Applications, Bolled over

[From Rick Marken (950914.2110)]

Jeff Vancouver: I hope Bill Powers' (950914.1300 MDT) comments
about "disconfirming" PCT were helpful. Right now, I have some
other fish to fry, so to speak;-)

Ken Kitzke (950914.1238) --

It is my hope, my goal, my want that somehow, PCT can be applied to
human activity to improve the actions and interactions of people for
the shared purpose of a more satisfying life for all concerned.

PCT is a theory of the way humans work. I think it's better to describe
what you do as "the development of ways to improve human interactions
that take into account the fact that people are perceptual control

I will be trying to test the theory by proving that PCT applys and
improves the science of management. Why should I try to prove PCT
is wrong?

You shouldn't, because you are not testing PCT. You are trying to improve
human interactions under the assumption that PCT is correct. You are like
an engineer who is trying to build a bridge under the assumption that
Newtonian (rather than Aristotilean) mechanics is correct. PCT tells
you nothing about how to improve human interactions just as Newton tells
you nothing about how to build a bridge.

I DO NOT agree we have to understand how or why things work
BEFORE we can make things better.

OK. But then making things better becomes a random walk rather than
a systematic control process, doesn't it? I think the pay-off from
understanding how things work has been enormous.

I wonder why you can say what you do about PCT but can't see
COMPETITION in a similar way?

All I have ever said about competition is that it is conflict. PCT doesn't
say whether conflict is good or bad -- it is just what happens when two
control systems try to control the same perception relative to different
reference levels.

My intuition is that chronic conflict can't be good for an economy. But
the question of whether it is or not can only be answered by doing the
appropriate science.

Some people act as though it is a scientific fact that competition is good
for an economy; it is not a scientific fact. However, it is a scientific fact
that people control and that the PCT model accounts for many examples of
this control extremely well. The value of PCT as a model of human nature
is far better established than the value of conflict for an economy. That's
why I don't treat the relationship between competition and the economy the
same as I treat the relationship betwen PCT and human nature.

Hopefully, we could cooperate in an attempt to use PCT for a good
application in improving the management of competitive businesses
and the lives of the people in this system. I welcome your help, but, it
is up to you.

Yes, and it is also up to you whether you want to take our help or not.
Those of us who are considered theoreticians are, indeed, in the same
role with respect to you applied PCTers as is the physicist with respect
to the bridge builder. We can't tell you how to improve human
interactions; you have to make up things like "social skills rooms" and
"meetings to formulate rules", etc. All we can say is how what you are
doing fits in with an understanding of people as perceptual control
systems. Sometimes we might see what you are doing as a recipe for
conflict; other times we will see it as a very clever way to help people
control cooperatively. But all we are doing is commenting on the
relationship between your methods and our model.

Our goal in doing this is not to criticize your methods, your intentions
or your grasp of PCT. All we are doing is trying to give what is
presumably asked for -- an evaluation of how your application fits into
an understanding of people as perceptual control systems. That is the
only way we can help you.

If the only kind of help you want is agreement that your approach to
improving human interaction, say, is completely consistent with an
understanding of people as control systems (and I'm not saying that
it is; I'm just saying IF IT IS), then it's probably best not to ask
for help. If, when we disagree, you believe it's because we have
some agenda other than presenting an accurate picture of people as
perceptual control systems, then, again, it's probably best not to ask
for help. If you don't ask for help and the bridge (your PCT application)
weathers the storm, mazel tov. If it falls down, however, please don't
blame us;-)


Regarding the quoted comments of Bolles (1980) on physiological control
systems, Bruce Abbott (950914.1840 EST) asks:

Comments? (;->

You bet. This was a GREAT find, Bruce. Lots of new material for the
old "Devil's Bibliography".

Bolles is trying to describe control as a cause-effect process: "out of
limits" perceptions cause corrective responses. Bolles ignores the fact
that there is a closed-loop of cause and effect in these systems; the
perceptions that cause corrective responses are, at the same time, caused
by the "corrective" responses they are causing.

Bolles' is almost giddy with excitment as he tries to describe control as a
process without a purpose. Look at how Bolles dismisses the idea that
a control system acts to bring a controlled variable to a reference state.

there is no proper value that it [Na+ concentration -- the controlled
variable] is obliged to take. It is just that as Na+ concentration
increases a new mechanism comes into play that puts a limit upon its

So the reference state (actually, reference range of Na+ concentration) is
just an accidental side effect of a cause-effect mechanism. With an
almost palpable sigh of relief Bolles concludes:

That [cause-effect] is the essence of real-life control systems. In no case
do we find a real control device that measures a descrepancy from
some preordained value and applies a correction that is proportional
to the discrepancy.

Of course, "we" don't find such a control device because we don't want
to find it -- do we, Mr. Bolles. But there it is, right in front of Bolles'
mechanistic gaze -- behavior: the control of perception (of Na+

Bolles wrote this in 1980 -- seven years after the publication of B:CP.

Think about it.