Ants, Simon and now Mary

[From Fred Nickols (990426.1850)] --

Mary Powers 990424>
The problem with Simon (or his discussant quoted by Fred) is that they have
stated the problem and seem to think that that means they have answered it,
or will have done so in a jiffy or two (oh, never mind about the ant, all we
have to do is analyze the task environment - it's as good as done).

Being at one time a career sailor, I have a lot of respect for the Queen
Mary and would not want to find myself adrift at sea with that Grand Lady
bearing down on me, so let me hasten to clarify that I tossed out the Simon
citation because I recalled it from an earlier exchange on this list and
not as a way of stirring up any kind of controversy.

As for where I stand personally and professionally regarding Simon's
description of ant behavior, I am torn between two explanations. First, I
like the PCT explanation very much. It is much more satisfying than
Simon's simple explanation of environmental determinants. (Gee, dare I
refer to Herbert Simon as "simple Simon"?) But, I'm also mindful of
someone's assertion that it is neither goal nor environment that determines
the ant's behavior but a "scent trail" that the ant lays down on the way
out and follows home on the way back. This second explanation, albeit a
wee bit appealing at first glance, seems to be to suffer from the simple
observation that an ant takes one path on the way out and a different one
on the way back. A "scent trail" doesn't seem to me to account for that.
The "SNS" (sun navigation system) offered by another commentator has
promise, too, except on cloudy days. So, until someone can convince me
otherwise, I'll opt for the view that the ant knows where it is and where
it wants to be and acts in ways that reduce that gap. As for how it knows
where it is or where it wants to be, I haven't the foggiest idea.

Love to all...


Fred Nickols
Distance Consulting "Assistance at A Distance"
(609) 490-0095