MT - Investigate the level above Sequences

Posted by Bruce Nevin:

It is bad science to say “I want to prove conclusion X” and then search for evidence that supports conclusion X. It’s bad science because it’s specious logic. The truth value of a conclusion follows from the truth values of its premises, not the other way around.

Reductio ad absurdum is an argument form in logic which works this property of logic in reverse. If I show that your assertion Y leads to an absurd conclusion Z (a conclusion that we all agree is false, impossible, or self-contradictory), I have demonstrated that assertion Y is false.

But as control systems, we control perceptions of desired outcomes, and when an antecedent perception is a disturbance to a desired outcome it is perfectly ordinary to attempt to control the antecedent perception so as to regain control of the outcome. Our normal modus operandi is remarkably like saying “I need to prove X” and fiddling with the data until it supports the conclusion, X. Scientific method and logic are explicit disciplines which constrain control of perceptions. Scientific method and logic are collectively controlled disciplines, enabled by language and dependent upon it. Not all cultures develop scientific method or logic as such. Our ordinary, native way of thinking is neither scientific nor strictly logical.

Now in this discussion bear in mind that the simplest forms of logical inference (All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; therefore Socrates is mortal) which some researchers now suggest they are observing in primates are just a matter of the Russian-doll character of categories. What category perceptions are, and how we learn and control them, is not at all a settled matter, but that is a different topic.

Bill called the level above Sequence perceptions the Program level, with an explicit analogy to computer programs. By considerations like those above, I have concluded that this is incorrect. Computer programs are essentially exercises in mathematical logic (‘symbolic logic’). This level of the hierarchy, which children develop at about 12 to 13 months, does not implement and perform abstract functions of logic that preserve truth-value over abstract variables which are then somehow mapped to the particular perceptions currently recognized or controlled at lower levels.

Heck, 12-13 months is precisely the age when kids first start using words in very simple ways, without “if-then-else” and other functions of logic. As to concerns with preserving truth value, kids apparently don’t tell lies until they are at least 3, and a perception of another person’s perception (e.g. where a toy is hidden) is also considerably after development of this level. And before the 8th year they still live very much in imagination.

If the ‘Program’ level actually functioned to carry out logical inferences, Aristotle need never have inveighed against the rhetoricians of Athens, and logicians to this day would be out of work. Everyone, even toddlers, would laugh at the 15 logical fallacies in 3 minutes (some of them more than once) in this video and would wonder how the speaker could be so imaginative in making up funny absurdities. But instead, the video instructively shows us how easily these fallacies slip by us unrecognized, and should alert us–has alerted me that I am sadly deficient in the requisite perceptual input functions. I suppose debating teams and instruction in rhetoric and Public Relations and Marketing and Political ‘Science’ are concerned with how to use such tricks.

What are we doing at the level above Sequence perceptions? A simplistic analogy to computer programming (i.e. symbolic logic) does not answer. We need to apply the same phenomenological method that Bill employed to propose the lower levels of the hierarchy. We have to observe what we actually do, without imposing language or presupposing any narrative. What I have observed in myself is a process of working backward from the desired result, controlling in imagination sequences that could possibly have that result as an outcome–reverse-engineering the desired outcome, if you will. This is usually an iterative process (“Nope, doesn’t look like that will work”) and a recursive process, where control of some perceptual variable at an intermediate step within a sequence must also be reverse-engineered by imagining a sequence that brings it under control.

The level above Sequence perceptions might properly be called the level of strategy or planning. It is not a place where the brain stores recipes or standard procedures, much less libraries of program routines. It is a place where perceptual signals controlled at the Sequence and perhaps other levels are connected, perceptual output to perceptual input functions, in a new sequence that finally results in control of a desired outcome perception. This new sequence–the strategy or plan–is the result of what Bill quite vaguely suggested might be ‘problem-solving routines’, a kind of purposeful, directed reorganization of narrow scope. When you take the trouble to investigate, you find that familiar sequences intersect and may even have sub-sequences in common. What could be formalized as a logical if/then branch point is the availability of alternatives presented by such intersections, and the if/then test is simply a matter of which can best control the needed perceptual input.

I invite you to engage in this subjective, phenomenological investigation of the level of the hierarchy above the Sequence level. Naturally, that involves an intensive consideration of Sequence perceptions as well. I find that little projects building or repairing things make good laboratories for this kind of PCT research.

Posted by RsMarken:

I’m just testing replying. When I press reply it doesn’t copy the text of what I’m replying to. And I tried posting a copy of Bruce’s post and that seemed to work be it looked like that would be treated as a reply in itself. So I’ll just include in this post my reply to the parts of Bruce’s post that I want to reply to:

First, I agree that science is not aimed at proving; it’s aimed at testing, which is what my sequence/program control program (Control of Program Perception) does.

Second, thanks for the invitation to engage in a “subjective, phenomenological investigation of the level of the hierarchy above the Sequence level” but I prefer to investigate such things using empirical methods.



Posted by Bruce Nevin:

Yes, that worked. I got a copy of your reply in my email and I see it here in the Discourse interface.

Science is not just about testing. Phenomena first. You have to have something to test. We don’t test phenomena (other than verification and replication). We test ideas, hypotheses, theories about phenomena.

Your “thanks for the invitation, but I prefer” trope seems to be dismissive. Is that what you intended?

Bill’s proposals about the perceptual hierarchy began with subjective, phenomenological investigations before proceeding with measuring inputs and outputs, correlating with literature about anatomy and function, and designing and testing models and simulations, which is what I believe you mean by empirical methods. As we agree, and as he frequently emphasized, his hypotheses about the hierarchy are tentative, not final. The first phase, observation of phenomena, is still essential, and is no less empirical than tests of ideas, hypotheses, models, simulations, and theories of phenomena. A preference for the latter is fine, but a suggestion that one is worthy of being taken seriously and the other is not would be a false dichotomy.

—empirically, adv. —empiricalness, n.
/em pir"i keuhl/, adj.

  1. derived from or guided by experience or experiment.
  2. depending upon experience or observation alone, without using scientific method or theory, esp. as in medicine.
  3. provable or verifiable by experience or experiment.

There is a cognitive trap when we theorize about a proposed Program level of perception. The trap is a presupposition. Presuppositions often go unnoticed. The word ‘program’ has associations that imply that neural structures in the brain carry out the same logical functions as are seen in the code of computer programs and as are executed by digital computers. This analogy (and it is only an analogy) is a very common presupposition behind virtually any discussion of cognition. Bill affirmed this presupposition explicitly in B:CP and elsewhere. I report that observation contradicts this assumption and shows that it is not needed, at least for the problem-solving, planning, and other processes that I have examined thus far.