More Purposive Influencing; misc

[From Bill Powers (920921.0800)]

Greg Williams (920920) --

We agree up to a point, perhaps farther along than before.

While NOT altering your control for taste, and while NOT altering your
control for eating, Pat can vary the food you eat in the remaining
dimensions that aren't under control by you: that is, her definition
of "healthiness" of the food. Assuming that these uncontrolled
dimensions are really don't-care dimensions for you, Pat can control
what goes into you as long as it doesn't disturb the perceptual
variables you are controlling for.

OK so far?

I call this sort of control, where one's desired outcome depends on
outputs of others, "purposive influence," because it is being done
purposefully (it is control of one's perception) and because, to
succeed, it requires influencing the way others control.

I can see why you call it purposeful, and why it is truly control, but
why do you say it requires influencing "the way others control?" It
can't be done if it DOES influence the variables others are
controlling for (eating and taste). How does supplying a particular
kind of food influence how you eat it (other than the mechanics)? It
seems to me you would eat food that Pat considers unhealthy in exactly
the same way you'd eat food she considers healthy. What has she
influenced other than the composition of what you put in your mouth
(without altering its tastiness)? What would you do differently if she
substituted squash for potatoes?

You say

the empirical evidence suggests that (1) often there are SEVERAL
possible actions which can enable control by the influencee of the
influencee's desired perceptions,

But when Pat chooses food to feed you that does not disturb your
perception of eating or your perception of tastiness, how can you say
that this "enables" control by the influencee of the influencee's
desired perceptions? Do you mean that if Pat weren't putting SOME kind
of food down, you'd be unable to eat tasty food? What's to prevent you
from making your own tasty food if she doesn't make it? Why isn't her
presenting tasty food just an aiding disturbance that allows you to
relax your own efforts to get tasty food? Your relaxation is, of
course, an opposing action. We always resist disturbances of things
we're controlling for, even if they help our efforts. We can't help
it; that's how control works.

(2) often there is at least ONE possible action which ALSO is
compatible with the influencer's desired perception, and often the
"compatible" action/s is/are "don't-care" for or actually embraced
(because of perceived "convenience," lack of perceived "drawbacks,"
or other reasons) by the influencee, and so there is no conflict
generated in the influencee's control system.

This begins, albeit in a most convoluted way, to get into more of the
influencee's hierarchy. It's convenient to have Pat prepare the food,
so you agree to eat what she provides, if it tastes good to you. That
agreement is under your control as well as hers. An agreement, like a
conversation, is a member of a class of social variables that can't be
controlled by one person. You can freely make any agreement with
another that you like, as long as the other is willing to make the
complementary part of the agreement. In BCP I referred to a similar
relationship, "bargaining," a trade in which each party offers to
provide something the other wants in return for getting what he/she
wants. Bargaining can involve use of the other's physical actions:
I'll help you carry the bed upstairs if you'll lend me your truck
tomorrow. Often this kind of bargaining is so deeply a part of a
culture that all parties concerned understand that a bargain has been
made simply by the act of helping another. If Mrs. Pacourek comes
visiting Mrs. Hynek and brings a couple of jars of preserved mushrooms
as a gift, Mrs. Hynek will not be able to rest until she can take
something to Mrs. Pacourek and erase the debt. In other circles,
dinner parties fulfil the same function.


The distinction between environmentalism and organismism has to take
into account the fact that for a given organism it makes a lot of
difference whether the environment in question is living or nonliving,
and if it is living, whether its organization extends to the same
levels of control as in the given organism.

It's clear that the environment that is fully described by the laws of
physics and chemistry has no natural control systems in it, and thus
ranks zero on the scale of control capabilities. This environment
poses no particular problems for any organism; organisms have never
exhausted the possibilities of the physico-chemical environment. So if
we divide the world into organisms and non-organisms, there is no
contest. The world of organisms, or life in the aggregate, determines
what will happen on the local scale, for only living systems have
purposes and the capacity for realizing them. The non-organismic
environment is passive; it doesn't aid or resist being pushed into
various forms. It can affect organisms, even kill them, but when
organisms find ways of controlling the effects, the environment does
not retire to think up a new strategy. It is, in principle, utterly
predictable and therefore completely controllable. It is the exact
opposite of autonomous.

The question of autonomy is, I think, best understood in terms of
organisms versus nonorganisms. The purposes carried within organisms
and the machinery for carrying them out render organisms autonomous in
all the practical physical regards that matter to their survival.

When organisms that are autonomous in that sense encounter each other,
however, autonomy leads to conflict, and becomes a much more relative
concept. To retain autonomy of some sort, organisms interacting with
each other must give up major areas of autonomy that would not be any
problem if the opponent were not alive. Organisms that are equal in
control capabilities have to develop social systems to avoid
destroying each other. I claim that these social systems are developed
by striking bargains: I won't murder you if you won't murder me. One-
sided bargains -- you can't murder me, but I can murder anyone I
please -- can't work, because bargains require agreement, and in
making agreements each person is trying to maintain control of what
matters to that person. The underlying physical autonomy remains. Only
force, which strikes through all the organizational defenses against
disturbance and reaches to the core life-support system on which all
the others depend, can maintain an unfair agreement.
I think that coequal organisms constantly use the Test for the
Controlled Variable on each other. But they don't do this in order to
discover ways of controlling the other organism. They do it to avoid
trying to control something the other organism is already controlling.
The Test is easier to apply as a way of finding out what the other
ISN'T controlling than as a way of finding out what it IS controlling.
All that most organisms want or need to know is whether controlling
some aspect of the world that matters to them is going to meet with
inconveniently energetic resistance that will make control difficult.
If not, they'll go ahead and control it. They don't have to stop and
find out what IS being controlled first.

Trying to discover what another person IS controlling, using the Test,
is a much more elaborate and difficult process. Your first attempt at
applying a systematic disturbance is much more likely to reveal a
variable that isn't controlled than one that is. If you're concerned
only with controlling for your own perceptions, that's all you need to
know. Searching for the other's controlled variables is important only
when you have some positive reason to want to manipulate the other's
actions, the way the other moves, to suit yourself. Or when you simply
want to understand how the other system works.

Pat can feed you any food she likes as long as you don't resist it. If
you don't resist it, she doesn't need to search for food that you
would resist eating. If there is such a food, it will turn up in the
natural course of things anyway. The Test will naturally occur; why
spend a lot of time finding out all the things you won't eat, when she
would probably never think of feeding most of them to you in the first
place -- such as stewed puppy or chocolate-covered ants? What revolts
her would probably revolt you, too.

Just ask yourself, what if Pat did an extensive survey of foods and
discovered all the things you resist eating. What would she then know
about the controlled variable that's being disturbed when you resist
all these different foods? She wouldn't know much; you probably don't
know what it is, either. Certainly, SOMETHING about these various
foods is disturbing one or more important controlled variables. But
it's possible that each one disturbs a different controlled variable.
You won't eat a cup of stewed puppy for one reason; you won't eat a
cup of pure salt for a different reason. Trying to generalize from all
the foods you won't eat to the "common factor" that reveals the
controlled variable is probably futile. You control for dozens of
variables having to do with food, some of which may be at so low a
level that you're unaware of them. It took my son 15 years to realize
that he became a vegetarian not for any of the high-flown reasons that
others give or because he didn't like eating meat, but because eating
meat always upset his stomach.

The Test for the Controlled Variable is useful in a scientific
setting, when you have reason to want to know what is in fact being
controlled, at least at the time you use the test. But even then, all
it does is identify the variables that an external agency can't
simultaneously control without creating conflict. In most human
interactions, the Test doesn't need to be carried much past the first
step, finding out whether there's resistance. If I want you to pass me
the salt because I want the salt, I'll just ask for it. If I get it,
that's the end of the matter -- you weren't, at that moment,
controlling for the position of the salt-shaker for your own purposes.
If you were, you'll just say "Half a sec," shake it on your own plate,
and then pass it to me. You cope with the disturbance and so do I. You
get what you want; I get what I want. It's just one of those little
understood bargains.

The only time I'd be concerned about controlling your behavior would
be if I were trying to teach you a lesson in manners. Then I wouldn't
want you to use the salt yourself before passing it, because that's
supposed to be selfish and impolite. HOW you passed the salt to me
would then be the main point, and my getting the salt secondary. And I
certainly wouldn't have to find out all the things you would resist
doing with the salt shaker in order to see if you would pass it to me
before using it yourself. I'll bet you wouldn't shake the salt in your
eye, but so what?

ADVERTORIAL: Maybe if PCTers are serious about having a common
programming language (i.e., block diagrams), they are willing to >pay

a little something for the translator program, as well as for >TUTsim

How about it, folks? Sounds good to me.
Gary Cziko (920921)--

I haven't heard back from Richmond, whom I keep wanting to call
Hammond. Next week I suppose he'll be Wurlitzer.

Maybe Wurlitzer doesn't read his email very often.

Bill P.