Bewailing

from Phil Runkel on 990517.1045.

Dear friends:

I know this thread has appeared a few times before, but I guess I
am in a wailing mood today. If this bores you, feel free to
ignore it; I won't be heartbroken.

Why do people, rich and poor, meek and mighty, want to listen to
psychologists? I am reading "Constructing the Subject" by
Danziger. A delicious history of modern psychology. He says (if
I may oversimplify) the reason is that psychologists display
arcana such as statistics and give administrators another mantle
of "science" and "efficiency" to wear as they go about their
business. (I myself, in less than 20 years as an organizational
consultant, saw administrators from General Motors to the corner
convenience store drape themselves in one GREAT NEW IDEA after
another, discarding each without the least embarrassment.
University professors, too.) Same reasons, I guess, that people
seize upon phrenology, astrology, and orgone boxes.

What draws social (and economic) support for psychological work?
In WWI, the intelligence testers provided a way for the army to
select persons who would presumably be easier to train, both in
basic training and in OCS. I don't know if the method saved
time, but it certainly saved blame, because of the "objectivity."
Later, the personnel psychologists offered to select persons who
would be better employees. And we have now therapists who offer
to rescue us from the mind-twisting perils of modern
civilization. In our culture, it is hard to be respectable
without being "practical." (I am not saying that all of us
psychologists are frauds. I say merely that most of us are
brought up to believe we can deliver a lot more than we can.
Indeed, just hanging out one's shingle as a psychologist is taken
by most people to promise more than anybody ought.)

What can PCT do for people with power and money? The Method of
Levels is nice, but neither therapists nor therapees as a class
have the kind of money that will support the Educational Testing
Service and similar outfits, not to speak of university
departments. PCT doesn't help school principals and
superintendents to divide the students into those who "should"
get one kind of attention or another in an "objective"
(blame-avoiding) manner (I'm not saying that the test-makers give
convincing evidence for the "should").

I think one of the great things PCT can do for people, monied or
poor, is to show them a lot of things they might as well _stop_
doing, such as trying to control particular actions of other
people, such as expecting intelligence tests to marshal
intelligence, such as detailed planning (and I'm sure you can
think of a few more). But the trouble with such benefits, great
though they may eventually become, is that they do not offer what
people with money want to buy -- for example, they do not make it
easier for administrators to make decisions. Karl Weick has
proposed a method that will do just as well: throw caribou bones
on the floor and go in the direction they point. Unfortunately,
I know of no school principal or industrial manager who has
adopted that practice. I think one reason is that it is not
sufficiently expensive.

I do think of one service PCT could render to people who could
help wave the banner of PCT and maybe give some money, too.
Namely, PCT could show how to build more lively and dependable
robots such as a six-legged creature (like Kennaway and Powers's)
that can crawl down into a volcanic crater. Or weld automobiles
together. It is true that robots who can do those things already
exist, but it seems to me that ours could vastly outshine them.
But maybe I am wrong even about this, considering the rarity with
which I hear mentioned the articles by Powers in "Byte."

I can understand how a psychologist (or a
physicist-astronomer-computerprogrammer) might not want to spend
time peddling a robot for welding automobiles. I hope someday
someone can come up with a proposal more appealing to movers and
shakers and to PCTers than the ideas I have offered here.

One can, of course, take the long view. Old Mendel labored in
the obscurity of his monastery garden and was honored only many
years after his death. And so on. Yet I cannot help but yearn
for an earlier day in the sun for my friends of the PCT.

[From Tim Carey (990517.0540)]

From Phil Runkel on 990517.1045.

Wonderful post Phil. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Tim

from [ Marc Abrams (990517,1738) ]

>From Phil Runkel on 990517.1045.

Dear friends:

I know this thread has appeared a few times before, but I guess I
am in a wailing mood today. If this bores you, feel free to
ignore it; I won't be heartbroken.

<Snip>...

Thank you Phil. An inspirational post, said from the heart, with much care
and concern.

Marc

···

Why do people, rich and poor, meek and mighty, want to listen to
psychologists? I am reading "Constructing the Subject" by
Danziger. A delicious history of modern psychology. He says (if
I may oversimplify) the reason is that psychologists display
arcana such as statistics and give administrators another mantle
of "science" and "efficiency" to wear as they go about their
business. (I myself, in less than 20 years as an organizational
consultant, saw administrators from General Motors to the corner
convenience store drape themselves in one GREAT NEW IDEA after
another, discarding each without the least embarrassment.
University professors, too.) Same reasons, I guess, that people
seize upon phrenology, astrology, and orgone boxes.

What draws social (and economic) support for psychological work?
In WWI, the intelligence testers provided a way for the army to
select persons who would presumably be easier to train, both in
basic training and in OCS. I don't know if the method saved
time, but it certainly saved blame, because of the "objectivity."
Later, the personnel psychologists offered to select persons who
would be better employees. And we have now therapists who offer
to rescue us from the mind-twisting perils of modern
civilization. In our culture, it is hard to be respectable
without being "practical." (I am not saying that all of us
psychologists are frauds. I say merely that most of us are
brought up to believe we can deliver a lot more than we can.
Indeed, just hanging out one's shingle as a psychologist is taken
by most people to promise more than anybody ought.)

What can PCT do for people with power and money? The Method of
Levels is nice, but neither therapists nor therapees as a class
have the kind of money that will support the Educational Testing
Service and similar outfits, not to speak of university
departments. PCT doesn't help school principals and
superintendents to divide the students into those who "should"
get one kind of attention or another in an "objective"
(blame-avoiding) manner (I'm not saying that the test-makers give
convincing evidence for the "should").

I think one of the great things PCT can do for people, monied or
poor, is to show them a lot of things they might as well _stop_
doing, such as trying to control particular actions of other
people, such as expecting intelligence tests to marshal
intelligence, such as detailed planning (and I'm sure you can
think of a few more). But the trouble with such benefits, great
though they may eventually become, is that they do not offer what
people with money want to buy -- for example, they do not make it
easier for administrators to make decisions. Karl Weick has
proposed a method that will do just as well: throw caribou bones
on the floor and go in the direction they point. Unfortunately,
I know of no school principal or industrial manager who has
adopted that practice. I think one reason is that it is not
sufficiently expensive.

I do think of one service PCT could render to people who could
help wave the banner of PCT and maybe give some money, too.
Namely, PCT could show how to build more lively and dependable
robots such as a six-legged creature (like Kennaway and Powers's)
that can crawl down into a volcanic crater. Or weld automobiles
together. It is true that robots who can do those things already
exist, but it seems to me that ours could vastly outshine them.
But maybe I am wrong even about this, considering the rarity with
which I hear mentioned the articles by Powers in "Byte."

I can understand how a psychologist (or a
physicist-astronomer-computerprogrammer) might not want to spend
time peddling a robot for welding automobiles. I hope someday
someone can come up with a proposal more appealing to movers and
shakers and to PCTers than the ideas I have offered here.

One can, of course, take the long view. Old Mendel labored in
the obscurity of his monastery garden and was honored only many
years after his death. And so on. Yet I cannot help but yearn
for an earlier day in the sun for my friends of the PCT.

[From Bill Powers (990518.0521 MDT)]

Phil Runkel on 990517.1045.

Why do people, rich and poor, meek and mighty, want to listen to
psychologists?

I don't really think they do, by and large. They listen to psychologists
because other people sometimes make them do so -- a court calling for an
evaluation of sanity or responsibility, a company screening job applicants,
a school testing students to predict how well they'll do, a spouse
threatening to take away the children, a businessman looking for a
competitive edge.

Seeing a psychologist for help is a social stigma; being tested by one is
for someone's benefit other than yours, a potential barrier to what you
want to do. Only in a small subculture is psychology a possible way to
increased happiness.
The people who promise happiness for your buck are not usually psychologists.

The problem is that in order to gain recognition, one has to demand it
publicly. And that means competing with all the others who are publicly
demanding it, and who have to put you down in order to bolster their own
meager claims to fame, which they more than anyone else know are meager. I
see enough of that on PCTnet. The thought of deliberately engaging with
more such competitors does not fill me with eagerness. On the contrary, it
makes me ap-preciate even more my life on a hilltop on the outskirts of
Durango, where most of the time I don't have to compete with anyone.

Best,

Bill P.'

from Phil Runkel on 990518.1500 PDT:

On Tue, 18 May 1999, Bill Powers (990518.0521) quoted Phil R:

         >Why do people, rich and poor, meek and mighty, want to listen to
        >psychologists?

I said it with ambiguity (unintended). I meant: of those people who do
listen to psychologists, why do they? How can they think they might
profit? It has long puzzled me. Most college sophomores seem to get
quickly disabused of any optimism they had.

And then I mentioned some of the ways psychologists have made claims to
fame. And then I mentioned that there are some people (such as those who
have hilltops near Durango) who have things they like to do a lot better
than seeking fame.

But quite aside from money or power, it is nice to feel community.
And feel a continuing one.

--Phil R.