Archived Words of Wisdom :-)

from [ Marc Abrams (990907.0034) ]

A post from Bill that speaks for itself and I think is _right_ on the money



Date: Sat, 4 May 91 09:55:17 -0500
Reply-To: "Control Systems Group Network (CSGnet)" <CSG-L@UIUCVMD
Sender: "Control Systems Group Network (CSGnet)" <CSG-L@UIUCVMD
Subject: system Concepts (Bill)

[From Bill Powers]

When the issue of religion, higher power, faith, and so on appeared on this
net, only a couple of voices were heard against a vast silence. This is
interesting. I happen to know that there are some strong opinions out there,
a few favorable and many unfavorable, on this subject. I jumped right into
it with a control-theory-based conjecture about the way religious
perceptions and phenomena fit into the control model, and Rick, after
expressing his views along the same lines, noted that we seem to have hit a
touchy subject and offered to change it (not that we're limited to one
subject at a time). And Joel Judd may have expressed more than one person's
view when he said

Talking about higher levels seems kind of ethereal I guess; not terribly

The interesting aspect of Joel's comment is that it IS a higher-level point
of view. To say that something isn't terribly scientific is to imply that we
try to say things that ARE scientific. From this I deduce that one can
perceive the degree of scientificness of a discussion. If the degree is less
than some desired degree (very scientific), something must be able to detect
the difference between the actual degree of scientificness and the desired
degree. This difference, I take it, is the basis for whatever action is
taken concerning the discussion, such a writing a sentence saying that it's
pretty ethereal. Clearly, there must be a system concept about what
"scientific" means, and there seems to be a control system related to it.

It seems to me that for those who consider stick-wiggling boring and want to
get into the more interesting higher-level aspects of the control-system
model, we have here a wonderful laboratory in which to explore the real
system, the one we carry around in our heads all the time. If I say
something that bears on religion, your first reaction to it is evidence
about the system concepts you have and are willing to defend. If it is
possible for you to observe those reactions and bring out a fuller
description of them, you will have one foot in the point of view from which
you can evaluate system concepts as a phenomenon, using a real live example.
As you observe this example of a system-concept control system in action,
you will see how control actually works at this level, and gain a deeper
understanding of the way system concepts guide and use lower levels of
organization such as those having to do with principles and programmatic
thinking -- logic.

Of course in order to do this, it is necessary at least for the moment to
cease identifying with any particular system concept -- that is, treating it
as your own point of view. I would wager that very few of those who saw the
"religious" topic go by did anything but identify with whatever system
concept was operable at the moment. The disturbance was successfully
counteracted; the incipient error was kept small. If the topic had switched
immediately back to one of the other lower-level topics that have been
popular, there would have been a little sense of relief, of relaxing the
guard. The disturbance would have gone away.

And now here it is back again. So what's happening now? Same sense of error
again? Same generalizations about why it's not a good topic? Same strategy
for making it go away? Have you been here before? If so, why not observe
what's going on this time? You don't have to identify with a system concept
to do that. It's just a system concept, a phenomenon. It relates to
principle thoughts and logical thoughts and familiar words and phrases
hooked up into familiar sequences. When you're just observing it, it isn't a
good concept or a bad concept; it's just what it is and it works the way it

Phenomena first. Theory second. Hearken to Marken.

Bill Powers uppower@bogecnve 1138 Whitfield Rd. Northbrook, IL 60062