More "self" control

[From Rick Marken (950927.0945)]

Bruce Abbott (950926.1230 EST) --

What about self-control by preventing the lower-level system from becoming
active in the first place?

There is one interesting way to prevent a control system from becoming
active that has not been mentioned yet. It exists for control systems that
have a non- linear comparator function (the function that converts r-p into
error) such as:

                >range of|
                >control |
                > >
                     . *
                     . * *
                     .* *
error 0 ***** * *****
              * *.
               * * .
                * * .
                 * .
       - 0 +

In this case, you can prevent the control system from being active (acting to
bring r-p to 0) by getting p into a range where r-p produces no change from 0
error (the flat part of the error curve). I have simulated this and it works
like a charm. When the perception moves into the control range it is
controlled; whenm the perception is pushed out of the control range, it just
sits there and the control system does nothing about it.

What this means in practical terms is that for control systems with
comparator functions like the above, you (actually, another control system in
you) can "shut off" the "offending" control system by limiting it to
perceptions that are outside its "range of control" (where error changes as a
function of r-p). This is the kind of "self-control" that occurs when we try
to stay away from a perception that we don't want to control. For example, if
we like to control for eating sweets but we also like to control for not
eating sweets, we can solve the conflict by staying away from sweets.

Can it be said that this involves conflict?

I think there is still a conflict of sorts: one system has to actively keep
the other system out of situations where the offending perception might
occur. As long as one system keeps the other from having the offending
perception there is really no conflict because the other system (the one
controlling for the offending perception) is not controlling. But there is
always the possibility that the world will provide disturbances that move the
offending perception into the control range -- and suddenly the conflict is
active again. This is what I think happens in the situation you describe
later in your post:

as I pass the desserts in the cafeteria, I suddenly find myself craving for
just a taste of that apple pie. Why?

I would say that this occurs because the perception of sweets was outside of
the range of control before you saw the apple pie. The apple pie is a
disturbance that brings the perception of sweets into the control range --
there is suddenly an error (you have entered the control range) and your
sweet control system starts to control for the perception of sweets: the
conflict between the system that wants to eat sweets and the one that
doesn't, is suddenly active again.

I like the idea that control systems have a range of control; it explains the
experience that I think we have all had of suddenly wanting to control when
the opportunity presents itself. I think AA type approaches to dealing with
undesired control processes are based on the recognition that one way to
keep from controlling a perception that another control sytem doesn't want
to have controlled is to avoid the perception completely. Of course, this
approach only works as long as you are able to keep r-p out of the control
range; disturbances to p (like the apple pie) can bring r-p into the control
range. Also, a change in r can bring r-p into the control range (if, for
example, r changes in order to keep a higher level perception under control).
The change in r is probably the big problem for alcoholics, who can stay out
of liquor stores but might find their reference for the perception of liquor
changing (to "maybe just one shot"?) as disturbances to higher level
perceptions arise; disturbances that have always been dealt with by having a
drink -- or 20.