Illumination

[From Bruce Abbott (960909.1535 EST))]

Rick Marken (960909.0900) --

Your "arguments" here are hogwash, so I'll skip over them to these:

If they're illuminating then I'll be illuminated. Besides, why worry about
me? There are many others on this list who would profit from illuminating
ideas. What a pity that you would deprive others on CSGNet of this
illuminating experience just because one member of CSGNet is afraid of any
idea that is not blessed by the Powers that be;-)

The problem, Dear Richard, is that those of Simon's ideas I had wished to
discuss here are in fact entirely consistent with those of WTP, even though
Simon may have arrived at them from a different direction. That is the irony.

Simon is not threatening at all. What is threatening is that people will get
the idea that Simon's view of behavior is in any way consistent with or
propaedeutic to the PCT view of behavior. If they did get this idea then, I
think, they would be lost to PCT.

Just to show you that I am a team player, I post this Warning to the Readers
of CSGNET:

  Do NOT READ Simon's (1969) _The sciences of the artificial_. (MIT press,
  Library of Congress catalog card number 69-11312.) It contains heretical
  material and will expose you to IMPURE thoughts, some possibly contrary to
  the cherished principles of PCT. You will no longer be able to reason for
  yourself, but will fall under the sway of this demonic writer and be lost
  to PCT forever. Beware!

There, that should do it.

Regards,

Bruce

[From Rick Marken (960909.1510)]

Bruce Abbott (960909.1535 EST) --

Your "arguments" here [Rick Marken (960909.0900)] are hogwash

I'm glad to be of use to the hogs, anyway;-)

The problem, Dear Richard, is that those of Simon's ideas I had wished
to discuss here are in fact entirely consistent with those of WTP, even
though Simon may have arrived at them from a different direction. That
is the irony.

Well, it looks like WTP {Bill Powers (960909.1400 MDT)] may not see it that
way; irony upon irony;-)

Me:

Simon is not threatening at all. What is threatening is that people will get
the idea that Simon's view of behavior is in any way consistent with or
propaedeutic to the PCT view of behavior. If they did get this idea then, I
think, they would be lost to PCT.

Ye:

Just to show you that I am a team player, I post this Warning to the Readers
of CSGNET:

Do NOT READ Simon's (1969) _The sciences of the artificial_. (MIT press,
Library of Congress catalog card number 69-11312.) It contains heretical
material and will expose you to IMPURE thoughts, some possibly contrary to
the cherished principles of PCT. You will no longer be able to reason for
yourself, but will fall under the sway of this demonic writer and be lost
to PCT forever. Beware!

You missed my point. I didn't mean that Simon's view of behavior was
threatening. What is (somewhat) threatening ("annoying" is probably a better
word) is the possibility that what you say about Simon might convince a PCT
novice that Simon's ideas are consistent with PCT.

I don't want to surpress either Simon OR you. But I will certainly respond
to both of you because I want to help people who are learning PCT understand
why statements like Simon's, which might seem superficially consistent
with PCT, are not.

When you accuse me of refusing to read what Simon "really said" or of trying
to keep people from reading books like those by Simon, you remind me of my
mother who keeps telling me that I would see the great wisdom of Judaism if I
would just read the writings of all the great sages. Well, the fact is that
by the age of 12 I'd read enough "sages" to know that it was all a crock --
occasionally a well written crock but a crock nevertheless. The same is true
of "cognitive science". I'd read enough of the "sages" of cognitive science
(including Simon) by the time I started doing PCT experiments on an Apple II
(which was well after I received my Ph.D. in _cognitive psychology_, by the
way) to know that cognitive science was a crock. If you are hoping that I
will go back and read Simon (again) in the hopes that I will find some great
wisdom that I missed the first time around, I'm afraid your going to be as
disappointed in my "scientific" development as my mother continues to be in
my spiritual development.

Personally, I want people to read Simon -- and all other conventional
psychologists. I want them to evaluate Simon's understanding of behavior in
the context of their own understanding of PCT (as Francisco did). If Francisco
had relied on your estimate of the value of Simon's insights instead of
evaluating them on his own, he might have concluded that Simon actually did
have something worthwhile to say to control theorists.

As futher proof that I am not trying to censor ideas that run "contrary to
the cherished principles of PCT" I would like to recommend a program that
is currently running on PBS here in LA . It's called "A Glorious Accident".
It started here last night with an interview of Oliver Saks -- the L-Dopa,
Touret's syndrome expert. It is already clear that the Dutch guy who made the
show is a big fan of trendy cognitive science (neural nets, self-organizing
systems, chaotic attractors -- the works!). Anyway, be sure to watch it; I
was having a ball last night yelling helplessly at the image of Oliver Saks,
who would clearly benefit from a strong dose of L. PCT;-)

Even Better

Rick

[From Bruce Abbott (960909.1935 EST)]

Rick Marken (960909.1510) --

The problem, Dear Richard, is that those of Simon's ideas I had wished
to discuss here are in fact entirely consistent with those of WTP, even
though Simon may have arrived at them from a different direction. That
is the irony.

Well, it looks like WTP {Bill Powers (960909.1400 MDT)] may not see it that
way; irony upon irony;-)

You must have a private line to BP -- I haven't seen that one yet and it's
after 7 pm here. No matter, neither you nor Bill have any idea what those
ideas are, so neither of you are in a position to judge.

I don't want to surpress either Simon OR you. But I will certainly respond
to both of you because I want to help people who are learning PCT understand
why statements like Simon's, which might seem superficially consistent
with PCT, are not.

It might help if you first determined whether statements like Simon's are
consistent with PCT, THEN if they are not, criticize away. My annoyance
with you is that you didn't actually conduct a fair evaluation, but went on
assumption instead. In fact, you're _still_ in that mode.

When you accuse me of refusing to read what Simon "really said" or of trying
to keep people from reading books like those by Simon, you remind me of my
mother

Well, I'll take that as a compliment.

well after I received my Ph.D. in _cognitive psychology_

Holy smoke, no _wonder_ you have such a messed-up impression of psychology. (;->

Personally, I want people to read Simon -- and all other conventional
psychologists. I want them to evaluate Simon's understanding of behavior in
the context of their own understanding of PCT (as Francisco did). If Francisco
had relied on your estimate of the value of Simon's insights instead of
evaluating them on his own, he might have concluded that Simon actually did
have something worthwhile to say to control theorists.

But Rick, for the fourth time (I think), what Francisco cited has nothing to
do with the views I wished to discuss. Francisco wasn't evaluating the same
ideas of Simon's and therefore his conclusions, however valid, are not
relevant here.

However, I'm glad to hear that you want people to read Simon and anyone else
they might wish to pay attention to. You really had me worried there -- I
was half certain that a new Inquisition was about to be instituted right
here on CSGNET -- we me as the first target, of course!

So let's take a look at some of these insidious, anti-PCT ideas of Simon's I
wanted to present. Here's another couple of exerpts from _The sciences of
the artificial_. Simon has just made his somewhat different distinction
between the natural and artificial, in which "artificial" refers to
something adapted to serve a purpose.

  So, too, we must be careful about equating "biological" with "natural." A
  forest may be a phenomenon of nature; a farm certainly is not. The very
  species upon which man depends for his food--his corn and his cattle-- are
  artifacts of his ingenuity. A plowed field is no more a part of nature
  than an asphalted street--and no less.

  These examples set the terms for our problem, for those things we call
  artifacts are not apart from nature. They have no dispensation to ignore
  or violate natural law. At the same time they are adapted to man's goals
  and purposes. They are what they are in order to satisfy his desire to
  fly or to eat well. As a man's aims change, so too do his artifacts--
  and vice versa, as well. [p. 3]

And a bit later:

  In some contexts, we make a distinction between "artificial" and "synthetic."
  For example, a gem made of glass colored to resemble sapphire would be called
  artificial, while a man-made gem that was chemically indistinguishable from
  saphire would be called synthetic. A similar distinction is often made
  between "artificial" and "synthetic" rubber. Thus some artificial things
  are imitations of things in nature; and the imitation may use either the
  same basic materials as those in the natural object or quite different
  materials.

  As soon as we introduce "synthesis" as well as "artifice" we enter the
  realm of engineering. For "synthetic" is often used in the broader sense
  of "designed" or "composed." We speak of engineering as concerned with
  "synthesis," while science is concerned with "analysis." Synthetic or
  artificial objects--and more specifically, prospective artificial objects
  having desired properties--are the central objective of engineering
  activity and skill. The engineer is concerned with how things _ought_ to
  be, that is, in order to _attain goals_, and to _function_. Hence, a
  science of the artificial will be closely akin to a science of engineering--
  but very different, as we shall see in my third chapter, from what goes
  currently by the name of "engineering science." [Pp 4-5]

And again:

  The Environment as Mold

  Let us look a little more closely at the functional or purposeful aspects
  of artificial things. Fulfillment of purpose or adaptation to a goal
  involves a relation among three terms: the purpose or goal, the character
  of the artifact, and the environment in which the artifact performs. When
  we think of a clock, for example, in terms of purpose, we may use the child's
  definition: "a clock is to tell time." When we focus our attention on the
  clock itself, we may describe it in terms of arrangements of gears, and of
  the application of the forces of springs or gravity operating on a weight or
  pendulum.

  But we may also consider clocks in relation to the environment in which
  they are to be used. Sundials perform as clocks _in sunny climates_--
  they are more useful in Phoenix than in Boston, and of no use at all during
  the Arctic winter. Devising a clock that would tell time, on a rolling and
  pitching ship, with sufficient accuracy to determine longitude was one of
  the great adventures of eighteenth-century science and technology. To
  perform in this difficult environment, the clock had to be endowed with
  many delicate properties, some of them largely or totally irrelevant to the
  performance of a landlubber's clock.

  Natural science impinges on an artifact through two of the three terms of
  the relation that characterizes it: the structure of the artifact itself
  and the environment in which it performs. Whether a clock will in fact
  tell time depends on its internal construction and where it is placed.
  Whether a knife will cut depends on the material of its blade and the
  hardness of the substance to which it is applied.

  The Artifact as "Interface"

  We can view the matter quite symmetrically. An artifact can be thought of
  as a meeting point--an "interface" in today's terms--between an "inner"
  environment, the substance and organization of the artifact itself, and
  an "outer" environment, the surroundings in which it operates. If the
  inner environment is appropriate to the outer environment, or vice versa,
  the artifact will serve its intended purpose. Thus, if a clock is immune
  to buffeting, it will serve as a ship's chronometer. (And conversely, if
  it isn't, we may salvage it by mounting it on the mantel at home.)

  Notice that this way of viewing artifacts applies equally well to many
  things that are not man-made--to all things, in fact, that can be regarded
  as "adapted" to some situation; and in particular, it applies to living
  systems that have evolved through the forces of organic evolution. [Pp. 6-7]

I'll stop here to await your comments (Rick's or anyone elses').

Regards,

Bruce

[From Bill Powers (960909.1945 MDT)]

Bruce Abbott (960909.1935 EST)--

The "functional" approach that Simon describes in your excerpts is, I think,
a way of avoiding talking about real purposes. The concept of purpose has
been a thorn in the side of science for a long time, at least in its
original meaning of causing something to happen "on purpose." Brentano, way
back when, decided that purpose (actually, intention) was a sort of
"aboutness," in the sense that one's behavior is "about" something in the
environment, or a perception is "about" or "directed toward" the thing
perceived. Weiss thought of "purpose" as the end-point of a sequence of
actions, as a drop of water sliding down an inclined plane shows the
"purpose" of reaching the lowest point. Skinner thought of a "purpose" as
the reinforcing consequence that shapes the behavior that produces it. And
functionalists think of "purpose" as the use to which something could be
put, which seems to be Simon's definition. In all these interpretations, the
word purpose itself is very often put in quotes, as a denial that it is
being used in its common meaning or else to imply "so-called."

There's nothing special about seeing behavior as purposive or as having
intended results. People have spoken and written about it this way
throughout history -- probably more so in ancient times before science
decided, incorrectly, that purpose couldn't be what everyone thought it was.
The term is so ubiquitous, however, that it couldn't be ignored. So what
many scientists decided to do was to redefine the phenomenon so it didn't
offend scientific beliefs. By using the same term for the redefined
phenomenon -- aboutness, end-point, or reinforcing consequence -- the
scientists could usurp the word and tacitly deny the common meaning, saying
"Now here is what "purpose" _really_ means."

In PCT we return to the common meaning of purpose: an intention that
something shall (be perceived to) come to pass. And an intention is defined
in completely concrete terms: it is a neural signal against which a
perceptual signal is compared, and toward which behavior causes the
perception to change. What is different from the common-sense meaning is
that PCT offers a physical explanation for how purposes can exist and can be
accomplished, and locates purposes in the brain.

Simon says

When we think of a clock, for example, in terms of purpose, we may use the
child's definition: "a clock is to tell time."

This is actually a shorthand; it's a way of omitting the person whose
purpose is being discussed. Stated in full, the sentence is "a clock is for
someone who wants to know the time to see what the time is." By talking
about the clock without mentioning the person, however, it's possible to
give the impression that clocks "have" a purpose independent of any person.
When you do retain the person in the description of purpose, you discover
that nothing has just one purpose; in fact the purposes are as varied as the
intentions of the people who use the object. A clock is to hold down papers
so they won't blow away when the window is opened (and I intend that they
not blow away). A clock is to reset in order to misinform a detective trying
to solve a murder
mystery. A clock is to sell. A clock is to counterbalance the appearance of
a mantlepiece with a vase at the other end. A clock is to find North by,
using the Sun. A clock is to impress an admirer of antiques. A clock is to
hide a stain on the wall, to give comfort to a puppy by ticking, to measure
the time elapsed in a race, to test the general theory of relativity, to
determine how much to pay an employee, to provide a load for a power supply
that you're testing, to patent, to return as defective, to give for
Christmas, to reproach your date for being late. To prop a book against when
you're reading.

When we recognize that every purpose is _someone's_ purpose, it becomes
clear that nothing in the environment has any purpose of its own. But to
appreciate this, you have to understand how purpose is dealt with in PCT.

The only reason it's remarkable that Simon would talk about goals and
purposes is that one would not expect a scientist to mention such terms,
particularly not a scientist involved in computers and software. But Simon
said nothing to outrage his colleagues. He didn't say that purposes arise
from within the organism and replace the natural laws that would, in the
absence of the organism, determine the course of environmental events. He
didn't say that purposes determine the future in a way very different from
the normal sequence of analyzing and predicting. He didn't say that the laws
relating organisms to their environments are very different from what we
normally think of as "natural laws." So the purpose that Simon spoke about
might be designated by the same term, but it is not the purpose about which
we speak in PCT.

Indeed, if I could have had a discussion on this subject with Simon, I'm
sure we would have been arguing "at cross-purposes."

Best,

Bill P.

ยทยทยท

-------------------------------------------------------------------------