Bourbon to Fehling

[Martin Taylor 930824 15:00]
(Tom Bourbon 930824.1028 to Michael Fehling 930823 18:40:21)

Tom,
In your reply to Fehling, though I agree with much of it, there are a
couple of points in which I would be more generous to him than you were.

Similarly to PCT (I think), our model requires that
the organization and its decision making units accomplishes this control in
terms of its interpretations of environmental conditions.

This sentence is an example of how the apparent differences I discussed
earlier, and the genuine difference in our identification of that which a
control system controls, combine to produce serious consequences. In PCT,
organisms are modeled as controlling their perceptions, not their actions,
and organizations are construed as assemblages of individuals each of whom
controls his or her own perceptions. By that interpretation, an organism
accomplishes control *of* " its interpretations (TB: perceptions) of
environmental conditions," not "in terms of" that interpretation. This is
another significant topic for us to explore.

I would have read "in terms of its interpretation" as translatable to
"by means of the perceptual input function" rather than "the current
value of the perceptual variable" as you did. If you are right, the
rest of your argument follows, but if I am, he is much closer to PCT
than you allow.

ยทยทยท

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One apparent difference is in our use of ideas about information flow and
transfer. To date, none of the published material on PCT modeling,
including modeling of social phenomena, has included measures of
information. They have not been needed. Martin Taylor and his associates
are at work on projects in which that circumstance might change.

Again, there is a difference of reading. I interpreted Fehling's
"information" to be in the sense of "meaning," which is to say "the change
of state of some high level perceptual variable." What I am aiming at,
and what I see no signs of in Fehling's notes, is the quantitative
analysis of how much information (reduction in uncertainty) occurs
at various places in the hierarchy as seen from various viewpoints.
I think that his usage would have to be taken into account in any PCT-based
approach to social interaction, whereas mine will (I hope) provide a
deeper understanding of the processes that occur in any control system,
hierarchic or not, social or not.

The question of organizational purposes is, as you say, likely to lead
to some debate. The purposes are clearly in the individuals, but the
interactions among the individuals, with the consequent reorganizations,
are likely to align them sufficiently that it is a useful shorthand
to say "the purpose of the organization." Of course, if "the organization"
is identified with "the dictator" or "the CEO" the shorthand becomes
longhand.

In my Durango talk, I discussed how the forms of language can come to be
stabilized within a cultural community. On the way home, I realized that
exactly the same argument, in the same terms, applies to the cultural
presuppositions (e.g. Pepinsky's discussion of addiction to the war on
drugs, or religious beliefs, or political correctness...). Those who
interact as if they did not hold these conventional presuppositions
encounter error in attempting to control their perceptions by means of
interaction with others. They will tend to reorganize until their
interactions are effective in controlling their perceptions. To outsiders
they will seem as if they hold the community values, whether internally
they do or not ("Eppur si muove" -- forgive my misquote and bad Italian).
The presupposition, like the form of language, is an attractor in the
dynamic formed by the interactions among individuals.

Behaviour in formal organizations is presumably subject to the same kinds
of reorganization pressures, in those aspects of action (I use the word
PCT-specifically) that matter to the people who define their perceptions as
important to the organization. Hence it seems probable that there will
develop a similarity of reference among people within an organization
that is usefully described as a reference value ***for the organization***
when thinking about interactions between people belonging to the
organization and outsiders. Usefully, such interactions might be
collected into "the interaction between an organization and its
environment," again as a shorthand notation.

Remember that when we talk about "temperature," it is a perception, but
in physics it is also a shorthand for the average energy per degree of
freedom in the system at hand. Each atom or molecule has its own specific
energies at any moment, in all its degrees of freedom. We ought to talk
about each one, but it is more convenient to talk of "temperature" when
we are dealing with a bulk material. Likewise, although all the control
systems are within individuals, yet, when there is a community of shared
references, it may be convenient to talk about "organizational purpose"
without imagining that there exists some super-organism that holds the
purpose.

Martin