BN: The general path for emergence of higher levels (both species evolution and individual development ) is probably by repurposing neural structures of the same kind as are used for simpler means at lower levels. Frans has proposed that the obvious development of human cognitive capacities beyond emergence of the Systems level at about week 75 has its explanation in the proportionally larger size of the human cerebellum relative to cerebral cortex as compared to our evolutionary cousins. He proposes that cerebellar structures of the sort that control configurations are repurposed to control more ‘abstract’ perceptions such as concepts.
RM: I don’t believe Frans ever proposed this. The evidence for hierarchical control, much of it collected by Frans, suggests that there is no repurposing of lower level control systems to produce higher level ones. I see the evidence as supporting the idea that the higher level control systems that emerge during development use the existing lower level control systems to achieve their higher level goals. The existing neural structures involved in the control of configurations, for example, still control configurations when a higher level of control emerges (the configuration control systems are not “repurposed”); these now lower level control systems are used by the new, higher level control systems as the means of controlling the more abstract variables (relationships, sequences, programs, etc) that these higher level system control.
BN: You talk of strategies of war as programs. Clausewitz, Sunzi, Macchiavelli (yes, he also wrote about war) and others are prescriptive as well as descriptive. We use language and logic (which is a specialized use of language and dependent upon it) to review what actually has happened and tidy it up…
RM: I think you are questioning whether war actually involves control of what Powers calls program perceptions. And I agree that it may not. I was just using Bill’s names for possible perceptual types to make a point. But I am not married to the current names of the perceptual types. I think they are probably basically correct but Bill’s proposed research program would be aimed at determining whether there are perceptual types and, if so, what those types are and what might be the most appropriate labels for them.
RM: I think there is evidence for the existence of several of the types of perceptions Powers named. I describe some of this evidence in my “Hierarchical behavior of perception” chapter in More Mind Readings. The evidence is based on studies measuring the fastest rate at which a variable can be perceived and/or controlled. One example is that the fastest rate at which a sequence of tones can be perceived/controlled is the same as that for a sequence of visual shapes or a sequence of finger taps. This suggests that one type of perception that people control is a sequence, regardless of what the components of the sequence are, or their modality.
RM: Another way I thought might work as a way to see if controlled variables fall into categories or types may be similar to the method used to classify predation strategies in the paper that you cited:
- Stephen D. J. Lang, Damien R. Farine (2017). A multidimensional framework for studying social predation strategies. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 22 August 2017.
RM: This looks like it might be a really interesting paper. It sounds like they are classifying predation strategies in terms of where each strategy sits on several different dimensions. I thought one way to classify controlled variables might be to use a form of multidimensional analysis called non-metric multidimensional scaling, which is based on expert ratings of the similarity of controlled variables to each other. If there are discrete types of controlled variables then these should show up as clusters of controlled variables in different parts of the multidimensional space into which the similarity ratings are fit.
BN: Here’s a public-facing overview (August 22, 2017):On the hunt: describing group predation across the animal kingdom. Researchers outline a new way to define and classify how groups of animals hunt together.(https://www.mpg.de/11446372/group-predation-across-the-animal-kingdom)
RM: One particular statement in that summary of the article caught my attention:
But, after separately scoring the different sub-populations, the result was unexpected: different populations of killer whales use different combinations of strategies. These differences largely depend on the type of prey that they hunt. Fish-eating killer whales extensively use communication when hunting, whilst those that eat seals and other marine mammals hunt silently, instead relying on specialised roles to force their prey into ambushes.
RM: The most interesting part is what I bolded. Since the prey is a disturbance to one of the main variables the whales control – something like “getting food into the mouth” – the actions they take to get this variable under control would be expected to differ depending on the type of prey; different type of prey disturb this variable in different ways which would require different actions to keep this variable under control. This is consistent with the fact that control systems control by producing output that compensates for disturbances to the controlled variable.
RM: So all killer whales probably control the same variable – amount eaten – using a cooperative predation strategy; they just have to use different ways of cooperating – different predation strategies – to compensate for the different types of disturbance produced by the different prey in order to control for eating it. My guess is that if a group of killer whales who prey on fish were moved to a region where the prey was seals and a group of killer whales who prey on seals were moved to the region where the prey was fish, both groups would quickly learn to predate the way the other group had been doing it.
RM: The Lang and Farine framework for classifying predation strategies suffers, I believe, from the fact that it is a classification of this behavior in terms of emitted output rather than controlled input. But I think there would be much to learn from it based on their observations of the whales and the attempts to classify their behavior. So thanks for the reference, Bruce.