Could someone offer a HPCT definition of learning. I know that learning
occurs via reorganization, but that doesn't tell me what it is. Is it a
permanent change in reference values? Is it the creation of a new
reference signal? A new comparator? Are there different forms of
learning? It seems that I learn HOW to do something (ride a bike) and it
seems that I also learn WHEN to do something (when I feel like x, I should
stay home (or go out) OR when I can't resolve something, try not thinking
about it for a while). I wouldn't be suprised if HOW and WHEN are
different ways of experiencing the same thing, but they may not be. Either
way, my questions remain.

Has anyone ever suggested a hierarchical reorganization system? If I was
God, I'd prefer that there wasn't such a thing, but what about "learning to
learn"--what's the HPCT explanation for that? And for clarification, in my
mind I visualize the reorganization system "perpendicular" to the
hierarchy, wherein the "input" is the error signal, and the "output" feeds
into the reference signal (or perhaps the "output" of the system above),
closing the loop. The "disturbance" is the perceptual signal. Am I close?


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[from Joel Judd 930617]

Following is a short piece somebody left for me last week. It is from
_How to Survive in Your Native Land_ by James Herndon.


        Of course I have forgotten to tell you again, what you already
know. That is that the fundament of the school, even before winners and
losers, is that everyone has to go there.

        Even if you are rich or have eccentric or far-out parents and
go to private schools or invent free schools for yourself, you still
have to deal with the public school. But in case most of you are not or
have not any of the above. You must go to school.

        If kids in America do not go to school, they can be put in jail.
If they are tardy a certain number of times, they may go to jail. If they
cut enough, they go to jail. If their parents do not see that they go to
school, the parents may be judged unfit and the kids go to jail.

        You go to jail. All of the talk about MOTIVATION or INSPIRING
kids to learn or INNOVATIVE courses which are RELEVANT is horseshit.
It is horseshit because there is no way to know if the students really
are interested or not. No matter how bad the school is, it is better
than jail. Everyone knows that, and the school knows it especially.
A teacher comes into the teacher's room and says happily, I had the
greatest lesson today! and goes on to tell the other envious teachers
what it was that they hadn't thought of themselves and says, The kids
were all so excited! It is horseshit. The teacher has forgotten (as I
forget) that the kids have to be there or they will go to jail. Perhaps
the grand lesson was merely more tolerable than the usual lesson.
Perhaps the kids would have rejected both lessons if they could.

        That is why the schools cannot ever learn anything about their
students. Why famous psychologists can successfully threaten pigeons
into batting ping-pong balls with their wings, but can never learn
anything about pigeons.

        As long as you threaten people, you can't tell whether or not
they really want to do what you are proposing that they do. You can't
tell if they are inspired by it, you can't tell if they learn anything
from it, you can't tell if they would keep on doing it if you weren't
threatening them.

        You cannot tell. You cannot tell if the kids want to come to
your class or not. You can't tell if they are motivated or not. You
can't tell if they learn anything or not. All you can tell is, they'd
rather come to your class than go to jail.

[From John Anderson (950630.0845 EDT)]

Gary Cziko (950629) --

It seems to be that much of the S-R vs. PCT debate could be cleared away by
simply keeping in mind that a given action cannot reliably produce a
desired outcome. However, controlling for some combination of lower-level
perceptions CAN reliably produce an outcome, that is, a higher-level
perception. Isn't that what HPCT is all about?

So learning is not strenghtening connections between stimuli (perceptions)
and responses (actions), but rather strengthening connections between
different types of perceptions. For Calvin to learn to ride his bike, he
needs to figure out what controlled lower-level perceptions will result in
the higer-level perception of success at bike riding. S-R learning will
not do this. P-P learning will.

Once Calvin decides to learn to ride his bike, the problem his nervous
system faces is to establish connections so that the appropriate
higher-level control systems provide reference signals to the
appropriate lower-level control systems, and P-P learning is not
sufficient for this. The learning process must establish links
between the appropriate input functions up to the "ride my bike" CS,
AND between those input functions and the appropriate same-level
comparator functions, AND between those comparators and the
appropriate same-level output functions, AND between those output
functions and the appropriate lower-level comparators, down to the
first level.

Bill Powers (950629.1205 MDT) is right to say that lowering synaptic
strength is just as important to this process as increasing it.
Volume learning, in which signals diffuse from active synapses through
the brain's extracellular spaces to affect the strength of adjacent
synapses, may help out here. I'm going to have to think about this
some more.


just as important as