Atenfels, work, and the built environment

You don’t know what you’ve got 'til it’s missing.

Atenfel: Atomic ENvironmental FEedback Link. A collectively maintained combination of these is called a molecular atomic feedback link (molenfel).

In both Volume II and Volume III of PPC Martin quoted the following passage (from Kent’s chapter in the first Handbook of PCT) as a conceptual foundation for further exposition of collective control.

The kinds of activities described as work in everyday language are activities that create stable feedback paths in a shared environment for the benefit of other people. The word [‘work’] is also commonly used to refer to the kinds of activities that maintain these feedback paths in place. Thus, work activities produce some kind of environmental stabilisation, the creation of some atenfel for use in controlling other perceptions. Manual workers create stable feedback paths by manipulating physical objects; they build things, make things, and clean things up. Agricultural workers produce fields of crops and confinements full of animals to be used as food. Transportation workers move truckloads of products from factories to stores, where sales workers make those products available to customers in exchanges with predictably structured protocols. Service workers manipulate and stabilise the immediate physical environments of individuals, including their dwellings and even their physical bodies, as barbers and hairdressers do. Healthcare workers attempt to stabilize the physiological functioning of people’s bodies. Educators strive to turn out classes of graduates with predictable abilities and skills, people who can then be hired to put their skills to work creating various kinds of feedback paths for others. Government workers maintain stability and order for the community in a wide variety of ways, from removing trash to providing and enforcing laws designed to regulate commercial transactions and maintain public order, and thus preventing large disturbances that would make control of other perceptions difficult.

The purposes of any given social structure are reflected in the work done by its members, that is, the ways they seek to stabilize some portion of their shared environment. Thus, we can classify social structures by the kind of work their members do: for example, families, ideally at least, stabilise a home environment for family members; schools aim [to] provide stable flows of individuals with the tools to take action in predictable ways; businesses provide people with goods—objects that can be used as feedback paths—and services—routine actions that serve as feedback paths for controlling the perceptions of those who receive the services; and governmental structures are intended to prevent the kinds of disturbances to a shared environment that would make the work of other social structures more difficult.

Even workers whose work seems somewhat abstract must produce physically perceptible stabilities, which can then be used as feedback paths for controlling lower-level perceptions essential for control of the higher-level, more abstract perceptions that provide the ostensible objectives of their work. Administrators and business executives create feedback paths by organizing the routine activities of others into predictable and efficient patterns for getting the work of an organization done. Knowledge workers put words on paper or images on electronic screens in order to send symbolic messages to others, thus facilitating their readers’ control of higher-level perceptions. Entertainers offer their performances hoping to attract audiences, who will then use the performances as feedback paths for controlling perceptions of excitement or amusement. In every case, the creation of some perceptible product in the form of stabilized portions of the physical environment or stabilized patterns of human action—in other words, atenfels—provides the empirical evidence that work has been done. These types of stabilities form the material and behavioural bases of social structures, and thus by producing these physical and behavioral stabilities people contribute to the overall stability of the social structures to which they belong.

In some kinds of work, people maintain feedback paths rather than creating them. People doing this work take the existence of certain feedback paths as perceptions to be controlled and then seek to protect them against the ongoing effects of disturbances. The janitor cleaning a building, the systems engineer fixing software bugs, the emergency responder driving an ambulance, or the baby’s caretaker changing a diaper, all work to maintain feedback paths for others. Thus, the feedback paths in our shared environment depend on constant human attention and effort to do the work necessary to keep them stable. Without continual work, a humanly structured environment begins to crumble over time, like ghost towns or ancient ruins. The environments that most people live in are filled with feedback paths, both physical objects and routine actions, that have been shaped and maintained by human work.

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