Changing Reference Signals

From [Fred Nickols (961005.0745 EST)]

In Powers (961003.0715), responding to Andrews (961003),
Bill wrote of an insight he gleaned from Kent's paper:

   "The only way to change a society is to promulgate ideas
     that change a large number of reference signals or ways
     of perceiving in a specific way."

My immediate response was to say to myself, "And that is
the essence of propaganda." To which I quickly added, "And
sales, and persuasion, and influence, and teaching, and a
host of other things, including CSGNET." Arie de Geus, once
head of Strategic Planning at Royal Dutch Shell said that the
real purpose of strategic planning is not to develop strategic
plans but to change the mental models of managers.

I read Kent's paper, too, and while I'm tempted to agree with
Bill's observation that "there is really nobody in charge of a
society, nobody to complain to about it," I'm mindful of a set
of folks who think they are in charge of it.

I also asked Kent if anyone had actually conducted tests
with two people using joysticks and their merged signals to
control cursor position. He was unaware of any. So, here's
a general question to the list: Have such experiments been
conducted? Let me explain also why I ask.

Some time back, I read a description of an event at a trade
show (COMDEX?) where the audience members were given
colored placards. Then, using a video display of the audience,
the placards were used to construct a visual display -- with
no control over the individual members of the audience. The
writer was focused on "order out of chaos" but it struck me
that what was going on was something awfully close to Kent's
notion of a collectively managed perception.

Regards,

Fred Nickols
nickols@aol.com

From [Fred Nickols (961005.0745 EST)]

I read Kent's paper, too, and while I'm tempted to agree with
Bill's observation that "there is really nobody in charge of a
society, nobody to complain to about it," I'm mindful of a set
of folks who think they are in charge of it.

But their belief is mistaken, as are the beliefs of all those who believe
in hidden conspiracies (except, of course, for PCTer's who believe in the
Secret Order of Behaviorist Scientists (SOBs)).

···

********************************************************
William L. Benzon 518.272.4733
161 2nd Street bbenzon@global2000.net
Troy, NY 12180 Account Suspended
USA
********************************************************
What color would you be if you didn't know what you was?
That's what color I am.
********************************************************

[From Bill Powers (961005.0830 MDT)]

Fred Nickols (961005.0745 EST)--

I also asked Kent if anyone had actually conducted tests
with two people using joysticks and their merged signals to
control cursor position. He was unaware of any. So, here's
a general question to the list: Have such experiments been
conducted? Let me explain also why I ask.

Yes, Tom Bourbon and his students have done an extended series of
experiments in which two to four subjects engaged in cooperative or
conflictive control over a common display. The same degree of predictivity
was obtained using the same basic model as in the single-person tracking
experiments. These results could be obtained with two or more people, or
with the control model substituting for one or more (up to all) of the
people, or even with a single person's left hand playing one part and his
right hand playing the other. I suggest that you get in touch with Tom
directly at

bourbon@sprynet.com

Tom's busy chasing Ed Ford all around the country right now, but he has a
laptop and will get around to responding eventually.

I read Kent's paper, too, and while I'm tempted to agree with
Bill's observation that "there is really nobody in charge of a
society, nobody to complain to about it," I'm mindful of a set
of folks who think they are in charge of it.

That's a good way of putting it -- "who think they are in charge of it." As
one who has always worked in the lower echelons of big businesses (and
universities), I have been struck by the differences between what managers
think the people in the company are doing and what those people are actually
doing. Micromanagement is generally ignored, although in reports on
progress, attention is always paid to assuring managers that their detailed
instructions have been carried out. The nice thing about control of
perceptions is that once the perception has been brought to the target
state, nobody can tell what actions were used to bring it to that state.

Of course managers do have "big picture" functions which are essential to
running a large enterprise, and the smart ones confine their efforts to that
level of organization, leaving those whose jobs concern the details to
accomplish what needs to be done in whatever way will do it best.

Re the COMDEX demonstration of collective control:

Ed Ford has designed a neat example using eight rubber bands and four
people. Connect four of the rubber bands into a circle, and attach the other
four at the four joints. Give the free end of each of the extra four rubber
bands to the four people. Tell them "Make a square." They will immediately
do so, without consultation and without much delay. You can also tell them
"Make it bigger" or "make it smaller", or "rotate it to the right by 45
degrees." They will do that, too, keeping it square. I shudder to think of
making a working model of that four-person process, especially considering
the under-specification of the goals.

Each person obviously has a reference image of a square in mind, but
considering that the others probably have different images, each person must
also adjust the specific configuration image to accomodate what the others
are doing, to accomplish the _categorical_ goal of "a square." This is
obviously collective control because no one person could make the square appear.

It's also interesting to add another rubber band and another person to
"help" in the process. Or you might have the manager (who says "make a
square") also start giving advice about _how_ to make the square, and see
how much better :slight_smile: the performance is.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Bill Powers (961005.0830 MDT)]

That's a good way of putting it -- "who think they are in charge of it." As
one who has always worked in the lower echelons of big businesses (and
universities), I have been struck by the differences between what managers
think the people in the company are doing and what those people are actually
doing. Micromanagement is generally ignored, although in reports on
progress, attention is always paid to assuring managers that their detailed
instructions have been carried out. The nice thing about control of
perceptions is that once the perception has been brought to the target
state, nobody can tell what actions were used to bring it to that state.

Bill--You might be interested to know that one of Dave Hays's students from
the 70s, Bill Doyle, has made an interesting living analyzing the control
structures of big organizations. What he finds is the managers rarely get
useful error signals from below and they haven't the foggiest idea of how
to set reference levels that would keep the organization on track. The
goals that managers are so fond of simply don't provide useful day-to-day
guidance. By the time one can evaluate whether or not the goal has been
met, it's too late to fix anything & even if the goal has been met, it
might be a useless or counterproductive goal. Alas, teach PCT to managers
is no easier than teaching it to PhD psychologists.

Re the COMDEX demonstration of collective control:

Ed Ford has designed a neat example using eight rubber bands and four
people. Connect four of the rubber bands into a circle, and attach the other
four at the four joints. Give the free end of each of the extra four rubber
bands to the four people. Tell them "Make a square." They will immediately
do so, without consultation and without much delay. You can also tell them
"Make it bigger" or "make it smaller", or "rotate it to the right by 45
degrees." They will do that, too, keeping it square. I shudder to think of
making a working model of that four-person process, especially considering
the under-specification of the goals.

I do wish PET scanning were a more elegant process. It would be
interesting to see what brain areas are activated in such tasks. But you
aren't going to have much luck putting 4 people in one of those machines.

···

********************************************************
William L. Benzon 518.272.4733
161 2nd Street bbenzon@global2000.net
Troy, NY 12180 Account Suspended
USA
********************************************************
What color would you be if you didn't know what you was?
That's what color I am.
********************************************************

[From Autumn Winter (961006.0800PST)]

[From Bill Powers (961005.0830 MDT)]

Each person obviously has a reference image of a square in mind, but
considering that the others probably have different images, each person must
also adjust the specific configuration image to accomodate what the others
are doing, to accomplish the _categorical_ goal of "a square." This is
obviously collective control because no one person could make the square

appear.

Why isn't this co-operative control. Maybe orginally each of the 4 would
have a different image of the square and there would be some initial
conflict, but once the square was completed wouldn't each of the 4 accept
this explicit outcome as what they wanted to achieve?

Autumn