Australian General Semantics Society Inc.


Saturday 30th July 2022

10am Sydney time, on line via Zoom 

"Ed MacNeal's 'Master Atlas of Decision Making' "

facilitated by David Hewson

Catching Up

As "GS practitioners", we have plenty of GS Diary entries to share with the group.  In the month since our last meeting, members had experienced a range of "transitional events" related to their personal, community, and professional lives.

This 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"!

David's presentation today focussed on Ed MacNeal's "Master Atlas of Decision Making".

Edward MacNeal held the position of executive secretary of the International Society for General Semantics in the late 1940s, works as an aviation consultant, and has written several notable books, including The Semantics of Air Passenger Transportation; Mathsemantics: Making Numbers Talk Sense; and MacNeal's Master Atlas of Decision Making (published 1997).

MacNeal’s Master Atlas of Decision Making extends the basic principles of general semantics … He pinpoints the generic advantages and disadvantages of different decision-making approaches.
Russell Joyner "ETC" Editor.

What does it cover and what is it useful for?
The Atlas covers over 20 decision making methods, but we will discuss about 15 of these - the ones I find most effective for personal use.

They are useful to:
   * Widen your choice of decision making methods.
   * Avoid errors of one particular decision making pattern.
   * Look out for rationalisations.
   * Learn how celebrities and others can lie and rationalise on social media.
   * Improve your skills with each method.
   * Simplify your decision making.
   * Improve the quality of your decisions.
   * Improve your communication skills.
   * Avoid elementalism and develop a better use of meta maps.
   * ... etc ...

1. Introduction

a) Structure of the day.

b) Brief introduction to GS and how Korzybski came to develop it after WWI.

2. Motivation 

a) Demalogics (Decision Making Logics) – So what? It can help you:

   i) Widen your choice of decision making methods.

   ii) Avoids errors of one particular decision making pattern.

   iii) Look out for rationalisations.

   iv) Improve your skills with each method.

   v) Simplify your decision making.

   vi) Improve the quality of your decisions.

   vii) Improve your communication skills.

   viii) Avoid elementalism and develop a better use of meta maps.

   ix) Etc.

3. Overview of Demalogics

a) Mapping & projections

   i) When we discuss our decisions, we deal with maps.
      We can call them “cognitive maps” or “mental maps”.
      And like all maps they have the following limits:
        (1) The map is not the territory it represents.
        (2) The map does not represent all of the territory.
        (3) To be useful, the map should have a reasonable amount of structural similarity to the territory it represents.
        (4) The ideal map would have a map of the map, recursively, etc.

   ii) Like geographic maps, decision making maps are projections. Different projections have different uses. MacNeal’s atlas talks about several geographic projections and their various distortions, of areas, direction and distances to other places. A globe however gives correct areas, direction and distances to other places. However, it’s too big to fit in the glove compartment of your car, if it had enough detail on it, to show you where to drive around Sydney. Hence the use of projections (views of the globe).

b) We defined a “decision” as an acceptance or rejection of some course of action,
e.g. deciding to go to the AGS seminar or to go elsewhere.

c) MacNeal’s atlas summaries the whole theory in a 7 level hierarchy. This is a bit like a physical hierarchy such as: parts of atoms (protons, neutrons and electrons), atoms, molecules, macro molecules, substances like rock, planets (third rock from the sun), solar systems, galaxies, the universe.

d) Demalogical hierarchy, seven- level model:

   i) Sub decision events, e.g. situations (its raining), actions (take umbrella)
      and their consequences (how wet you get, how much you have to carry, etc).

   ii) Basic patterns that relate an action chosen to one reason.

   iii) Compound patterns that relate an action chosen to many reasons.

   iv) Basic links between interacting decisions, for one decider,
        e.g. allocative, recursive, transformation & rationalisation.
        We didn’t cover quantification.

   v) Interpersonal linkages between multiple deciders,
       e.g. proposition, mutual and reciprocal.
       We didn’t cover organisational links or the higher levels.

   vi) Systems of decisions e.g. socio-economic systems, legal systems, etc.

   vii) Comparing demalogics at all other levels is the final 7th level.

4. Discussion of Demalogic Formulations in more detail

a) Sub decisional events (level 1). Parts of a decision.

    i) A situation is any circumstance you have no control over.
       Typically it is in the past or some uncontrollable future event,
       like when sunrise occurs tomorrow.

    ii) An action is something you do have control over.

    iii) Consequences arise after the action and we can only influence these to some degree,
         e.g. we can choose to run a race but not necessarily win it.

    iv) Consequences are non elementalistically related to action, as space is to time,
          i.e. they can be split verbally but not in reality.
          MacNeal coins the term “alternaquence” to cover this non-elementalistic relationship.

    v) Doing nothing is also an action,
        e.g. If the governments do nothing about climate change,
        then we suffer the consequences of a very hot planet.

b) Basic decision types (level 2):

    i) Absolute. An action (or alternaquence) is chosen because you like it.

    ii) Action comparative. You prefer one action compared to another.

    iii) Responsive. You chose the action that best fits the situation.
         We discussed a couple arguing at a party, where each abstracted out a different psychological situation
         from the same physical situation.

    iv) Goal directed. You chose the action x that will have your goal y, as a probable consequence of that action.

    v) Originative dema map. You prefer one alternaquence compared to another.

c) Compound decision types (level 3):
    We mainly covered scorecard (weighing the pros and cons)
    and sequential (narrowing down your decision using multiple basic decision types),
    while only mentioning uniform and multiform.

d) Basic Dema linkages (level 4) for one decider:

    i) Transformation of a decision from one decision type to another,
        e.g. changing a goal directed pattern to a rule based responsive pattern.

    ii) Rationalising. Restating the decision differently, in the same pattern,
        e.g. “My aim in doing nothing about Covid, is to make sure that the economy stays strong” i.e. his stated goal.
        Whereas the real goal may be “If nothing is done to disrupt people's income then they will re-elect me.”

    iii) Recursive. Making a decision about the decision,
         e.g. “I will decide where to go on holiday once the covid curfew ends.”

    iv) Allocative. Resources spent on one decision will then not be available for another decision.

e) Interpersonal dema linkage (level 5). The relationship between different deciders.

    i) Proposition. One person proposes a course of action to another.

    ii) Mutual. Similar actions that the decider cannot do alone but they can do with another decider,
        e.g. lifting a heavy rock together.

    iii) Reciprocal. Different actions that the decider does in exchange with another decider, e.g. selling and buying a car.

    iv) Organisational. Links for organisations, which we did not cover.

5. Applications

a) We had a brief look at errors that can occur in each demalogic.

b) We also looked at what happens if you rely too much on just one pattern.

c) The books give examples of its use in business, etc,
     but we ran out of time and did not cover these.


   * MacNeal's Master Atlas of Decision Making: A New Kind of Guide to the Maps
     People Use in Making Up Their Minds
(Paperback 1 June 1997)
     by Edward MacNeal and Russell Joyner

   * David Hewson's presentation to the Australian General Semantics Society in October 2012:
     An introduction to Ed MacNeal's Decision Atlas.

Next meeting:  10th September 2022  10am - 1pm (Sydney time)

"Making Meaning through FaceBook, and the Googalisation of Everything"

Facilitated by Jeanne James

    Jeanne loved this presentation by University of Virginia Professor of Media Studies and the Law Siva Vaidhyanathan
    as the AKML 2021 lecture. She is happy to share some thoughts on this.


    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.


    Australian General Semantics Society



Updated by Robert James
31st July 2022