BP: I don’t know how much longer I will have a clear mind (or even
whether I have one now, come to think of it). I want to see some action
while I can still appreciate it.
After my initial proposal and the responses to it, I shelved the idea in
order to think about it some more. Finally I think I know what direction
I want to take, and need to find out if there are any
There is one clear message that we have to send to the life sciences
concerned with behavior, which in one way or another means all of them.
It is that all the behavioral sciences have been pursuing an illusion
during their whole history, the behavioral illusion. They have been
misled by the actions that organisms use for generating effects that are
of importance to them into thinking that those actions are the
effects of importance. Even now, and even on CSGnet, this error continues
to be made.
In 1960, a paper written largely by me appeared in which these sentences
“Even when we speak of systems which deal in human
interrelationships, these complex systems not only do not
“care” about what is actually going on in the “real”
environment, they cannot even know what is going on “out
there.” They perform the sole function of bringing their
feedback-signals, the only reality they can perceive, to some
reference-level, the only goal they know.”
If I had been able to write a little better and had known how to
demonstrate the truth of that assertion then in the way I can do now, and
if there had been any substantial number of behavioral scientists who
paused long enough to understand the demonstrations and see what they
mean (including Clark and McFarland), the course of all the sciences of
life would have undergone an abrupt and wrenching change. Needless to
say, that didn’t happen 52 years ago and it hasn’t happened yet. I want
to have one last try at making it happen.
There are now at least a dozen clear computer demonstrations of mine, and
as many more by Rick Marken, Tom Bourbon, and Kent McClelland, that show
that people control what they perceive and mostly do not perceive or
control the externally visible means by which they do it. You can hardly
do a control-system experiment without, even inadvertently, proving that.
In LCS3, Demos 2-1, 7-2, and 9-1 are particularly germane, with demo 3-1
showing how this is accomplished. There are other demos showing that
control works even when there are no perceivable “cues”
indicating to the controller the kind, amount, or direction of
disturbances, and even when the internal workings of “the
plant” are completely unknown to the controller. Other
demonstrations, which could easily be reconstructed, have shown that
supplying information about causes of disturbances or internal properties
of the feedback path has no effect on performance or makes performance
worse if not ignored. And still another set of demos shows that multiple
control systems can control multiple variables of perception by adjusting
multiple means of action in such a way that the external observer cannot
see any helpful patterns in the observable environment. These demos
always work and (for interactive demos) if the person can accomplish the
task, always show the same results regardless of the person operating
them. No statistics required.
As far as I can see, our case is clear and airtight. A scientific
revolution is desperately needed and completely justifiable.
I have suggested this several times before and have run into immediate
resistance within the CSG from those who did not want to go so far as to
declare failure of the mainstream approaches. I’m quite willing to let
that go unsaid, but not willing to withhold arguments against mainstream
interpretations of control phenomena. Of course I have, in the larger
world outside PCT, no reputation to preserve, no big past accomplishments
to defend, no job to protect, and no ambitions concerning long-term
advancement. I don’t even have a PhD thesis to treat tenderly. So I have
what others may consider to be an unrealistically carefree attitude
toward the consequences of saying what I think. OK, I can see the
But I don’t want to let them influence me any more. There is a chance
that the work I have been devoting most of my attention to for 60 years
can make a major difference in improving the way the sciences of life and
the social sciences advance from here on. The more of us who participate
in the effort I am proposing now, the better the chances of success
become. But if I have to, I will try to do it alone.
Nothing less seems worth the effort now. Who knows? We may be the last
inhabited planet in the local group, or the parent galaxy, that has not
yet had this revolution. The others may be thinking we’re just too dumb
to get it.
So, what is this big proposal? I think you all see what it will be. Let’s
work out the details together. We have discovered that the Earth is not
the center of the universe and that it is round. Surely, that knowledge
could make a difference to others beside ourselves!
At 09:16 PM 11/16/2012 +0000, McClelland, Kent wrote:
After our exchange on CSGnet, where do we stand on the idea of a possible
joint project? I’m still interested, particularly if we can focus it on
something shorter than a book-length monograph. It’s not clear to me
whether Bruce Nevin might also be interested at this