Are We Reorganizing Yet? Should We Vote On It?

From Greg Williams (921011)



Well, maybe at least ONE of us is reorganizing... THREE posts in reply to my
last post!


Bill Powers (921010.0900)

Dear Mr. Williams,

The Lexington District Attorney's office wishes to inform you that
William T. Powers, also known as L. Ron Hubbard III., is presently
being held by Lexington County police on a charges of extortion, theft
of services, and fraud in connection with his promotions of
"dianetics," Rosicrucian therapy, and stock manipulation.....

Hmmm. I know how to deal with obvious hoaxes: ignore them. However, Bill must
have thought this important to do for SOME reason, if only to distract his own
or others' attention away from the main points of my post. Well...
(reorganizing now) taking his project seriously... I first should advise him
that to improve the literary quality of his satire he might consider studying
the art of that grand master of irony, Mark Twain. There's a complete set of
Twain for sale at one of the Durango used book stores.

Even more seriously, I thought Bill had argued way back that running for the
exit when somebody yells "Fire!" in a theater involves no reorganization, just
continued operation of the person's existing control structure, which includes
a reference signal for not getting burned.

[My purported (unreorganizing) answer to the hoax revelation:]

Thank you for this information. I have taken it into account and will
modify my activities accordingly. Fortunately, I can make the
necessary changes calmly and without any serious upsets. Please convey
my best regards to Mr. Powers. I hope the weather is pleasant in

I think I would be considerably more upset if I didn't treat this as a hoax.
But I can be upset without reorganizing, I think. (I certainly would be upset
as I tried to escape from a theater fire). The new information has led me to
control differently than if there had been no new information, but that
different controlling is via the same old reference signals (get lost money
back or don't get burned).

Most seriously of all, what's the point of arguing about whether a particular
case of new actions following the presentation of new information involves
reorganization or not? I think it does in some cases (i.e., Gary's swimming
example) and not in other cases.

Bill Powers (921010.0930)

Your proposals require a model entirely different from mine. How about
spelling it out?

I'm not so sure my model is entirely different -- maybe not even different at
all, though at least how I interpret the ideological upshot does appear to be

When I have time, I'll try to spell it out better than in the past. Right now,
CLOSED LOOP, and house-building to deal with. A thorough and careful
consideration of alternative models of learning/reorganization would require
considerable time, which I don't have right now. I hope you will be patient.

Bill Powers (921010.0945)

There is no one specific state of the environment on
which critical variables depend.


is no particular learned control structure that will result in
correction of critical error -- that is, an infinite number of
different control structures could have the same effect of preventing
critical error.


So while the organization of the learned system does
"depend on the environment," the dependence is not systematic but only
qualitative. It is ambiguous.

Fine, I think. In different terms (am I with you?), there is no one-to-one
mapping between pre-reorganization/during-reorganization environmental states
and post-reorganization control structures.

Attempts to alter another's ACTIONS are unlikely to result in
conflict, because actions normally change as a way of counteracting
disturbances. Changing actions requires changing lower-level reference
signals. These changes are initiated as a way of counteracting a
disturbance at a higher level. The associated perceptual signals
remain near in value to the changing reference signals, so control is
not disrupted at any level. At the disturbed level, neither the
reference signals nor the perceptual signals are significantly
changed; the lower-level changes have that purpose.

Yes, I agree. And also that there is another way to control your perceptions
which depend on another's actions, without resultant conflict in the other's
control structure: arrange the environment so the other's actions are NOT
disturbed AND so they result in what you want to perceive (as in Pat serving
"healthy" food). But we've already agreed on all that.

Conflict is produced mainly by an external agent that insists
on disturbing a controlled variable, and produces as much force as
required to disturb it by a significant amount. In short, by another
control system that wants the same controlled variable to be in a
different state, or wants something equivalent having the same effect.

I agree. This is how the slogan "nobody can control you without overwhelming
physical force or threat thereof" unpacks. My point in the previous post --
which I haven't reorganized enough to be distracted from remembering -- is
that the slogan, while TRUE, doesn't seem so important when you realize that
even though your controlled variables cannot be arbitrarily altered in the
short-term without almost certainly giving rise to conflict, your actions (or
the effects of those actions as seen by another) CAN be altered. And you might
never know what hit you until it is too late. Finally, the other half of the
point is that control of your actions by another (speaking loosely) is often
something you desire, at least given a background of exchange relations and,
yes, in some cases, threats of force.

To say that something depends "in part" on something else is not a step
toward precision, but away from it.

To the contrary, it is the first step toward precision, supposing that before
saying it, one believed that the something didn't depend AT ALL on the
something else. Once it is realized that there is indeed a dependency where
before none was thought to exist, it is possible to explore the nature of that

"Everything affects everything within the same event
horizon" is a universally true statement. But it is also trivial and useless.

This is NOT the direction in which I am headed. I am headed toward narrowing
the investigation of dependency relations, not broadening the investigation.

It is worse than that, because it implies that all less-general
statements consistent with the most general one are also true, and
this is not at all the case. There is a very large difference between
saying that the form of learned control systems "depends in part" on
"the environment" and saying that the environment can be configured in
a specific way to determine the form of a learned control system. That
is simply not possible; there are too many different ways of
controlling that have the same effect. There are too many ways of
affecting the environment that would serve to correct the same
critical error. The only thing that can be pinned down to any degree
is the state at which changes in organization will cease, and that is
the state in which critical variables match their reference levels.
That is the only predictable outcome of reorganization.

I specifically dispute that it is impossible for environmental configurations
to largely -- but not strictly deterministically -- (one might say
"functionally," in the sense that the post-reorganization actions will meet
certain criteria so that they "function" as predicted). In Gary's swimming
example, the teacher predicts that actions which function to keep the student
afloat in deep water will result from reorganization, rather than actions
which function, say, to put a part in the student's hair; if the student
doesn't drown or give up, the teacher's predictions are correct: the student
learned to "swim" rather than to "comb hair."

To say that A depends on B is to make a clear statement: given B, one
can predict A.

I don't think so (should we put it to a vote, or just ask a professional
philosopher?). To say that A depends on B means that if B changes, A changes,
ceteris paribus.

To say that A depends "in part" on B is also to make a clear statement: given
B, one can predict nothing about A.

I don't think so (should we put it to a vote, or just ask a professional
philosopher?). To say that A depends "in part" on B means that there is also
a C such that, if B changes and C doesn't change, A changes, and if C changes
and B doesn't change, A changes, ceteris paribus.

The qualifier "in part" does not just slightly reduce the amount of
dependence. It eliminates dependence altogether.

Sez Bill Powers, a non-statistical phenomenon -- perhaps even a minority of

Martin Taylor 921010 15:40

Well, I want to know how people work, even if you don't. It isn't enough for
me to accept that behaviour is controlled perception. I want to know where
the signals go (functionally), and what happens if you block this of that
path, how to deal with people suffering from stroke, why we have focussed
attention and what its limitations are, whether we use internal feedback for
short-term memory, and all sorts of questions like that.

Of course the details of what ANYONE wants to know are based on what they
think is missing in what they already believe. That's a first-level
statement from PCT. So what? If all you are interested in is a succession
of demonstrations that perception is controlled, then you are unlikely to
find much that is interesting to me. I would like to know where and how,
for example, perceptual signals are derived from multisensory inputs (why
a sound and a sight seem to come from the same object).

Well said and worth repeating. Sadly, I predict no reorganization resulting
from these comments. I hope my prediction is wrong.

Best wishes,