Control, evolution, social PCT

[From Rick Marken (930818.0900)]

Dag Forssell (930817 1420)--

Looks good to me. I liked the comparison of "control" and "power" in
the discussion with the executive. Maybe you could associate the word
"power" with the output function in one of the early diagrams. Then
maybe you could discuss, later on, how "high power" means "good
control" (not violent output) in a properly functioning control system.
The USE of power only becomes noticeable (to human control systems)
when that power is not resulting in control -- as in the case of conflict.
In fact, one reason people may think of control as "manipulation through
the use of power" is because they are typically only aware of control
when control is failing -- as it does in interpersonal conflict situations.
Under normal conditions, control seems "effortless" -- behavior just
happens. So perhaps it is not surprising that the term "control" has a
sinister tinge; people typically notice it only when it is failing and
violent levels of power must be mustered to achieve any level of
control at all. The violence of the power is what is noticed and
called "control", unfortunately.

Gary Cziko (930811.2200 UTC) --

I remember mentioning just this beaver fact about a year of so ago on the
net. What a short memory some CSGnetters have!

Having lived through the sixties (and I mean LIVED)) I'm lucky I have any
memory AT ALL. Anyway, I'm sure it was a brilliant post when it
happened; sorry that I forgot about it.

What I like about the example is that is shows how evolution selects for
reference levels which facilitate survival although evolution cannot know
and the organism may not know why the reference level "works."

Yes. Evolution selects adaptive purposes, not adaptive action patterns.

Here's a way for PCT to help solve the great (or silly, depending on your
perspective) evolution - creation debate. One of the sore points for
creationists seems to be the apparent "purposelessness" of the
evolutionary model of human origins. Of course, the creationists
want there to be an external agent (g-d) with the purpose of creating
them. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that this kind of purpose is
involved in speciation -- this is basically what Darwin showed rather
conclusively. But the evolutionists then went a bit overboard (with the
rest of science -- see Powers' wonderful post on animism) by "banning"
purpose completely from the evolutionary process. In fact, PCT makes
purpose scientifically legitimate and, indeed, purpose is a likely com-
ponent of evolution in a least two ways. One way was mentioned above;
to the extent that behavioral characteristics are inherited (and it seems
that many are) and are, thus, grist for the evolutionary mill, what must
be inherited are the purposes (reference perceptions) of behavior --
not the specific action patterns that might achieve those purposes in
certain contexts. A second way is far more speculative but theoretically
very appealing: variations within a species (due to genetic combination
and mutation) may be part of a control process carried out at the level
of the DNA. The "ultimate purpose" of evolution may be the biochemical
purpose of preserving the replicability of DNA molecules.

PCT can put purpose back into evolution. This may not satisfy the
creationists (who will probably continue looking for god
in all the wrong places) but at least it will mute the "purposeless"
criticism a bit -- and it will also irritate the evolutionists who have
an almost allergic reaction to the notion that purpose might be involved
in anything at all.

Reply to Hal Pepinsky

As Gary describes the group to me, they turn on its head the axiom that
perceptions are caused by external factors, instead presuppossing that
personal will (and group will in tandem) causes perceptions.

I think Hal misstates what I'm sure was Gary's very clear description
of PCT. PCT says that people control their perceptions -- perceptions
don't control or guide people. Hal is describing HCT -- hallucination
control theory -- a sixties group dedicated to the proposition that
you can cause the perceptions of your choice with personal will
(and a little LSD) . Most PCTers have no doubt that perceptions
depend on (and are, in this sense, caused) by external factors --
though there seems to be the odd solipcist here and there.

All research can do, I think, is offer us more information about what
happens when we try to make peace by subduing or respecting an

But what if we find (as I think we do) that the answer provided by
such research is "sometimes this happens and sometimes that
happens". The point of PCT is that the result of any action (and
I see "subduing" and "respecting" as actions) is unpredictable --
unless that result (in this case, "peace") is under control.

If we go so far as you, Rick, to
presuppose that some of us for purposes of action are essentially criminal
while others of us are by contrast essentially virtuous, then we define
this common ground out of existence.

I presupposed that? Actually, I only presupose that we are all hierarchical
perceptual control systems. Criminality and virtue are perceptual signals
in (some of) these control systems.

I see no security that arises out of name-calling to begin with.

PCT is about how you are able to maintain the perception that you
get "no security from name calling" -- it is not about whether or
not that is a good perception to maintain.

Why ever decide whether any whole person is one-sidedly criminal or
qualified to pass judgment on others' criminality?

PCT says that you would "decide" this (ie. set a reference to
perceive any whole person as one-sidedly criminal) in order
to satisfy higher level perceptual goals -- ideological goals,
for example, like perceiving oneself as a "responsible citizen"
or a "conservative".

The syllabus questions lay out an empirical test of my theory that only
the Golden Rule pays: Can you show me a situation in which people have
felt security any greater than a junkie after a fix by punishing or
disrespecting an offender as one not allow the offender to do in return?

Tough one to show empirically -- how do I show you what other
people felt? PCT would say "define the variable called 'security' ";
apply disturbances to determine if a person is controlling that
variable; then see if there are circumstances where people control
that variable by punishing other people.

To me the proof of their capacity to behave better and show loving respect
is our capacity to behave better and show loving respect toward them.

That's how YOU control your perception of "their capacity to behave
better and show loving respect". Other people may not control this
perception in the same way; and others may not even be controlling
this perception.

As Herman Bianchi poses the Talmudic
question of justice, we are divided over whether to assess blame for
spilling milk or figuring out how to clean the mess up together.

Actually, PCT represents a third division -- trying to determine
whether or not milk-spilling is a controlled (intended) result, and
if it is, how it is controlled and why.

Early last December I suggested policing Somalia would proliferate
violence in Somalia as surely as any war on crime.

Good call. In PCT, it's called disturbance resistence; the police are
apparently a disturbance to the variables that the war lord assholes
are controlling.