[From Bill Powers (920913.1300)]
Dag Forssell (920913) --
CONGRATULATIONS. Your management course is the second great step
forward for PCT in bringing it to public attention (the first being Ed
Ford's forays into education). Long may you wave.
Greg Williams (920913) --
Thus the manipulator's action (positioning the instrumental
must depend on the manipulee's choice of reference position for the
knot, and on the amount and direction of any third-party
of the knot.
Exactly -- and this generalizes to more elaborate types of this kind
manipulation, as I've pointed out time and again.
No. It's too soon to generalize. Your own ideology is showing through.
I may end up agreeing with you, but at the moment it looks as though
you have a conclusion all prepared, and are interpreting what I say
only in ways that support that conclusion.
Control that works strictly through disturbance of perceptions, with
the manipulee's actions countering that disturbance and causing no
errors in the manipulee by being performed, is by definition
unimportant to the manipulee. So the manipulator is doing things that
are satisfying to the manipulator, but irrelevant to the manipulee. In
order to find some effect of manipulation that IS important to the
manipulee, we will have to find some other form of manipulation than
just disturbing perceptions.
When I say "important to the manipulee," I DO NOT mean important in
some objective sense, like performing the act will get the manipulee
killed or fired or hurt. Those outcomes are completely irrelevant to
the control processes in the manipulee if the manipulee does not know
about them at the time of the manipulation. Many of your arguments
invoke what is OBJECTIVELY important about the consequences of
manipulation. That is ideology, just as you say it is when
interactions are rejected because they result in conflict. The only
importance that counts in a functional analysis of interactions is
importance to the control systems involved. Third-party judgements
have nothing to do with the scientific analysis.
You may or may not have noticed that when I speak about conflict, I
always speak about it conditionally. That is, control of another must
not significantly alter any variable that the other is controlling, if
conflict is to be avoided. Conflict must be avoided if skillful
control is to be maintained. Skillful control must be maintained if
the organism is to satisfy its intrinsic reference levels. Intrinsic
reference levels must be maintained if the organism is to survive.
There is not a single moral or ethical judgment in any of those
statements. When I speak of a malfunction, it is always in relation to
the idea that proper functioning results in survival. What other
definition of "proper" functioning could there be?
I admit to a value judgment when I say that I prefer, and work toward,
survival of most human beings. I do, however, eat hamburgers.
So in the final analysis, the manipulator's hand position
(the instrumental variable) is not under the control of the
manipulator, and the manipulee's hand position is not under the
control of the manipulee.
In the final analysis, neither is controlling for his/her perception
his/her own hand position. Is that what YOU just said?
Yes, but more prolixically.
The manipulee can control the manipulator's hand position by varying
the reference position of the knot; the manipulator can control the
manipulee's hand position by varying the reference position of the
No, the manipulee doesn't give a whit where he/she sees the
manipulator's hand, so he/she is NOT controlling it. If the manipulee
started to control thusly, then the manipulation wouldn't work as the
manipulator planned (on the basis of his/her previous knowledge of
the >manipulee's controlling); in this case, the manipulator would say
he/she had a "bad" model of the manipulee.
I said CAN. If the manipulee decides it is more important to control
the manipulator's hand position than to maintain a fixed reference
position for the knot, the manipulee can vary the reference position
for the knot while watching the manipulator's hand, and put that hand
anywhere the manipulee pleases. At the same time, the manipulator can
keep the manipulee's hand where the manipulator wants it. Try it.
An example is the police riots at the Democratic convention in Chicago
in 1968. The police were trying to manipulate the behavior of the
protestors by a show of force. They disturbed, and the demonstrators
pushed back and went right on protesting. But the demonstrators didn't
want the police just to THREATEN force; they wanted them to USE force.
So the demonstrators began running around creating incidents in
different places which the police tried to suppress, until finally the
police lost it and degenerated into brutality. Nominally, the
protesters had the goal of defending their right to protest. But they
manipulated HOW they were protecting that right, so that the police
were maneuvered into controlling them by the means the protesters
wanted the police to use right on camera.
Each one controls the other's means of achieving the same other's
This is an example of slippery use of the word control. Are you
doing >>this on purpose, or by innocent error?
On the contrary, this is a precise use of the term control. Each one
can sense the other's action, and alter his/her own action in such a
way as to make the other's action match the controller's reference
level for it. This is accomplished without conflict because neither
cares where his or her own hand is, so control can be as good as the
parameters of the systems allow. Each one, by varying a reference
signal, can make the other's action vary exactly as the reference
signal varies. Extraneous disturbances of the other's actions will be
counteracted. Why is this a slippery use of the word control? Did you
actually test my claims with real rubber bands and players as I
Understanding autonomy is especially difficult in a hierarchical
system, where combating a disturbance at one level entails altering
goals at lower levels. Goal-directed behavior is not, per se,
autonomous -- in a hierarchy.
This can of worms is why I was ORIGINALLY trying to stick with
implications of PCT, not HPCT.
I now think this can't be done in talking about manipulation.
There are certain processes in the human organism that are carried
simply because of the way the organism is put together, inside.
Control itself is an example, as is reorganization. The environment
contains no means of carrying out these processes for an organism,
either to help it or hinder it.
The NON-ORGANISMIC environment, you mean, right?
I see I didn't manage to explain clearly what I meant. Organisms
perceive. There is nothing the environment (animate or inanimate) can
do to help or hinder the processes by which neurons respond to energy
inputs by creating output signals; there is nothing any external
agency or thing can to to aid or oppose the combining of such signals
through neural computations to produce new perceptual signals. Not,
that is, without surgical or chemical intervention. There is nothing
the environmentalive or dead, can do to help carry out the processes
of perception, comparison, and acting.
Perceptual functions are created and changed by mechanisms that alter
neural connections in perceptual functions. Nothing external to the
organism has an influence on these mechanisms -- that is, on how they
manage to alter connections, or even on exactly what connections they
will alter, and how. All the external world can do is present sensory
stimuli to the receptors. All else that takes place is done by
processes working entirely inside the behaving system.
A manipulator can't alter the perceptions of the manipulee; there is
no pathway to mediate such an alteration. All the manipulator can
change is part of the external physical world in the vicinity of the
manipulee, as the manipulator perceives it. Whatever happens after
that is done by processes inside the manipulee.
A human being must acquire perceptual functions that produce
consistent perceptions, perceptions that vary in sensible ways and
relate to each other without contradiction. The environment can't do
that kind of making-sense; only a brain can.
The NON-ORGANISMIC environment, you mean, right?
No, the environment, organismic or not. Only the organism can find
ways of making sense of its raw intensity signals. That process is an
endogenous function, part of the physical and functional makeup of the
organism. There is no way anything in the environment can suggest
weightings, forms of functions, or anything of that sort that will be
of the slightest help in creating a new perception or modifying an old
one. The mechanisms that do these things operate independently of the
Once a perceptual signal exists, it is the brain that must carry out
comparisons with reference signals, to generate an error signal. The
environment does not inform the human organism of how it, the
environment, should be, nor does it tell the organism what
constitutes >a discrepancy with the organism's goals.
The NON-ORGANISMIC environment, you mean, right?
No, nothing in the environment can be of any help or hindrance in the
process of comparing two neural signals, nor can it reach inside an
intact organism and tell it what state of the environment should be
indicated by the reference signal. Each part of the process of control
arises from the functioning of the organism's nervous system and its
mechanisms for internal change. The environment can alter input
stimuli, but that is as far as its direct influence reaches. Nothing
at all would happen beyond that point but for the internal processes
of the organism.
Each level of control, therefore, comes into being through the
of internal mechanisms for change and development, but the final
result, the control organizations that come into existence, must be
designed to work through the properties of the world that actually
exists, however we may perceive it.
I suggest that the "coming into being" of levels of control depends
on >the actions of BOTH internal AND external mechanisms for change
Levels of control come into being only when neurons become physically
organized into new layers of control. The processes that do that can't
be carried out by any mechanism outside the organism. You're talking
about making it NECESSARY for such processes to occur. Making it
necessary doesn't make it possible, not does it select what actual
changes inside the organism will cope with the necessities imposed by
the external world. All the mechanisms that change an organism are
Finally there are the intrinsic variables, their inherited reference
levels, and the process of reorganization driven by intrinsic error.
These are defined for the organism by its heritage.
A heritage, I suggest, both hereditary AND environmental (think, for
example, of physiological set-points changing when you move to a high
altitude; and note that some of the "thou shalts" can be overridden:
one can choose self- respect which requires feeling much pain, for
example, if one is being tortured to reveal secrets).
Once it is decided by DNA that blood volume will be a controlled
variable, nothing in the lifetime of the organism can dictate that it
NOT be a controlled variable. A true intrinsic variable is defined
strictly by heridity -- defined, I said, not controlled. There is a
built-in sensor and a built-in reference signal for oxygen tension in
the blood. You can move to any altitude you like, and oxygen tension
will still be an intrinsic variable controlled relative to a
genetically-fixed reference level. Clearly, neither breathing
rate/volume nor number of red blood cells is an intrinsic variable,
because both change when you move to a new altitude, as a way of
maintaining the required oxygen tension. They change BECAUSE there is
an error in oxygen tension, and nothing outside the organism and
nothing the organism does can make that error into anything other than
When an organism feels pain, it begins reorganizing. It has no choice
in the matter, even if it has itself created the circumstances that
led to the pain. It will keep reorganizing until the pain disappears,
unless some other intrinsic error shows up. That is why torture
sometimes works, and dieting doesn't. Torture doesn't always work
because its results are random, and there may be no way to reorganize
that will stop the pain (if you're being asked for information that
you don't know and can't fake). I'll bet that even J. Gordon Liddy
doesn't find many occasions, any more, to show how brave he is by
holding his hand over a candle flame. Reorganization will conquer even
right-wing fanaticism, given time. Although it won't necessarily
eliminate the most obvious intrinsic error. Look how JGL turned out
after all that self-administered intrinsic error.
The environment can affect intrinsic variables, but it can't say
will constitute an intrinsic variable, or a reference level for one.
I think it can't redefine types of i.v.'s, but it can affect their
If it can alter the reference settings, then we aren't talking about
intrinsic reference levels. See control of oxygen tension above. This
is a matter of definition. An intrinsic variable is by definition one
that is specified as important by DNA. Its reference level is by
definition fixed by DNA. There are lots of biochemical variables that
aren't in this category. Perhaps you would like to argue that there
are no true intrinsic variable and reference levels.
The environment may determine what must be done
to affect a given perception in a given way, but it is the
reorganizing system that decides what will constitute a perception,
and whether any particular state of it is to be sought or avoided.
Do you claim that it is the environment that specifies what function
of a set of input signals will be computed? Are you saying that the
organism does not have to discover FOR ITSELF what settings of
reference signals will result in consequences that it prefers?
With respect, at least, to the current environment, these built-in
systems define the true autonomy of an individual.
I have no problem with this definition of "autonomy." Just don't try
to >say that current controlling is solely the product of past
I don't even know what that means. I've tried to explain how a
reorganizing system has the ultimate say over what inner states will
and will not be preferred by the organism, and therefore over what
will and will not become controlled by the organism. It is not the
environment that says pain hurts and pleasure feels good. The
environment knows nothing about what is good for the organism, at the
level of reorganization.
So autonomy, in any one lifetime, is awarded to the organism, in
particular to its reorganizing system.
No. I'll only award a moment-by-moment autonomy to the individual.
But that's precisely what I have been giving up. If disturbances
control your actions, and if even reference levels can be controlled
from outside by disturbing higher-level perceptions, where is there
any moment-by-moment autonomy of action OR of goal-selection? The only
place left is at the highest level, or beyond that in the intrinsic
reference levels which BY DEFINITION are genetically set.
I won't follow that trail any further; the point is only to show
the same principles of autonomy can be extended into the past, with
the environment providing the stage and acting mindlessly to
but being incapable of carrying out the processes of change, which
continue to reside in the species.
The NON-ORGANISMIC environment, you mean, right?
Wrong. Even the organismic part can influence the organism only
through altering the non-organismic environment in the vicinity of an
organism. And the signals coming in through the sensors do NOT provide
the machinery that carries out behavior or changes its organization.
All changes inside the organism require a judgment by the organism,
and an internal action by it. Nothing outside the organism is in a
position to do those things.
We, however, choose our own goal structures, as our means of
preserving ourselves in the state that our natures tell us is right.
What is this "choose"? PCT says that there is NO choice in the
present >-- one simply controls as one's control system allows. Are we
getting >back to the "free-will" argument? No thanks!
I mean that it is a mechanism inside us that varies our goal
structures and stops varying them when the result is pleasing to that
little man who lives in our pineal glands.
There's no argument about free will. It exists, as anyone can verify
from direct experience. You can voluntarily and consciously step into
the operation of many of your systems at any level and cause arbitrary
changes in their operation (the result is usually not great). This
phenomenon is, I agree, difficult to account for within any current
theoretical framework. But it occurs. I, too, say "no thanks" to any
explanation of it that anyone has offered so far. Including theories
that say it doesn't exist.
This still leaves open the question of interactions among organisms;
organisms with similar organizations, and organisms assymetrically
related to each other.
So you DID mean the non-organismic environment ONLY, all those places
No, I didn't. I meant that we have yet to analyze interactions among
persons, beyond the simple interaction of controlling actions by
disturbance of perceptions.
RE: an earlier comment:
Exactly my sentiments! May that progressiveness not be harmed by
I see that ideological autonomism is a disturbance to some sentiment,
and contrary to progress in some direction. Would you care to
elaborate on what that sentiment is, other than by giving everything
an interpretation that supports it? I see lots of arrows pointing in
some direction, but I don't yet see what's there at the convergence.
What if ideological autonomism turns out to be the right approach? If
so, so what?