An ounce of prevention...

From Greg Williams (921009)

Bill Powers (921008.1800)

Disturbances can have pronounced effects on the way a person acts. But
if those actions are successful, and don't prevent other control
actions from being successful, such disturbances are insignificant in
the life of the organism.

Do you disagree that the actions taken by a person at time t1 which are
necessary for successful control by that person at time t1 could result in
unsuccessful control (and hence Bill-significance) at time t2? An example is
the successfully controlling person paying for desired expensive shoes (t1)
with his/her credit card and later (t2) having to deal with not getting to go
on a desired trip to the Riviera because of not having enough money.

Do you disagree that the actions taken by a person at time t1 which are
necessary for successful control by that person at time t1 could result in
improved control (and hence, let us say, Greg-significance) of some percepts
(possibly distantly related to the percepts being successfully controlled at
time t1)? An example is putting away paycheck savings (t1) and after
retirement (t2) using them to pay for a trip to the Riviera.

My position is that external influences are significant to an organism if
they prevent it from controlling its controlled variables. An external
influence that does not alter the organism's ability to control any of its
controlled variables is insignificant to the organism. It causes no change in
organization and it causes no significant error, hierarchical or critical.

In the first example above, if the ("kindly") storekeeper refused to take the
person's credit card (t1), judging (quite patronizingly) that this particular
assemblyline worker really shouldn't buy a $400 pair of shoes, then that
"external influence" would be Bill-significant at t1 and Greg-significant at
t2, wouldn't it? In the second example above, if the savings bank folded (no
FDIC!) before t2, then that "external influence" would be Bill-significant at
t2, wouldn't it?

The significant variables (to me) are the controlled variables
(significant for one reason) or external variables capable of
preventing control from succeeding (significant for quite a different

To which I add: external variables capable of facilitating successful control
(allowing it where otherwise it would be impossible) -- significant for a
third quite different reason.

I still think they do [depend on the environment], in important
ways, but I don't need them to for what I've been calling "co-

Are you saying that controlled variables do depend on the environment
in important ways? What ways, when control is successful?

Historically. Environmental influences prior to time t1 can affect the
trajectory of controlled variables after time t1. This is the
learning/reorganization (my "long-term influence") disagreement we've been

When the hierarchy is operating properly, all
perceptions at all levels remain close to their respective reference
signals: they remain under control.

But the hierarchy (or, more generally, control organization) CHANGES over
time. You think those changes aren't due in any way to the environment; I
think the environment plays an important role.

Nobody in these categories needs any help in dealing with the world as
long as all perceptions are successfully controlled at their reference
levels, and all critical variables remain near their reference states.
Effects of external events become "significant" only when they
frustrate or disrupt or prevent control.

I wonder if you practice automotive "preventive maintenance"? Suffice it to
say that there are many people who (patronizingly or not) believe in keeping
drunks from behind wheels, and so forth, to attempt to PREVENT the disruption
of control by people. Are you REALLY pleading for a completely "hands-off"
approach to regulating social interactions? Should the police wait until AFTER
the wreck to arrest the drunk? When the victim is dead, it is difficult to
give him/her any help with controlling!

When you mention these categories, the implication I get is that there
is some problem associated with each category. If the welfare mother
or the TV watcher is controlling all the variables that the person is
organized to control at all the levels that exist in that person, and
there is no critical error, the only problem is in the mind of the
observer who sees something wrong with what the person is controlling
for and would like that person to control for something else. Any
attempt to achieve this wish will, of course, result in conflict.

Is there a problem in the mind of an observer who predicts that the presently
successfully controlling TV watcher is going to have problems controlling in
the future which are due in part to his/her current ACTIONS and attempts to
alter how the person ACTS, rather than what the person is controlling for?

The resulting data might help to convince some PCTers that the
slogan "No one can control you" -- meaning that no one make you
want what you don't want -- merits a "Big deal! I can still have
plenty of problems -- and plenty of benefits -- due in part to
others controlling their OWN perceptions which depend on what I do.
And those problems/benefits aren't insignificant TO ME!"

Problems are problems only if you want to fix them and can't.

For sure. And you certainly can't fix getting killed by a drunk driver after
you're already dead. So you attempt to alter the drunk's ACTIONS beforehand --
you don't try to alter his/her belief than drunk-driving is a God-given right!
-- and deliberately conflict his/her control system by throwing him/her in
jail. Then you give him/her the choice of alcoholism treatment or no driver's

Benefits are problems only if you can't get them when you want them.

For sure. And if you come to want them when it's too late to get them, perhaps
because a con artist has successfully controlled for certain of his/her
perceptions dependent on certain of your actions, or perhaps because your
teacher was a lousy communicator, or perhaps because your parents believed
that you should do whatever you want to do and not what they think is best,
too bad!

I would NOT explain to the person that the problems are co-determined
by the person and by the environment, even though that does pretty
much cover the possibilities. Even if the problem is partly determined
by the environment, the person is going to have to get that aspect of
the environment under control, as perceived, of course, in order to do
anything about it.

Do you prefer telling the widow of the drunk driver's victim that she's just
going to have to regain control of her perceptions now that he husband is gone
to telling the drunk to get into the police car OR ELSE?