Axioms (from Mary)

[from Mary Powers 940213]
Jim Dundon (940206)

Questions on information.

You arrived on the net in the midst of a (to me) exceptionally
tedious and prolonged argument about information theory and
control theory. Information theory has been fundamental to Martin
Taylor's thinking for a long time and he believes it has
important and valuable uses in PCT. It has been entirely
irrelevant and unimportant to Bill and Rick's thinking about
control theory and they do not find it valuable. It's a good
example of a high-level conflict. I think Bill has tried to move
the discussion up a level to look _at_ the mind sets rather than
operating _from_ them, but so far it hasn't worked.

Questions on axioms.

I think that PCT is based on one axiom: Living systems control.
This is the self-evident fact on which PCT is based.

Everything else in PCT is an elaboration on this - the components
and organization required; the idea that what is controlled is
perception, not behavior, etc.

7. The main person concerned with the development of control
systems in living systems is Frans X. Plooij. You may be able to
find his book in a library somewhere - The behavioral development
of free-living chimpanzee babies and infants. That was his
doctoral thesis. He has gone on for the next 10 plus years
studying human infants. His main observations have concerned
periods of disorganization and regression followed by
reorganization at a more complex level. He can give parents an
almost week by week timetable of what to expect, including
vulnerability to colds during the disorganized periods.

You make a lot of sweeping assertions in question 7. "Principles
are developed by incorporation". "A child does not learn by
thought, it learns by rote". "Childhood imaging is a contextual
phenomenon". "Children are very digital". "Principle and system
concepts are superimposed in the child". The point is not whether
PCT explains these "facts", but whether they are facts at all -
to me they are conclusions and guesses from another context, and
require a deep examination of what they mean operationally and
what assumptions they reflect about the organization of living

8. and 9. The ultimate reference signal. Asking about it assumes
that there is one. PCT suggests that that there are hundreds
(thousands? millions?) of control loops which have a preferred
state of no error, all operating in a highly complex system which
is dynamically stable. That is, only by constant activity and
resisting disturbances of many kinds can the entire system be
maintained against dissolution. All the myriad of activities
maintaining perceptions at the reference states add up to
survival - an external, blanket view of a great many processes,
most of which one is unaware of (such as metabolic processes in
individual cells).

A number of years ago one of the people in CSG, Sam Randlett, was
accumulating examples of people experiencing "cosmic
consciousness", an overwhelming and very transient experience of
great joy, beauty, exaltation, whatever - usually occurring under
the most mundane circumstances. It could be that these are
moments of experiencing as close to zero error, all over, as one
can get. And then, of course, maybe not.

Why is life in the womb believed to be so marvellous - or a
condition of zero error? There may be a minimum of external
disturbances, but an embryo is reorganizing all the time - it
takes three tries at an excretory system to finally come up with
kidneys - it may all be painless but I don't think it's
particularly peaceful, or zero error.

10. Zero differential between perceptual and reference signal is
always the name of the game. Random flailings, or
reorganizations, occur when what you already know how to do
doesn't work.

11. Rest. No one has ever brought that up before. What is rest,
anyway? It seems to me it's stopping doing some things in order
to do others. Runners accumulate an oxygen debt during a race,
and rest in order to let some basic metabolic processes catch up.
I suppose sleeping has a similar function. You don't necessarily
have to sleep in order to give a problem a rest, although lots of
people wake up with solutions they couldn't arrive at the night
before. Rest at the higher levels may simply be a matter of
taking your consciousness or awareness _off_ a problem, stopping
reorganizing and reorganizing, letting the system come to some
new stable arrangement, and looking at it. You may have solved it
already and reorganized right past the answer by continuing to
wrestle with it consciously.

12. Rejection from others is not negative feedback. Nor is praise
positive feedback. What others say to you or the way they act
towards you is input. Some of those inputs are perceived by you
as different from what you want to perceive, and the amount of
discrepancy is called error. What you do to reduce that error is
negative feedback. Rejection by a person is error-producing if
you have a reference level for acceptance by that person AND
perceive what he is doing or saying as expressing non-acceptance.
The same actions of the other person, or from a different person,
may be neutral to you, or no disturbance.

In the same way, praise is not positive feedback. It reduces a
discrepancy between how you want someone else to think of you
and, apparently, an imagined discrepancy. But too much praise is
a disturbance also, in a lot of people, and they will immediately
try to tone it down.

13. The idea of society as a perceived side-effect is this:
Society does not exist except as a set of concepts in each
individual. The milieu in which one finds oneself, family,
friends, the government, corporations, organized religion, table
manners, criminal behavior, etc. is for each person a unique (and
important) set of experiences. We manage our experiences and make
them predictable by organizing them in certain ways, and as
children are sent to school and otherwise taught the ways other
people have organized those experiences. It is usually much
easier to go along with the conventions than make them up from
scratch, since for one thing we do want our mommies to love us.
But the government, or the school, or the church, or the company,
are not entities floating around with any existence other than
the ideas in people's heads about them. They are real only in
that there are people acting in certain ways, filling in forms,
answering telephones, wearing certain clothes at certain times,
working in buildings intended for certain uses at certain hours,
and so on. Since this is one's environment, of course it is very
important. It creates numerous disturbances one has to deal with,
like stopping at red lights and paying taxes. It also is very
facilitating: it's very convenient to be able to go buy groceries
at the store instead of blundering around in the woods in the
wintertime looking for something to eat. But thinking of it all
as "society", believing that institutions are "real" is a side-
effect in that one is looking at abstractions, concepts that have
been made up about the way one's experiences are organized, and
not at one's actual experiences.

This point of view is derived from the basic axiom. It's my point
of view, and subject to change any time, so itself is not

14. Choice or choose. Most of the time one sets a reference level
and goes for it, revising the process from moment to moment as
glitches occur. Having to choose is symptomatic of conflict in
reference signals: wanting two incompatible things.

Choosing is also a characteristic of the strategy or program
level, where one imagines alternatives and consequences and picks
what looks to be the best. The level of planning, choosing, and
decision-making is where many people have their awareness most of
the time, and as a result believe that it's the main thing the
brain does. This ignores the numerous levels below of processing
perceptions into forms that can be handled at this level, not to
mention the levels above for which this level is a means of
achieving desired goals.

15. "List all axioms". Living systems control.

Mary P.

<[Bill Leach 940213.19:33 EST(EDT)]

[Mary Powers 940213]

Thank you Mary for another clear discussion of PCT and its significance.

You description of "society" was most eloquent in deflating it from its'
rigid status without discounting either the concept or usefulness of the
idea to mankind.