Note how things have changed since our grandparents' time -  now our great great grandparents – mention how expotentially things have changed, largely using time binding since then – internet, space travel.

We considered how thing have changed since Wendell Johnson wrote in 1945, and how many resources are required to make even such a simple artifice as a glass container - How did it get here? How was it manufactured? Trace things back a bit. How many people were involved in making it and getting it to the store or place where you bought it or got it from? Who invented it? What other inventions were required to produce it? Et cetera. How has it changed over millenia?

Milton’s definition - Time-binding describes unique behavioral characteristics of the human species. Here is one way of structuring the process. An individual, or group, has certain experiences and insights; invents and discover things; creates structures (social systems, building, bridges, and so on), lets say at time1.

At time2, these experiences, discoveries etc., can be represented by memory, symbols, words, rituals, and so on. (Buildings, bridges, social, political systems, if not destroyed, can be revisited and reviewed.)

At time3, these time2 representations become inputs – starting points for further inquiries, explorations, discoveries, improvements, and so on. “Intra-personal time-binding” describes the situation where an individual is aware of his/her own time1 experiences, and use those as groundings for further developments and improvements. Intra-personal time-binding involves learning from oneself. When we do something, review it, and make corrections, we are intra-personally time-binding. Although we do this quite often, we are most times unaware of this process. Without this awareness, we hold back improving ourselves as time-binders.

General semantics emphasizes the importance for our human welfare to develop an awareness of ourselves as time-binders, so that we can use this defining human skill to our greater advantage. We learn from ourselves. We learn from each other. We learn from others long gone. We learn from our various environments – physical, political, economic, educational, technological, social, religious, etc. If by “learning” we intend “modification of behavior in the light of experience”, and are concerned to improve the quality of our personal and other relationships, we need to be more critical in evaluating information we receive, and more concerned with the quality of the representations we pass on.

Korzybski characterized mankind as a time-binding class of life because, he claimed, "knowledge" increased as an exponential rate though the use of language passing messages from generation to generation. (Manhood of Humanity, p.20, Science and Sanity, p. 364)

Korzybski defines time binding in Manhood of Humanity.
This higher energy-which is commonly called the mental or spiritual power of man-is time-binding because it makes past achievements live in the present and present activities in time-to-come . It is an energy that initiates; it is an energy that creates; it is an energy that can understand the past and foretell the future-it is both historian and prophet; it is an energy that loads abstract time-the vehicle of events-with an ever-increasing burden of intellectual achievements, of spiritual wealth, destined for the civilization of posterity. And what is the natural law of the increase? What is the natural law of human advancements in all great matters of human concern?

The question is of utmost importance both theoretically and practically, for the law-whatever it be-is a natural law-a law of human nature-a law of the time-binding energy of man. What is the law? We have already noted the law of arithmetical progression and the law of geometric progression; we have seen the immense difference between them; and we have seen that the natural law of human progress in each and every cardinal matter is a law like that of a rapidly increasing geometric progression. In other words, the natural law of human progress-the natural law of amelioration in human affairs-the fundamental law of human nature-the basic law of the time-binding energy peculiar to man-is a Logarithmic law-a law of logarithmic increase. (MoH,P.90)

In the human class of life, we find a new factor, non-existent in any other form of life; namely, that we have a capacity to collect all known experiences of different individuals. Such a capacity increases enormously the number of observations a single individual can handle, and so our acquaintance with the world around, and in, us becomes much more refined and exact. This capacity, which I call the time-binding capacity, is only possible because, in distinction from the animals, we have evolved, or perfected, extra-neural means by which, without altering our nervous system, we can refine its operation and expand its scope. Our scientific instruments record what ordinarily we cannot see, hear,. Our neural verbal [centers] allow us to exchange and accumulate experiences, although no one could live through all of them; and they would be soon forgotten if we had no neural and extraneural means to record them. (S&S, 376).

In this case, it has brought us to a new sharp distinction between 'man' and 'animal'. The number of orders of abstractions an 'animal' can produce is limited. The number of orders of abstractions a 'man' can produce is, in principle, unlimited. Here is found the fundamental mechanism of the 'time-binding' power which characterizes man, and which allows him, in principle, to gather the experiences of all past generations. A higher order abstraction, let us say, of the n+1 order, is made as a response to the, stimulus of abstractions of the nth order . Among 'humans' the abstractions of high orders produced by others, as well as those produced by oneself are stimuli to abstracting in still higher orders. Thus, in principle, we start where the former generation left off. (S&S, 394)

Milton again -The origin of this work was a new functional definition of man as formulated in 1921, based on an analysis of uniquely human potentialities; namely, that each generation may begin where the former left off. This characteristic I called the ‘time-binding’
capacity...We need not blind ourselves with the old dogma that human nature cannot be change, .for we find that it can be changed. We must begin to realize our potentialities as humans,then we may approach the future with some hope.

Me - I think it is important to not just see time binding as just a GS theory and over analyse what we think AK intended, but to try to think of how it applies to us and put its’ concepts into practice – as Milton has said to not just see it as a label, but to see it as a verb and find ways in every situation to use it.


What develops from starting to think of yourself as a time-binder?

Long term and short term effects of what you do.

* Can you find anything that you have made, arranged, organized, composed, written, etc., that didn't in some way depend upon the contributions of others? 

LAURIE QU -I know that Laurie has for many years been very conscious of his time binding efforts, and how he will leave a legacy that will have an important impact on future generations.  AGS is a visible and successful eg of Laurie’s commitment.  Dion and Judy have been talking about making a video of Laurie answering questions of  important events in his life, what techniques and GS and other formulations have made the biggest difference to his life.  What strategies Laurie used to recover so well from his stroke late last year.

LIST 5 things you can start to implement now that can have a positive time binding effect on yourself in the future, and /or influence others in the future

Pick one that you are willing to work on – make a SMART goal with it and list 5 steps to get moving on.

Specific, measurable – define how you will measure the goal and its’

Achievable – can this fit into your life – how, be specific,

Relevant – is it important to you (1-5) – measure it immediate, long term, short term,

Timely – give a date as to when you will achieve your goal.

Questions FOR DISCUSSION  How do you think the activities you do now might time bind – what do you do or have done could you feel is time binding to future generations eg kids, my photography, my effect on people I know, maybe writing about parenting, photography book

  1. How have you touched people? What will they remember of you and how will the memory of you affect them?
  2. Can the quest to feel you have left a significant mark on the world have negative consequences?
  3. Can you worry too much about that and miss the chance to just live a good life?
  4. Do we underestimate the influence of someone who just tried to live a good life? Tried to have a positive influence in small ways on the people around them by being kind and generous?
  5. How have you improved on something someone else has done?

Think of yourself a day ago, a month ago, a year ago, and half your life ago.  What are some of the major differences between the you of then and the you of now?

“Ask yourself…What kind of future do you want?  What kind of future would you like for the generation which follows you?  What steps can you take to encourage these futures?”

Ask:  Is doing things that you know we benefit yourself in the future such as studying for a degree etc. going to the dentist and taking care of your teeth, eating and exercising  well to live healthier, longer. 
These questions can help you get a feel for yourself as a time-binder.  We need to take a good critical look at what we have been accepting and doing – and passing on, for our children, and others to build on.  Just start to think, in the back of your mind, What kind of difference could becoming more consciously aware of yourself as a time-binder make in your life?  What differences can it make to short term and long term decisions.

Does time binding just a positive concept or does it include negative philosophies such as hitlers aryan race.  – Milton - But we can improve on the efficiency of a nuclear device, or designs of land mines. And we can improve our rationalizations of our insane behaviors. We can build on the prejudices, and unsane ‘thinking’ of others, as well as ourselves

Can you think of issues today that are examples of time binding.  Positive ones and negative ones. 

Can talk about AK’s original diagram and mathematical formula regarding the expotential concept of time binding – p 125-7 of Bio  mathematical principles  - use paper I wrote it out.

P128 AK Bio -Wealth - those things, whether they be material commodities or forms of knowledge and understanding––that have been produced by the time-binding energies of humanity, and according to which nearly all the wealth of the world at any given time is the accumulated fruit of the toil of past generations – the living work of the dead.

After writing Manhood, Korzybski’s interests shifted from the political-economic applications of time-binding and he never made any major study of economics.

From his time-binding view of wealth, Korzybski criticized both capitalists and socialists
in the pages of the book: There are capitalists and capitalists; there are socialists and socialists. Among the capitalists there are those who want wealth––mainly the fruit of dead men’s toil—for themselves. Among the socialists there are those—the orthodox socialists—who seek to disperse it. The former do not perceive that the product of the labor of the dead is itself dead if not quickened by the energies of living men. The orthodox socialists do not perceive the tremendous benefits that accrue for mankind from the accumulation of wealth if rightly used. ...“capitalistic” lust to keep for SELF and “proletarian” lust to get for SELF are both of them space-binding lust––animal lust––beneath the level of time-binding life. A different political-economic approach must result from a time-binding perspective.

He did not elaborate its details, but at its base he conceived it to involve a political-economic
order, neither ‘socialist’ nor ‘capitalist’ as many people understand those terms, but focused
on co-operation which would benefit all humans p128

Manhood of humanity -  p131 bio
Clearly, the main factors that entered into Korzybski’s formulation of time-binding had been recognized by many others before him. Granted, he stood on their shoulders. Still Korzybski’s formulation of time-binding did do something new: It brought together the various related factors that others had previously noted, under one unifying, functional formulation and term. Making time-binding the distinguishing feature of the human class of life gave the phenomenon greater significance.  His attempt to quantify it with the equation PRT (Power/Ratio of progress/time)  and his emphasis on the implications and applications of conscious time-binding for human welfare gave added value to the formulation. It seemed to him that his new definition, with these accompanying aspects, constituted a proper starting point for an applied science of humanity—a new art and science of human engineering.

For both him and Mira, the book provided a kind of ‘spiritual’ satisfaction as well. With the formulation of time-binding, he had found some resolution for the questions that had been plaguing him for so long. By helping people to become more conscious and better time-binders, he might be able to encourage the kind of culture that could prevent future, more devastating wars. In addition, despite some of the manuscript’s stylistic clumsiness, which he realized came in part from writing in a new language, he felt happy about his writing. In places he had managed to combine a degree of rigor with a simplicity of expression that pleased him.

From Milton – If we want things to change in our lives, we have to change the ways we ‘think’ about things; the ways we ‘think’ about others; the ways we ‘think’ about our world. A great deal of our thinkings-and-feelings are based on our definitions. Unfortunately, we are most times unaware of our definitions. And as they are not formally expressed, we have no hint that many of our problems can be attributed to the ways we have defined someone or something. Awareness of our attitudes, our expectations, and the ways we relate to, and treat someone or something, provide us with valuable clues to the ways we have defined someone or something.

Here is a very simple way you could be more appreciative of those other time-binders. Every now and again, take a few moments to say “Thanks” to parents, teachers, friends, acquaintances, strangers, and the many individuals you have not met. Give “Thanks” to the many individuals who have passed on, and who have left their inputs in books, plays, films, stories, theories, philosophies; in social, political, economic, religious, and other systems and institutions; parks, buildings, bridges, technologies, and so on, for us to learn from, improve on, and carry on where they left off. Too often, we take these legacies for granted.

Time-binding involves improvements. But we can improve on the efficiency of a nuclear device, or designs of land mines. And we can improve our rationalizations of our insane behaviors. We can build on the prejudices, and unsane ‘thinking’ of others, as well as ourselves. And we can improve on the ways we treat ourselves, as well as the ways we behave with each other, by being aware of ourselves as time-binders, as cooperators: We have the power to choose. From a general semantics frame of reference, we are, by nature, time-binders. This behavior can be encouraged, discouraged, facilitated, promoted, to varying degrees, but it cannot be eliminated. It is about learning and improvements. We are self-reflexive beings – we learn from ourselves. We cannot help learning – and if not discouraged – improving on what we learn. But if every time we label something we said or did, simply as “mistake”, or swear, feel bad, call ourselves names like “stupid”, and so on, and leave it at that, we miss a time-binding opportunity. And we shortchange ourselves as human beings by missing opportunities to learn from our mistakes and our accomplishments.

We considered the article  On Time-Binding as an Instrument of Peace By Nan Bialek

Kodish and Kodish, Drive Yourself Sane, p.197 Outcomes of Applying Time-Binding:

    1. Understanding the role of time-binding in short- and long-term decision making   

    2 . Consciousness of how people and societies change and learn over time   

    3. “An Awareness of change and process at all levels of life”
        --Minteer, Words and What They Do To You, Lesson 12
    4. “The habit of dating in speech – locating an event or person in time”
        --Minteer, Words and What They Do To You, Lesson 12
    5. “Taking responsibility for our own abstracting, and accepting inevitable individual differences
        in evaluating.”  --Kodish & Kodish, Drive Yourself Sane, p. 187.


Next Meeting:

Sun 3rd November 2013
"Behavioural Change Methods"

Come to this seminar to learn better strategies for changing your behaviour
and keeping your changes on track.

88% of us fail in our New Year’s resolution for some behavioural change ... Why?
  1. We don't understand the change process.
  2. Our expectations about the time and effort required are incorrect.

This seminar is designed to give us some of the information we need to know,
to help develop our skills for changing behaviour -
how to become more successful with our New Year’s (and other) resolutions!

Presented by Mr David Hewson.

10:30am - 4:30pm at Bonnet Bay, Sydney, Australia.

Writing Disclaimer: This "summary" is a collection of notes derived from our discussion by a number of means.  It is by no means a scholarly dissertation on the subject as presented.  It does not purport to be the "policy of AGS".  Comment and criticism (constructive or otherwise) is welcome.  If anyone has been misquoted, copyrights infringed or confidences betrayed, please Contact us.


(Updated by RJ 14/10/2013)

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