Mary on genes

[from Mary Powers 940214]

Daryl Neergaard (940213)

Welcome to CSG-L. CSG stands for the Control Systems Group. Our
aim is to understand the organization of living systems from a
point of view developed from control theory, which we call
Perceptual Control Theory. At the beginning of each month some
introductory material and a bibliography are sent out over the
net, but the best beginning is to find a copy of Behavior: the
Control of Perception, by William T. Powers (Aldine, 1973).

I am not familiar with Lecky's work, but it sounds as though it
is based on Dawkin's Selfish Gene and various concepts in
sociobiology dealing with the genetic basis for altruism. I
suggest that if you read Powers' book and other material later
that you try, when reading it, to put entirely out of your mind
the aim of supporting and proving your point of view. PCT
supports no other view but its own, and efforts to make it
compatible with other theories only succeed in misrepresenting
and misunderstanding it.

For example, whatever genes do, PCT asserts that they do not
signal the organism to engage in behavior. Behavior is not
controlled; it has to be free to vary in order for perception to
be controlled in a continually varying environment. Behavior is
not a consequence, but a means of producing a perceptual

Whether genes are complex enough in themselves to be control
systems is an important question - it could be that they are
reference signals only, with the rest of the cell providing the
other control system components: sensors, comparators, output
functions. If this is so, to talk of genes as little entities in
themselves is a mistake, since isolated components are not
systems in themselves. It's like holding a transistor in your
hand and saying "what does this do?" The answer is, nothing at
all - unless it is wired in as a component of a complete system.
In this case, into a very particular kind of system called a
control system.

To think of genes as measuring and acting upon a variable such as
self-esteem seems to me to be making a gigantic leap over a lot
of unknown territory. PCT is exploring some of that territory,
since it is concerned with how living systems must be organized
to do what they actually do. It is not part of mainstream
thinking on the subject, if indeed the mainstream is thinking
about it at all. But for your concerns I think that what PCT has
to say will be of interest, and I hope you read about it and
continue on the net, even if you encounter people challenging
your most basic and cherished assumptions.

Where are you and what do you do? is not very

Rick (940213)

I appreciate your statement that "the conflict between
information theory and PCT is a result of a difference over
whether it is important, in principle, to seek 'continuity with
the past' as a way of 'gaining acceptance for and contributing to
the development of PCT'". The higher level from which you've been
arguing in a nice nutshell. Since Martin hasn't known you as long
as I have, he hasn't seen in you the process of resetting that
reference signal for "continuity with the past" from some
positive amount down to zero. How it turned your professional
life upside down to recognize that there is no continuity, that
the past is prologue - to some other play.

Incidentally, Locke mangles PCT but he does not find it
attractive. He is hostile and dismissive, and is doing his best
to make it go away, unlike C&S, Hyland, and (maybe you meant?)

As for Glasser, he switched over a long time ago from PCT to
control a la Ellen Langer (or is he back again?). Langer wrote a
book a few years ago which included the wonderful consequences of
giving old people "a sense of control" over certain aspects of
their lives. What she missed was that they had been sensing,
correctly, that they had been _deprived_ of control and were
pretty unhappy about it. There was to me a strong implication of
smoke and mirrors about "giving a sense of control", like it
wasn't real, and someone else was still very much in charge,
handing out "control" in doses. But on the positive side, she may
be pretty influential in, say, having nursing homes lighten up on
petty regulations and encourage autonomy, even if it makes life
more inconvenient for the staff.

Bill Leach (various dates)

Would you mind signing off as Bill L.? There's a Bill P. and a
Bill C. already.

Mary P.

<[Bill Leach 940214.23:49 EST(EDT)]

[Mary Powers 940214]

Would you mind signing off as Bill L.? There's a Bill P. and a
Bill C. already.


If it really is an inconvenience then no, I will not mind too terribly
changing my "signature". Since I do initiate every message with a header
that identifies that the message is from me and not your husband or Bill
C. (whom I have not yet seen), I don't see the problem myself. The macro
that accomplishes that signature is a single macro that is envoked for
dozens of forum on several services. As such it will require a second
manually initiated operation and is likely to suffer from error due to
"habit." Also, I note that your husband signs as "Bill P." where I use
"-bill" so there should be no real confusion.