More on my ideology; models -> asymmetries of interaction

From Greg Williams (920915)

Bill Powers (920914.0900)

First, let's "go up a level." In our current debate, and in all previous
(sustained) ones between us on the net, I have been motivated by two
fundamental problems.

One: I have observed that various PCTers put forth highly technical usages of
terms such as "control" and "autonomy" in contexts where the fact that they
ARE being used technically, in "PCT-senses," is not made clear explicitly. By
doing this, PCT-novices and laypersons are misled into thinking that PCT
supports notions which it doesn't support. For example, our debate about what
PCT says about "free will" was specifically motivated by casual conversations
with PCTers who appeared to (in my view, mistakenly) presume that PCT provides
a basis for something closely akin to the traditional Western religious notion
of "free will." Only by making explicit the specific implications of PCT can
such misunderstandings be resolved/prevented.

Two: I have observed a tendency among PCTers to treat PCT/HPCT as a monolith,
as if all its aspects were equally well-supported. It seems undeniable to me
that the basic tenets of PCT are virtually unassailable (there is no other
even plausible candidate "overall" mechanism for accomplishing ends
consistently in a disturbance-filled world). But I find no such rock-solidity
in HPCT (particularly at higher levels) and reorganization theory. These are
plausible, but so, I think, are other theories (WHICH REMAIN CONSISTENT WITH
THE BASICS OF PCT; examples: changing gains rather than reference levels and
"directed" (non-random) reorganization attempts). Only by understanding that
some of Bill's ideas are more impregnable than others can PCTers assess the
degree to which various notions "which follow from" particular aspects of
PCT/HPCT are worthy of being espoused as "gospel."

I believe that these two problems stand in the way of more widespread adoption
of PCT ideas (which I take to be desirable). That's why I've been trying to
bring these problems to the fore.

Back to the debate at hand.

Even under the S-R postulates, the experimenter is depending on many
autonomous functions inside the organism, starting with sensing and
recognizing the reinforcer.

Certainly. Skinner's problem is not having a model of organismic mechanics.
PCT doesn't have that problem. Nevertheless, the experimenter DOES HAVE AN
influence). The organism doesn't "work" (thanks, Dennis) autistically!

In a hierarchy of control that accretes through reorganization, this
situation is compounded in complexity. The external agent can produce
expected behaviors from this hierarchy, but only if they don't violate
the conditions that the reorganizing system must, by its nature,

Given a PARTICULAR (current) hierarchy, yes. No question about it. That's the
constraint on successful purposeful influence: no conflict generation (with
the possible exception of using the influencee's reorganization to get what
the influencer wants).

On the surface, the external agent is dealing only with a single
control system, the one whose actions the agent is trying to control.
But as soon as this control has any effect that significantly disturbs
the control hierarchy at the same or a higher level, either direct
resistance will develop or the reference signals in the original
system will begin to shift.

Yes -- that's why the external agent (has to be living, and rather skilled; in
fact, needs to have a reasonably good model of the control system!) tries to
NOT significantly "disturb" the hierarchy. I claim (empirically) that all of
this is indeed possible, and that successful purposeful influence without
appreciable conflict generation is ubiquitous.

So in order to retain control in general, the external agent has to give up
control of that action and pick a higher-level aspect of behavior to control.

No, the external agent just has to be skilled enough to not NEED to pick a
higher-level aspect.

It's inevitable that the general desire to control another must lead
to applying disturbances at higher and higher levels, which of course
becomes more and more difficult. And in the background, at any level
of interaction, the reorganizing system sits watching for any
consequences of these interactions, known to the hierarchy or not,
that have adverse effects on the fundamental variables that signify
the viability of the organism.

No, not inevitable. If the external agent's model is good enough so that
negligible conflict is generated, there is no going to higher and higher
levels. Anyway, the purposeful influencer might be "disturbing" at a low level
in such a way that the intrinsic reference signals are being BETTER satisfied
than otherwise (i.e., the example of feeding tasty AND healthy food to kids).

The main point is that if there is a reorganizing system of the kind I
propose, then it is autonomous with respect to the events of a single

Well, maybe that is just a tautological statement. BTW, I see empirical
evidence against it. An individual can ACQUIRE in a single lifetime a
"reference signal for honor among peers" which can OVERRIDE the intrinsic
reference signals related to survival. Even granting you that the KINDS of
intrinsic reference signals an organism has don't change within a lifetime
(although their levels might), the functional result is that ACQUIRED (within
a lifetime) reference signals can, in effect, alter their functioning.

It is this reorganizing system that sets the limits on what an
external agent can get the organism to do or not do.

It does set some limits. It does not set everything about what an organism
does. Ditto for environmental influences.

The entire hierarchy is constructed around the unchangeable requirement that
intrinsic error shall be held near zero.

No, I think intrinsic error can be OVERRIDEN in some cases by error associated
with reference signals "acquired" in a single lifetime.

Apparently, also, awareness can direct the locus of reorganization --
that is, reorganization is concentrated on the systems with which
awareness is most closely identified at a given time, at least in the
neural-behavioral hierarchy.

This begs the questions of whether "directing the locus" is "free" of
environmental influences and whether it is "random."

This is my theory of "free will," which defines both "free" and
(conscious) "will."
The point in bringing this up is that nobody can have any freer a will
than this -- the ability to change point of view, and to direct
reorganization to a place in one's own system, with the same apparent
randomness that we attribute to reorganization itself.

Did you really just answer the begged questions? Why should it be random? What
evidence do you have that it is? My awareness seems to go to "problem" areas,
which are (I claim) anything BUT randomly distributed. It also seems that I
can "direct" my attention to various "places," but I never seem to except for
HISTORICAL REASONS (which seem environmentally related).

If this is true, then what we call manipulation of one person by
another is simply the interaction of two systems, each attempting to
reorganize itself to suit its own internal definition of what is good
or bad for it.

REGARDLESS of the potential problems I see with your argument above, I see
this statement as being correct.

We do NOT have the situation where one all-knowing omnipotent system of
unlimited intellect is manipulating a dimly conscious and defenseless system
of some inferior kind -- that is the situation only in the relation between a
human being and an emphatically lower order of life. It is not the situation
that holds between normal adult human beings.

I see this statement as correct, also.

The manipulator's "will to manipulate" is not different in kind or effect
from the manipulee's "will to defend."

Here, we begin to differ. There MIGHT not be a difference -- in the case of
symmetric purposive influence. But purposeful influence CAN be asymmetric. The
asymmetry lies in the use (or more appropriateness) of a model of the other's
controlling by one of the parties but not the other. The successful influencer
employs a sufficiently sophisticated model of the influencee's controlling.
The influencee might not employ a model of the influencer's controlling AT ALL
(he/she might not care) or might not be using a sophisticated model of the
influencer's controlling -- in this case, the interaction would be asymmetric.
So use of models of others' controlling is the important (PCT-derived!)
underlying mechanism which explains asymmetry of interactions. Pretty heady
stuff! (Note that in everyday interactions, the asymmetries of interactions
generally go BOTH ways -- simultaneously and consecutively -- between dyads,
not exclusively one-way (which we might (dare to?) call "domination").)

The term "manipulation" is unfortunate, because it implies power and
will on the side of the manipulator, and weakness and automaticity on
the part of the manipulated: exploiter and exploited, controller and
controlled, agent and effect.

If you continue to use "manipulation," you'll be on your own. I'm using
"purposive influence." Consider me converted... now, if we can just convert

This implies that the manipulator has some abilities or powers that are
lacking in the manipulee, an awareness that is denied to the manipulee, a
natural advantage over the manipulee. This is simply not the case in the HPCT
concept of behavior.

It is simply not the case in the PCT concept of behavior. (Occam's razor!)

All human beings have the same basic abilities, save for those that are
crippled in some striking way. Whatever conceptions of social life we may have
developed, in truth we all have the same equipment, which is designed to allow
us to control what happens to ourselves -- and especially what happens to our
ability to continue living.

Some are more skillful at developing and using models of others' controlling,
and that makes a great deal of difference in the symmetry (lack thereof) of
social interactions.

Manipulation is just a one-sided way of looking at interaction.

Purposive influence is the PCT way of explaining asymmetric interaction.