[From Rick Marken (921223.1300)]
OK, nobody's in the office; I should be home cuddled up by the
Christmas tree (yes, I prefer celebrating the apocryphal birth of
the prince of peace to the non - apocryphal victory of the Macabees
over the Assyrians [or whomever]). So, since I have time, I want to
try to start a discussion of something that has been on my mind for
a week or so but has taken a back seat to my discussion with Martin,
in regard to which (I think) Bill Powers (921223.0915) said:
It's interesting how a defense turns into an attack, and how
letting down the defenses also reduces the attacks. Sometimes the
best defense is no defense at all.
Will I ever learn???
Thanks for the above, Bill; an appropriate observation for the season.
What I wanted to talk about was the problem of being perceived as a,
well, fanatic, when one gets into PCT. Of those posting regularly on
the net, I think that I might be perceived as the one most deserving of
the ?PCT fanatic? title (maybe it?s my strident, obnoxious manner --
but there are others whom, I feel, are equally deserving of this title;
Bill Powers himself, for instance; Tom Bourbon certainly). But I seem
to be perceived as particularly fanatic -- or am I particularly paranoid?
Some weeks ago Oded referred to me as the ?True believer?, I think
others have alluded to my apparent unwillingness to see the merit in
non-PCT approaches to understanding human nature (info theory,
dynamic attractors, fuzzy logic, artificial life, etc etc). So what I want
to do is try to explain my fanaticism by arguing that there is really no
way to be anything other than a fanatic once you accept the basic principle
of PCT -- that behavior is controlled perception.
I think the idea that one is a fanatic about PCT comes from what I alluded
to above -- the apparent failure of the fanatic to see any merit in non-PCT
approaches to understanding human nature. These non-PCT type approaches
are themselves often treated with something close to reverence by non-PCTers.
So even people who are attracted to PCT (for whatever reason) assume
that there must be SOMETHING of value in some old approach. How could
geniuses like Freud (psychodynamic theory), G.A. Miller (information
theory),Skinner (reinforcement theory), Green and Swets (signal detection
theory), Estes (stimulus sampling theory), Rummelhart (parallel distributed
processing theory), Chomsky (transformational grammar theory), Guilford
(trait theory), Tolman (sign-stimulus theory) etc etc ALL BE WRONG?
How can you (the PCT fanatic) ignore these theories? Why can?t you
incorporate what is useful and ignore what is not?
The answer is that ALL of these theories were based on a completely
incorrect view of behavior. They are ALL based on the idea that outputs
(neuroses, responses, operants, decisions, behavior, speech, intelligence,
movements) are caused by events in the environment or the brain. PCT
shows that this idea is completely wrong; it?s not just a wrong point of
view or the wrong description; ITS JUST NOT HOW BEHAVIOR
WORKS; it can?t be, because organisms EXIST in a NEGATIVE
FEEDBACK SITUATION with respect to their environment. As
Lee Iacocca says (but it?s really true in this case) THIS CHANGES
For me, one of the most dramatic demonstration of this fact is given
in my ?Cause of control movements...? experiment (included in Mind
Readings). This experiment shows beyond doubt that THE STIMULUS
in a tracking task IS NOT THE CAUSE OF OUTPUTS that control the
stimulus; there is no cause-effect (where it seems that there must
be) because the cause and effect are IN A LOOP. It?s the loop
that changes everything that has always been taken for granted in
all previous approaches to understanding human nature.
Once you do an experiment like this and experience the fact that
what the math says is really true then all the old approaches
become irrelevant. There is no longer any way to take seriously
theories that propose ?stimulus guidance? or ?feedback guidance?
because stimuli don?t cause or guide anything in a loop -- they just
don?t. Nor is it possible to take seriously theories that propose
internal mechanisms for generating behavior -- because behavior
is not generated -- it is part of a loop in which the behavior that
is generated is also the cause of what generated the behavior. The
old explanations of behavior were based on a concept of behavior
that was flat out -- completely -- wrong. The chances that such
explanations might have something useful to say about behavior
as it actually exists -- as controlled perception -- are, from the point
of view of this fanatic, quite slim.
Even fanatic PCTers are willing to look at observations that might
suggest places to look to better understand the nature of control.
But once you know what it means to live in a negative feedback
loop, you know that all explanations of behavior that have not
correctly taken this loop into account (ie. ALL non- PCT
explanations of behavior) can be safely ignored.
I guess my bottom line argument is that it?s tough to understand
PCT and NOT be seen as a fanatic. Nevertheless, I am more
than willing -- anxious even -- to be convinced that there is some
value in non-PCT approaches to understanding behavior. I guess
Martin is preparing a thesis on the value of information theory
for understanding control . I?m waiting with great interest to see
what have missed by ignoring iformation theory. I have read
several rather unconvincing attempts to show that some versions
of behaviorism are equivalent to control models of behavior. If
anyone else out there has a non-PCT theory that they think provides
a real great explanation of some aspect of behavior then I?d sure
like to hear about it. I may be a fanatic but I am willing to listen. But,
being a fanatic, I can?t promise that I will be convinced. But listening
is good too, no?