A PCT Research Program

Dear all

In the last chapter – chapter 8 – of my book The Study of Living Control Systems I give a rather high-level description of how Bill Powers imagined behavioral research would be conducted once it was understood that organisms are living control systems. As early as 1960, in his paper with Clark and McFarland, Powers described what a future PCT-based research program might look like. He elaborated on these ideas in subsequent papers and books. But for various reasons such a program has never really gotten off the ground. Chapter 8 is titled Back to the Future (of PCT Research) because it is sort of a plea to those who are in a position to do so to start implementing now the “future” PCT-based research program that Powers proposed way back then.

Of course, in order to be able to implement such a program on has to have a good idea of what it is. The high level description of the program in Chapter 8 is an attempt to promote some discussion of Powers’ proposal with the aim of getting to a point where it would be possible to actually start doing the work of providing what I believe is an essential empirical basis for understanding the behavior of living control systems as the control of perception.

So this post is an attempt to start a discussion thread on Chapter 8 in The Study of Living Control Systems with the aim of developing concrete ideas about how researchers can contribute to a PCT-based science of living control systems. Here are some questions that might help start the discussion:

  1. What do you think of Powers’ idea of creating a database of controlled variables? What might such a database look like? What are concrete steps that could be taken to create such a database?

  2. What do you think of Powers’ proposals about how such a database might be used?

  3. How might cognitive phenomena, such as memory and thinking, and consciousness phenomena, be incorporated into this research program?

So let’s see if there are Marty McFly’s out there who can go back to the past and make the future a present reality.