[From Kenny Kitzke (2003.05.27.0918 EDT)]
<Bill Powers (2003.05.21.1418 MDT)>
Bill, I’m just back from a week of R&R–without the laptop. Among the pile of unread E-mail was this amazing post of yours. Amazing because it seems to be a major step in resolving one of my major perceptions concerning the “incompleteness” of HPCT.
I have spoken about this perception of mine both at the Conference and a few times on the CSGNet. But, seemingly, never in a very convincing way and certainly never with empirical evidence. I could only observe that your conception of the highest levels of perception, and especially the role of your proposed “reorganization” system and how it operates, simply does not adequately explain my own life experience.
<Does this fit with anyone else’s experiences?>
<There are three situations in which
large errors can occur:
- A large disturbance in the environment can overwhelm control, or
threaten to do so. Large errors are experienced (though not, I currently
- A conflict can prevent effective action, and lead to escalating internal
efforts that nullify each other and accomplish nothing to correct errors.
- A reference signal can be set to a value much different from its current
The first two are likely to be associated with negative emotions. The first
would lead to perceiving the external event as the cause of the emotion.
The second would probably result in attributing the emotion to one’s own
inability to act.>
Number 3 is in technical terms the crux of why your view never satisfied me about my own behavior and nature. I always felt that high-level reference perceptual variables could be set for oneself without any “reorganization system” being called into play to resolve otherwise unresolvable error in the control systems hierarchy. Especially disturbing to me was the notion that such high level (perhaps the highest level in humans) references were established as a result of some random, trial and error process to reduce error in currently established “system level” reference variables.
<The third one is the new one to me. If one suddenly sets a high reference
signal for something, I would take that to mean that something is being
actively sought, some experience one wants more of. This creates a sudden
error signal not because something has disturbed a perception but because
the reference signal has suddenly changed. The error signal is
self-generated. The positive direction of change implies that the emotion
would be felt not only as self-generated, but as joyful or at least
positive. So here is a plausible way of fitting at least some positive
emotions into this picture.>
I fully agree with the concept of self-generating a reference variable and level for something human beings want to experience with all their might, being and spirit. For an example (one probably not personal to you or me), to “walk on the moon.” Setting by imagination such a high(est) level personal goal can easily change the reference perceptions for all the relevant lower levels such as system and belief perceptions. And, this will impact in a major way what you do with your time year by year, even second by second.
What still confuses me is your emphasis on “suddenly” above. Why does the reference or the error have to occur suddenly? I am not saying it could not happen suddenly, just that it is not a necessary condition. If I fall out of a boat and can’t swim and almost drown, I may suddenly while struggling for a breath set a reference for learning to swim (I think that is a system level perception) and fits more with the reorganization scenario.
I have been comfortable with your speculation that the high level references tend to change infrequently, some over years, decades or even a lifetime. I think the process of self-setting a personal goal like “walking on the moon” can build slowly over time. Perhaps lower level references are not modified until there is a true, deep-felt conviction, to that goal, rather than just an imagined “dream” of what might become true and become pleasurable (as through experienced emotions).
If a self-goal has no specific time deadline, it is difficult for me to understand how anything like sudden error can occur even at the lower levels where large errors could be experienced. Let’s say that NASA offers two spots for civilians on a future moon landing. And, you must have your application in by June 15 to be considered. Now I could see where the self-generated, personal goal or reference variable of “walking on the moon” could result in generating a large error if you perceive missing the submittal deadline. Perhaps you have a sudden large error when you open your reply letter informing you that you were #3 on the list!
<To make the error signal go away, all one has to do
is set the reference signal back where it was.>
I like this too. One could commit suicide for missing this opportunity of a lifetime. Or, one could reset their reference in time with the belief perception “maybe next time.”
<Reading Damasio’s “Looking for Spinoza” (about feeling and emotion), I had
a thought, inspired by I know not what.>
Well, I could speculate about the source of such inspirations, but won’t. However, while new thoughts are crossing your conscious mind by whatever inspiration source, have you thought about how such “thought thru” new reference variables could come about? How does your conception of HPCT change if this is a new idea to you?