Confusion of theory and methodology

[From Bruce Nevin (20200603.08:30)]

Boris Hartmann (CSGnet Jun 3, 2020, 12:30 AM) a.k.a. here Borislav_Harihari, objects to what he calls “RCT definition of control”. This is his characterization of what he objects to:

  1. Control of behavior – controlling some “controlled variable” in external environment to some reference state
  2. Feedback function : pushing perception of controlled variable in outer environment toward references
  3. Creation of Controlled perceptual variable by input function – control of CPV in comparator …
  4. COMPARATOR : Function that takes a perceptual and a reference signal as input and produces an error signal as output,

Setting aside the ad hominem rhetoric of ‘RCT’ meaning “Rick’s control theory”, objections 1 and 2 fail to distinguish experimental methodology from theory.

  1. Methodology : The reference state is observed in the environment. It is quantified as q.i , in the same way that d and q.o are also observed and quantified.
    Theory : The reference value is inferred from the observed reference state.
  2. Methodology : The controlled perception and its reference value are identified by the Test for controlled variables. In the Test, the experimenter controls their perception of environmental input to what they perceive to be the perception that the subject is controlling.
    Theory : a comparator outputs the difference between the perceptual input signal and the reference signal, producing an error signal which is transformed to muscle tensions producing actions that counter disturbances to their controlled perceptual input.

#3 seems to say that the comparator, and not the input function, creates control. The perceptual input function receives input (from the environment or from lower-level perceptual signals) and creates a perceptual signal. However, the comparator does not control that signal, the entire loop controls that signal. No single function in the loop creates control.

If #4 is an objection to something, the objection is not stated.

Actual experience applying the methodology of PCT is essential for proper understanding of its theory. At minimum, experience working through the Test to identify what is controlled. Confusions about the nature and status of environmental variables come from failure to think carefully about the experience of performing the Test. In the Test, it is essential to assume the subject’s point of view and not impose the observer’s point of view. Understand clearly what the relationship is between what the experimenter is perceiving and controlling and what the subject is perceiving and controlling.

RM: It’s simpler than that. Except for the definition of Comparator, these are just not the way I would define these things. Here is the way I would define them:

  1. Control of behavior – Acting to bring some aspect of an organism’s behavior to a reference state specified by a controller.

  2. Feedback function : the characteristics of the environment that determine how the output of a control system affects the state of a controlled variable.

  3. Creation of Controlled perceptual variable by input function – the perceptual process that transforms a controlled aspect of the environment into a neural signal that is the analog of that variable.

  4. Comparator – Function that takes a perceptual and a reference signal as input and produces an error signal as output. (This one he got exactly right).

If you want to call that RCT then I’d be honored. But the honor actually belongs to Bill Powers, who developed the theory.



Bruce, Rick,

well it seems that it wasn’t enough answer on CSGnet.

Whatever phylosophy Bruce you are showing here is just phylosophy (empty talking) without any scientific evidence…But you already know that. How many times do we have to discuss that PCT is scientific theory and scientific methodology and evidences has to be used. Do you understand the difference between phylosophy and science ???

Rick, it’s true that changed your RCT (Ricks Control Theory) couple times and here we have another nonsense version :

  1. (RCT) Control of behavior – Acting to bring some aspect of an organism’s behavior to a reference state specified by a controller.

HB : Ha,ha aspect of organisms behavior (what that could be) ??? Organisms behavior is brought to reference state ? How that is happenning ? First you should explain how behavior works ?
Reference specified by controller ? Could you explain how reference signal is specified in controller with removing question mark on level in diagram on p. 191 (B:CP, 2005) ???

  1. (RCT) Feedback function : the characteristics of the environment that determine how the output of a control system affects the state of a controlled variable.

HB : And where do you see “controlled variable” in the environment in diagram LCS III ??? O.K. show us how your definition works with everyday behavior : standing and observing, walking, sleeping etc. Which and where are those “controlled variable” in environment. PCT is general theory about human behavior and whatever theory you use it ahould explain any behavior…

And finaly could you explain why your definition so strongly depart from PCT definition of “Feedback function”.

FEEDBACK FUNCTION (Powers, 2005) : The box represents the set of physical laws, properties, arrangements, linkages, by which the action of this system feeds-back to affect its own input, the controlled variable. That’s what feed-back means : it’s an effect of a system’s output on it’s own input.

HB : Do you understand what Powers is saying about “feedback function” ???

  1. (RCT) Creation of Controlled perceptual variable by input function – the perceptual process that transforms a controlled aspect of the environment into a neural signal that is the analog of that variable.

HB : What is Controlled Perceptual Variable ? Something that is bringing “control” into organism through sensor ? Is that something that is result of control of “controlled variable” in environment ???
What is “controlled aspect of environment” ??? Something controlled in environment with “control of behavior” or with Telekinesis ??? Where in the whole Powers PCT literature can you find term “Controlled Perceptual Variable” or CPV ??? Explain some “Controlled Percpetual Variable” in everyday life experience ?

  1. Comparator – Function that takes a perceptual and a reference signal as input and produces an error signal as output. (This one he got exactly right).

HB : O.K. explain to us how comparator (neuron) can be function ??? You can use physiological literature or neurophysiological explanation of how neuron or nervous system works. If neurons and nervous system would be “functions” you wouldn’t think. And why is your definition so drasticaly different from Powers.

(PCT) Powers:
COMPARATOR : The portion of control system that computes the magnitude and direction of mismatch between perceptual and reference signal.

HB : Do you understand the difference between “function” and “computation” in PCT ???


Interdisciplinary Handbook of Perceptual Control Theory : Living Control Systems IV

Review Boris Hartman, september 2020

Based on Preview of the Handbook IHPCT (2020) seems that Handbook is a fake. It seems not to be about PCT and even less about LCS IV as continuation of LCS III (Living Control System III, 2008, W.T. Powers). There is no PCT model and basic scientific evidences about organisms functioning. Mostly phylosophy and imagination.

PCT is scientific theory about how organisms function.

William T. Powers at all (50th Anniversary, 2011) :

“Perceptual Control Theory (PCT) provides a general theory of functioning for organisms”.

Editorial Review to LCS III (2008) :

“Living Control Systems III continues Powers’ revolutionary approach to understanding living organisms as purposeful agents…”.

Most authors of the Interdisciplinary Handbook of PCT (2020) showed their misunderstanding of PCT essence for a long time speccially dr. Rick Marken and dr. Warren Mansell (editor of the IHPCT). Threy were seriously criticized in CSGnet discussions (see CSGnet archives) but they whistled on critics. They keep damaging PCT and make funny and nonsense statements which has nothing to do with W.T. Powers Life work. Somebody could think that W.T.Powers produced such a nonsense statements and used strange terminology.

Concluding from Preview of the Handbook (IHPCT 2020) very rare original terms were used and very rare original citations can be found to conclude that Handbook could have something to do with PCT.

Main problem of the Interdisciplinary Handbook of PCT (2020) is that almost all of authors did not write about how organisms function and thus they didn’t write about PCT.

W.T. Powers built his theory on physiological and neurophysiological principles which can be mostly found in W.R. Ashby’s work “Design for a brain” (1954). Ashby presented diagram of immediate effects with levels of feedback, which represented ULTRASTABILITY of organisms. The main point of ultrastability are physiological (essential) variables which should be kept inside physiological limits.

In W.T.Powers PCT literature, Powers talked about “intrinsic variables” and reorganization as process of keeping intrinsic variables in genetically determined limits.

So both Ashby and Powers thought that organisms survive if physiological limits are kept. Ashby concluded that this is Law in survival of organisms and defined “Law of Requisite Variety”.

That’s what control in PCT organisms is about :

W.T.Powers (Behavior: The Control Of Perception, 2005) :

“CONTROL : Achievement and mainteinance of a preselected state in the controlling system, through actions on the environment that also cancel the effects of disturbances” (W.T.Powers, B:CP 2005, p.296).

Central PCT diagram on p.191 (B:CP - Behavior : The Control Of Perception, 2005) as official PCT model shows that W.T. Powers followed main physiological and neurophsiological principles that were also introduced by W.R.Ashby, but strongly upgraded ULTRASTABILITY MODEL with hierarchical structure of control units in organization of nervous system.

Upgrade was also done in the sense that the whole organisms structure is built of “control units”. Experiments with bacterias for ex. showed that they could have about 3000-4000 “control units” in their structure. Cells are much more sophisticated living beings so we can imagine how many “control units” constitute cells.

W.T. Powers insight that organisms are whole of control units working “hand in hand” to keep “predetemined” state in organisms can be clearly understood and supported by physiological evidences.

Medical Physiology Guyton & Hall (Elsevier, 2006) :

  1.        "The term homeostasis is used by physiologist to mean maintainance of nearly constant conditions in the internal environment. Essentially all organs and tissues of the body perform functions that help maintain these conditions".
  2.        "The human body has thousands of control systems in it. The most intricate of these are the genetic control systems that operate in all cells to help control intracellular function as well as extracellular function".
  3.        "To summerize, the body is actually a social order of about 100 trilion cells organized into different functional structures, some of which are called organs. Each functional structure contributes its share to the maintenance of homeostatic conditions in the extracellular fluid, which is called the internal environment. As long as normal conditions are maintained in this internal environment, the cells  of the body continue to live and function properly. Each cell benefits from homeostasis, and in turn, each cell contributes its share toward the maintenance of homeostasis. This reciprocal interplay provides continuous automaticity of the body until one or more functional systems lose their ability to contribute their share of function. When this happens, all the cells of the body suffer. Extreme dysfunction leads to death; moderate disfunction leads to sickness".

Medical Physiology Boron/Boulpaep (Elsevier, 2012) :

  1.        "Body functioning depends on how the individual organ function, which depends on how the component cells (and conglomerat of cells) function, which in turn depends on the interaction among subcellular organelles and countless interactive processes of countless (free) moleculs. Thus medical physiology takes global view of the human body and in doing so requires an integral understanding of events at the level of atoms and moleculs, genes, cellls and organs".
  2.        "The grand organizer - the master that controls the molecular structures in the cells and thus in organs and the way they interact – is the genome. Physiology has become closely intertwined with molecular biology and molecular genetics of how cell controls itself through it's DNA. DNA encodes RNA and they encode proteins etc".
  3.        "In some cases, important physiological parameters, such as blood preasure, may be under the control of many genes. Certain polymorhisms in several of these genes could have a cumulative effects that produces high blood preasure. How could one identify which polymorphisms of which genes may underline high blood preasure?"
  4.        "Physiological genomics (or functional genomics) try to understand the role of genes in development and functioning of organism. It has closed the circle of understanding from organ to cell to molecule to gene and back to organs, tissues etc. So molecular biology was connected to functioning of organism as the whole".

We can see that PCT MODEL (diagram on p.191, B:CP, 2005) of human functioning and definition of control are in accordance to physiological facts what is probably also the consequence of Ashby’s understanding of physiology and neurophysiology. We must not forget that W.R. Ashby was psychiatrist.

As organisms survive in the World of disturbances which tend to destabilize organisms homeostasis, control mechanisms are there to counteract, adjust or also cancel effects of disturbances in organisms.

There is no way that organisms could always “protect” their existance from disturbances as Rick Marken is suggesting. Who on Earth could beleive that control mechanisms in organisms like bacteria, amoeba, plants, crocodile, gorilla, human etc. always “protect” organism from bullits and bombs. How Rick Marken could explain to all relatives of victims in wars that those people shouldn’t die because “disturbances” (bullits, bombs) are invisible as control loop always works so that effects of disturbances and output ARE PRESENT at the same time. What a nonsense can produce human mind with imagination. And Rick Marken is the main protagonist of education on CSGnet about RCT (Ricks’ Control Thaory) which in Rick’s Marken mind means PCT (Perceptual Control Theory). We can imagine what kind of confussion and mess he is producing on CSGnet with help of his assistent Warren Mansel and some others.

What an illusion which clearly makes damage to W.T. Powers name and his work.

How organisms can set references for 60 degrees Celsius? Who would beleive such a nonsenses except Rick Marken, Warren Mansel and his friends and students and those who cooperated in publishing Handbook (2020).

How Elsevier as Giant and serious publisher of scientific books could publish such a nonsenses?

W.T. Powers MODEL - diagram (B:CP, 2005, p. 191) - shows the essence of PCT organisms functioning but the main problem is that is not finnished yet. I beleive that was the reason why the most important diagram in W.T. Powers work was not included in Interdisciplinary Handbook of PCT (2020).

The main problems of the MODEL (diagram on p. 191, B;CP, 2005) are :

  1.        question mark on the top of hierarchy and
  2.        "arrows" from genetic source to intrinsic (essential) variables which is my contribution to W.T.Powers diagram. As it was my idea it seems that I'm the only one who can explain what by that "arrow" was ment.

Question mark on the top of hierarchy is originaly there from the beggining. It has to be removed if explanation will be found how references are formed in organism.

It is closely connected to “arrows” from genetic source to “intrinsic” or “essential” variables what also waits for explanation. Friston’s explanation of hierarchy is better and closer to biological, physiological and neurophysiological facts. My oppinion is practically the same as oppinion of Martin Taylor, one of the authors of the Interdisciplinary Handbook of PCT (2020).

We can conclude that Interdisciplinary Handbook of PCT (2020) is not about PCT but something else. Who knows what authors thought when they wrote a Handbook.

Other problems of the Interdisciplinary Handbook of PCT (2020) are :

  1.        Lack of scientific evidences about how organisms function, specialy physiological and neurophysiological knowledge is missing.
  2.        Lack of original citations from Powers literature which are supported by scientific evidences. Original PCT contain quite some phylosophy, and beside that W.T.Powers changed his mind sometimes. So the real healthy PCT knowledge has to be carefully choosen from all Powers literature. 
  3.        Lack of PCT experiments which could confirm that PCT as scientifically based theory is usefull for understanding how people function in everyday life and how they interact
  4.        Interdisciplinary construct of PCT was not formed because of lack of real multi scientific approach and knowledge (many sciences) and lack of real-life experiments as evidences that interdisciplinary construction was formed. No complex understanding of Life on Earth have been presented.
  5.        Contradictions among authors (Handbook 2020) about use of PCT diagram and definition of control. From Preview of the Hnadbook we can see different diagrams by different authors what caused pretty huge confussion about what real PCT model and control could be. All definitions which authors produced in their Chapters  significantly depart from original definition of control given by W.T.Powers (Behavior : The Control Of Perception, 2005).
  6.        Different diagrams of negative control loop that were presented in Interdisciplinary Handbook of PCT (2020) do not match diagram which was presented in Preface (p.XXXI, Handbook 2020, Dag Forsell) as the PCT starting model for negative feedback control. Why diagram on p. XXXI of Preface (Dag Forsell) so significantly depart from diagram used on p. 13 (Chapter 2, Rick Marken) ?
  7.        Instead of promoting PCT, authors in Handbook (2020) seemed to mostly promote themselves.

I don’t advice reading Interdisciplinary Handbook of Perceptual Control Theory (2020) if anybody expect content about PCT or continuation of LCS III (W.T. Powers. 2008). But if anybody likes mostly phylosophy and fiction that’s the book for him.