MT: In a general election there are N parties. Each voter has a reference for party X to be perceived as the governing party. That’s a variable controlled by the action of voting. Many voters cast a vote for party X, the entire collective controlling their perception of the same environmental variable.
RM: Right off the bat this situation is not the same as that in Kent’s “collective control” demo. In Kent’s demo, each party to the conflict can affect on and, thus, control the controlled variable on their own; in an election no single party to the conflict can affect on the controlled variable and, thus, could not control it on their own.
MT: Just as in Kent’s original conflicted control demo, the pulls by the N Giant Virtual Controllers result in a party mix that is not the reference mix for any of the individual GVCs.
RM: But the situation is not very much like Kent’s demo. One difference is noted above: unlike in Kent’s demo, none of the parties to the conflict could control the state of the controlled variable on their own. Another difference is that none of the parties can perceive the current state of the controlled variable; so the actions of the parties cannot be based on the state of that variable (relative to their reference for it), as they are in Kent’s demo.
RM: These differences (and others that you see when you approach the study of elections without trying to fit them into the Procrustean bed of “collective control”) require a very different approach to applying the PCT model than that used in Kent’s demo. Indeed, the model used in Kent’s demo really only applies to a situation such as a tug of war between N parties, each attached by rope to the same flag, the position of which is the controlled variable. It also requires that all parties be of approximately the same strength (gain) with the same strength limits. In that case you end up with the flag in a virtual reference state that is the average of the reference states for the position of the flag for all parties.
RM: An election is similar to Kent’s conflict inasmuch as the all parties to the conflict could end up not getting the results they want. This could be true in parliamentary elections if the voters (the parties to the conflict) are controlling for a particular distribution of parties represented in the parliament. But even in parliamentary systems, a member of only one of the parties eventually becomes the leader. So, assuming that voters are also controlling for which party leads the country, it is possible that some voters will get what they want and others will not. In this case the controlled variable doesn’t end up in a “virtual reference state” as it does in Kent’s dem; instead the controlled variable ends up in the reference state of the voters who wanted the winning party to lead.
RM: The point of all this is to show the problem involved in trying to impose an explanation (“collective control”) on a phenomenon (elections) rather then going from phenomenon to explanation (PCT). When I do the latter with elections what I see, first, is not just conflict but also cooperation. The conflict comes from the fact that different members of a group have different references for who should lead them. One way to deal with this conflict is by force; the one with the biggest army and/or mouth claims leadership. The other way is by some form of democratic process, such as an election. This requires cooperation: the parties to the conflict have to agree, among other things, to vote at a particular time in a particular manner and, of course, they have to agree to accept the results of the vote tally. We saw in the US election that these tacit agreements cannot be taken for granted! Cooperation requires trust ,so it’s a risky business, but the benefits usually outweigh the costs.
RM: Cooperation is obviously an important aspect of social behavior. It’s a kind of behavior so it must involve control since, as we know from PCT, behavior is control. Cooperation comes in at least two forms: intended and unintended (See Chapter 7 in The Study of Living Control Systems). Elections involve intentional cooperation, which is very risky; the flocking of birds and the honey making behavior of bees involves unintentional cooperation; much less risky.
RM: The point of all this is simply that there are more things in the behavior of collections of living control systems than are dreamed of in the “collective control” demo. Which is why I didn’t use that term in the Social Control Chapter of my book (I did mention Kent’s demo as one example of “conflictive control”). But I do hope (which is probably like troubling deaf heaven with my bootless cries) that some readers will take a look at Chapter 7 in my book and see if it gives you any ideas about how to look at social behavior thorough a broader PCT lens.