EGO; hassles; coercion

[From Bill Powers (950907.1230 MDT)]

Marc Abrams (950509.2200) --

First, I have downloaded EGO and tried it out, and thanks for bringing
it to my attention. It's a very well-written FREE Windows program from
South Korea (Dong-Hwan Kim) for doing graphical (block-diagram)
simulations, with multitudes of interesting options. The only problem
I'm having is that it was designed for the System Dynamics people who
have their own conventions, and it contains no instructions for how to
set up the system equations that go with each icon. If you're in System
Dynamics, I guess you're supposed to know such things already. I'm going
to have to write to the author, when I have time, and ask for some help.
I'll report when I have learned how to use the program.


Re the hassel over Oded Maler:

The basic problem here, Marc, is that this is supposedly a scientific
forum where we try to keep an open mind about everything, in the
interests of learning more about human nature. Sure, we get testy and
even nasty at times, but there's enough consciousness of our purpose so
that we regain our balance after occasional stumbles.

The very fact that it's human nature we're talking about makes for
difficulties that are not found in other branches of science. We are in
the business of asking questions about EVERYTHING that people do, and
that includes things about which they may become very touchy, like
patriotism, economic systems, religion, moral values, and other subjects
about which people become very emotional. What most of us have learned
is that we simply can't afford to tiptoe around other people's beliefs
(here on the net, I mean), because if we do that we will be avoiding
talking about the very phenomena that are most important to people.
Imagine trying to talk about medical subjects without being able to
mention the word "cancer" or even "disease." And if we allow ourselves
to study and talk about such things, it stands to reason that we can't
get too touchy when other people want to talk about them from a
different point of view that happens to raise questions about our own
beliefs. There's no getting around the fact that we all have beliefs, so
if we're going to study such things, we just have to relax a little
about defending them. Blind faith never advances understanding.

You are very touchy about any suggestion that there could be flaws in
capitalism or the American Way. It's as though even examining these
systems is a danger and any suggestion of a question has to be dealt
with immediately and with strong counterattacks -- rather than
considering the question and thinking about it. Lots of people do that,
of course; there's nothing abnormal about it. But that strategy is of
very little use if what you want what most people on this net want: a
better understanding of human nature and human institutions.

At this point you called me and we talked about a lot of things that
aren't in this post. There's more I could say, but about all that's left
that's important [if it is] is to say that we've had problems on this
net before of a similar nature and somehow everyone has cooled out and
gotten back on track. After a short time, old error signals get very
boring. I don't know if it's the acquaintance with PCT or what, but
there's a strong tendency for conflicts to end and go away. There aren't
any rules about that; it's just the way the individuals make their own
internal adjustments to help support whatever they find valuable about
these conversations.
Martin Taylor (950907.1110) --

What a very neat analysis of coercion! I don't know whether you noticed,
but it's one step toward the idea of a "fork" in chess. The other guy
doesn't want to lose the Queen, so you maneuver around until he has to
choose between losing a rook or a knight, to avoid losing the Queen. In
chess, the fork is effective because everyone has agreed to play by the
rules of chess. In the case of "your daughter or the plans for the A-
bomb", the coercer has to have superior forces to create the two-level
conflict (the ability to take the Queen). And it wouldn't be a conflict
if the victim didn't also have a reason for NOT turning over the plans.
     I believe Hans to be contemplating a different, mathematical world,
     in which the number of possible transfer functions is aleph-2.
     Transfer functions may change magnitude and direction at all points
     in space and time.

That is a far tougher problem and I don't think either Hans or I has any
working model that can handle it. This is what I think is meant by
"system identification" -- identifying the very nature of the system
you're trying to deal with, rather than just adjusting parameters in a
model that already reflects the basic organization of the system.

For the rest, see my recent reply to Hans.
Best to all,

Bill P.