As the dust settles

Bill Cunningham (920408.0900)

Several recipients of the following true account have suggested that it
be recast in terms of PCT or the human ability to adjust and overcome



SUBJECT: On the need for redundancy (4 Apr 93)

1. The deed is done. Daughter duly (but not dully) married.

2. Consider the following redundancies:

     a. Soprano soloist, a friend, had family emergency and dropped out.
Tenor friend stepped forward on Wednesday, learned the music and did great.

     b. Original photographer in USAF Reserve called to active duty, about
60 days out, handed over to partner. Partner admitted to hospital for
surgery day before wedding. Wife of original found substitute, confirming
same at 1045 day of 1400 wedding.

     c. With bride, groom, and bride's father standing there listening to
final mumbo jumbo before giving bride away, the best man faints and is
dragged to feet by groom and groomsman next in line. Best man refuses
chair offered by soloist, stands bravely. Pastor starts up again and
best man faints dead away, dropping ring. Groom picks up ring, and hands
it to next groomsman. Photographer, soloist and musician drag drag best
man off the pitch and the match resumes. Meanwhile, father of bride is
hanging onto daughter (who is now shaking like a leaf) and looking at
pastor who doesn't know whether to administer vows or last rites.

3. Careful reading of para 2.c will show that backup soloist and photographer
provided cool head and muscle when needed. You never know when a backup
system will outperform design for your primary.


Our daughter Karen had carefully scripted her wedding to achieve all her
really important goals whilst remaining within a modest (and hardnosed)
cost constraint. Actually, an excellent job of trading off conflicting
goals and correcting for the minor disturbances along the way.

So much for planning. Karen failed to consider the advice of the famous
wedding consultant Robert Burns Murphy, who said "The best laid plans of
mice and brides gang always agley." In PCT terms, there will be unpredictable
disturbances predictably beyond the control limits of the individual
organism. Man has adapted to overcome this constraint by inventing
social systems (including marriage), whereby multiple organisms can share goals
and collectively control for their achievement. Successful sharing of goals
amongst members of the social system depends communication of the bride's
principal goals by means of layered protocols. Part of that interaction
includes models of the dialogue partner, which build confidence that the
partner will perform as required. Many disappointments are caused by
incorrect modeling.

This example shows the importance of including within the model (of other
social system members) some estimate of their ability to reorganize in
the face of catastrophic failure, whilst retaining the original highest
order collective goals. In military terms, this is equivalent to staffing
an organization with individuals capable of understanding the commander's
intent and dedicated to achieving it, but who are free to act independently
according to their local circumstances.

Note there are really two unsung heroes in this example. The wife of the
original photographer was faced with a failure and tracked down a substitute
whom she correctly modeled as able to rise to the occasion. The church
organist did the same thing for the soloist, tracking down the tenor who
was out of town on business. The second best man performed exactly as modeled.

And so it goes. I hope this provides ample (and light hearted) evidence why
why the human is a social animal, despite being an individual control system.

Frankly, I thought the story was funnier without all the explanation, but not
while it was unfolding. Please enjoy the laugh and don't treat this too
seriously. Share as appropriate.

Bill Cunningham aka FOTB