Assume PCT

[From Rick Marken (940519.1000)]

Oded Maler (940518) --

you and few others in the net really understand control. Does it help you in
getting the message thru "professional" psychology? You can analyze what
they control for, and yet you cannot ahcieve this goal. Why? maybe because
what they control for is in basic conflict with youtr idea - the reason does
not matter - you can analyze them, predict them but you cannot influence
them. Fortunately they do not want to kill you, just reject your papers. Your
higher-level understanding of control does not help you practically.
You cannot influence people who control for the perception "behavior is
S-R" as you cannot influence those controlling for "kill the Jews".

This is an exceptionally good point.

When people (like me) say that understanding some idea (like PCT) will help
people make the world a better place, people quite naturlly assume that I am
saying that understanding this idea will help them control more successfully.

Control is the process of making things "better" -- ie. moving things closer
to the states which the controller considers "right"; reference states. This
is usually done by "pushing" on the world, as necessary, to produce the
"right" states. Most advances in science have been accepted becuase they
helped people "push" better to achieve better control; chemistry helps people
"push" on substances better to produce intended results like concrete with
desired properties; physics helps people "push" on things more accurately to
produce intended results like airplanes with desired properties. Thus, it is
natural to imagine that a science of human behavior that claims to be right
would help us "push" on people more accurately so that we can produce
intended results -- like having people publish our research papers or stop
killing each other.

The problem is that PCT shows that the best way to achieve control when
the variables controlled involve other people is NOT to control -- at least,
not to control too precisely. We can't really stop controlling, of course,
but we can apprently determine, to some extent, _what_ we control and _how
well_ we control. We can, to some extent, control our own controlling. This
is the solution (put very crudely) offered by PCT; to achieve control of
variables involving other people we must (collectively) control our own
control of those variables. This solution is in ourselves -- we cannot make
other people cooperate; so, we are, ultimately, not in control of the one
thing we would like to control more than anything, perhaps -- our
relationships with people. (So, although I'm sorry that my papers get
rejected, for example, I don't expect that there is anything I can do to get
then to be accepted ; control theory is not about making other people behave
the way they "should" -- ie. according to one's own references for their

So the message of PCT may be a bit disappointing and infuriating. The fact
that I want "the world to be a better place" (whatever that means to me)
suggests that I have a reference for some perceptual variable that is not
where I want it. When I do things like vote, yell and scream about the social
ills I loath, write letters to the editor, etc. I am making fruitless
attempts to "push" my perception of social interaction toward my reference;
obviously, I live with a certain amount of chronic error -- which is probably
why I'm such a lovable pain in the ass.

I (like Bill P.) would like to make things right all in one swoop (of a plane
full of contraceptive powder); but I know such solutions won't work because
PCT itself shows that there will be resistance to any imposed solution, no
matter how desirable (from my perspective) . So the possibly disappointing
message of PCT is that we can't help wanting things "better" -ie. we are
controllers -- but we can't do anything about it (when these things
involve other people) by controlling (the usual way we make things better).

The only hope is for people to understand control theory and, eventually,
see that their natural inclination to solve human problems by controlling
people is, itself, the cause of those problems.

By the way, I don't envision 6 billion people eventually understanding PCT at
the level that I do. What I do envision is a huge majority of the population
taking for granted some basic PCT facts just as they now take for granted the
fact that the earth is a sphere rotating on an axis. I'm sure most people
don't know how we know the earth is a sphere but I bet most would consider
flat earthers wrong. I imagine that people will eventually take for granted
that people control perception, not vice versa. even though they will have
no good idea how we know it. Once this idea is in their bones, they will see
certain proposals for solving social problems as being as silly as proposals
for explorations to find the edge of the earth. When people take it for
granted that they control perceptions, forexample, the idea like "people need
incentives to work", will instantly be seen as pure nonesense; incentives
don't exist in a PCT world. People might not understand in detail that only a
disturbance to a controlled variable or a change in the reference for that
variable can "cause" a person to work -- but they'll know that perceptions,
like money, don't cause behavior so they'll just ignore people who justify
competition-based economies by saying that people won't work unless they are
given incentives just as they would ignore people selling tickets to the
observation platform at the edge of the world.

To sum, I see, as usual, two giant leaps from what is more sound
(control by individuals of lower-level perceptions) toward the
speculative: 1) control for ideas, opinions, etc. which is far
from being understood; 2) the aggregated effects of knowing control
on the masses.

I don't think there is any leap at all from control of "lower level"
perceptions to control of ideas, opinions, etc. The control involved at these
higher levels is obvious, subjectively and objectively. Control is happening
when you disagree with me or I with you; even when you disagree about
control. Control is pervasive; it's involved in everything people do and I
think it's about time that we start facing the fact. We should start
pointing to and demonstrating control of higher level variables as best we
can to get rid of this presumed "loophole" that prevents people from seeing
that PCT is the whole enchilada. The loophole is the hope that PCT only
applies in simple tracking experiments. It seems to me, give the controlling
I see all around me, that the burden of proof is not on PCT but on the people
who claim that control is NOT involved when people express ideas, opinions,
and do all the "real important" things people do.

I say it's ALL control. Whenever I see people doing ANYTHING I see them
acting to correct some state of affairs that seems wrong to them. I would
like to hear of ONE example of people doing things where this is NOT the

PCT understanding will, I believe, make the world a better place. Maybe
I'm wrong, but we'll never know if the people who study human nature keep
assuming that the non- PCT view is the one to beat.

Why not ASSUME that people control perceptions -- at all times, at all
levels, in all situations -- a fact that APPEARS to be true just from
looking around. Then try to prove that that's NOT what's going on. Try to
prove that people are NOT controlling -- that they are really responding to
situations or carrying out complex plans "open loop" or responding to inner
drives for sex and power. Why don't we just ASSUME PCT.