Aha! An insight--I think.

From [Fred Nickols (981020.1720)] --

Subject was: Strong Influences

Bill Powers (981019.1535 MDT) responding to Bruce Abbott...

No, it's the _other_ definition of control that's absurd: it's absurd to
think that anyone would be satisfied to have a strong and (supposedly)
reliable influence on something if the person were never allowed to
observe the effects of the actions. Even when it's not mentioned,
observing the effects is a tacit part of any concept of control, even

so->called open-loop control. If you can tell me what the effect of your

action is, it's not open-loop.

What that raises in my mind is the issue of long-term decisions. Quite
specifically, it leads me to ask if we act to control the imagined effects
of our actions. (Having asked the question, I think--tentatively--that we
do. We bet on the downstream or future outcomes.)

If an exec makes a decision to invest in this, that or the other, and the
actual effects are not there to be perceived (except for some en route
indicators), is it possible (and permissible) under the PCT worldview to
assert that the exec is controlling for imagined future perceptions,
perceptions that he/she will perhaps not even be around to compare and
contrast with actual perceptions at that future time?

As I think about it (and I'm obviously thinking out loud--electronically),
the exec's current behavior could be viewed as controlling for a perception
of actions now that will have the desired effects later. Is that a better
way of stating it?

Another example, closer to home. I recently prepared a description of my
strategic planning and management services unit in response to a request
from our chief operating officer (COO). This is in the context of a very
real and concerted effort to cut costs. My aim was to protect my unit.
The measure of my success is in the future, not the present. My effort,
however, was in the "here and now," not the future, and the description I
prepared was consistent with my notions (reference conditions?) of what it
would take to protect the unit. If it turns out that I have succeeded,
that reference condition will be more or less confirmed; if not, it will be
disconfirmed to some extent (and I will probably adjust when and if I
encounter any similar situations in the future--I will have "learned" as
some might say).

Where does this kind of thing fit in the PCT hierarchy? Principles?
Systems? Programs?

As a practical application, it seems to me that I might have benefitted
from a step not in my current response; namely, formulating my response and
then checking to see what assumptions (reference conditions?) I was making
and to which I was responding--before sending off my response--a kind of
last-minute check on the soundness of what I was doing. Oh well, live and
learn (or perhaps it ought to be "observe and modify your reference


Fred Nickols
Distance Consulting
(609) 490-0095