PCT: Soft and Hard

[From Bruce Gregory (960430.1215 EDT)]

(Bill Powers 960426.1000 MST)

  Here's the hard thing to grasp. Consciousness (or perhaps we should say
  awareness, since consciousness always has content that we can identify
  with various operations in the hierarchy) -- awareness is apparently
  able to monitor processes in the hierarchy, and (in the form of
  volition) institute arbitrary changes in the hierarchy.

(Rick Marken 960429.2010)

  Yes, I agree! It also suggests a possible relationship between
  consciousness and control that I had never thought of before. Bill's
  comment suggests that consciousness is always pointed "downward"
  in the control hierarchy and that it "looks" at control from just
  above the level of the comparator in the control loop. From there,
  consciousness can "look down" and become aware of the perception
  under control by the control system and it can volitionally change
  the reference for that perception.

(Peter Cariani 960426)

  I don't believe that a (homunculus-like) receiver receives signals
  and that this is why we experience things. It's more like the receiver
  itself is the regenerating pattern of signals, and some sets of signals
  are reproducing themselves at any given moment.

Let me begin by apologizing for misreading anyone (or everyone). It
seems to me, however, that these remarks can be seen as
characterizing two "schools" of thought, which I will call "Soft PCT"
and "Hard PCT". Bill and Rick are of the "Soft" school. PCT describes
are hierarchical control system, but an autonomous "force"
(consciousness) can intervene and redirect elements of the system.
Peter belongs to the "Hard" school which maintains that it is "PCT
all the way down" (more accurately "PCT all the way up"). In the Hard
school, there is no need to invoke a consciousness or awareness out
side the hierarchical system -- consciousness and awareness are part
and parcel of the hierarchical system. Members of the Hard school
maintain that members of the Soft school are simply ignoring the
problems of accommodating consciousness and awareness within a system
of HPCT. Members of the Hard school think the members of the Soft
school are aptly named....

Bruce G.

[From Peter Cariani (960430.2015 EDT)]

I like Bruce Gregory's distinction between Hard PCT and Soft PCT;
it's very clarifying and useful,
although it's difficult for me to label others as "soft" when
I myself am willing to entertain the notion that thermostats
might have some sort of very, very primitive awareness.

There is also probably a difference in the way in which the
different perspectives might envision the processes that
might underlie or subserve or be concommitant with consciousness.
I think of these processes as distributed and heterarchically
organized, but which result in a coherent, unified dynamic that
we experience as our stream of conscious awareness. This allows
for a multiplicity of processes (e.g. memory, attention, control)
to go on concurrently, and it permits us to be both
experiencers and observers of our experiences at the same time.
I think this need not be so counterintuitive,
but at the same time I can't think of any handy,
everyday technological artifact that
can illustrate the idea.
I'll let you all know if I think of one.

In the case of volition, I think that there are build-up processes
that begin to switch the global dynamics of the network and we
experience the concommitant awareness of a change in goal. The
two are different aspects of the same, dynamic process.

Peter Cariani