Powers of Perceptual Control (PPC)

As many of you know, for the last several years I have been engaged in writing a book that describes how PCT might profitably be used to develop a better understanding of many areas involving the interactions among mainly but not only humans. I plan to submit it for publication by Open Book Publishers, so that it would be freely available to everyone. The full working title, which contains a deliberate pun on Bill’s name, is “Powers of Perceptual Control: an inquiry into Language, Culture, Power, and Politics”. In the current unfinished draft, it is in three Volumes, with 47 Chapters.

The Preface, Overview, and Chapter 1 is at Dropbox - PPC_!ntro+Chapter_1_21.10.04.pdf - Simplify your life


Here is the Table of Contents for the current draft of PPC.

(Note: Sections entirely or almost entirely unwritten as of 2021/10/06 are marked with ***, Sections partially written with **, and Sections marked for major editing with *. From Chapter 41 to the end, chapter and section numbering are liable to change dramatically.)

Powers of Perceptual Control: An enquiry into Language, Culture, Power, and Politics.

Volume 1: Infrastructure
Introduction to Perceptual Control Theory

Table of Contents

Part 1: Overview (Page 24)
Chapter 1. Why Perceptual Control?
1.1 Perceptual Control Theory
1.2 Control Loops
1.3 Neural Bundles and Neural Current
1.4 Measurement and perceptual control
1.5 Evolution, Perception, and Real Reality
1.6 “Deep Learning” “Predictive Coding” and “Enactivism”
1.7 Sun Tzu and “The Art of War”
1.8 Ockham’s Razor and the Powers of a Theory
Chapter 2. The Environment of Control
2.1 “Real Reality” and Consistency
2.2 The Taste of Lemonade
2.3 Command versus Control
2.4 Atenfels, Contingencies, and Blocks
2.5 Viewpoints and the Test for the Controlled Variable (TCV)
Chapter 3. Language and Culture
3.1 Language and Culture as artifacts
3.2 Language drift over time
3.3 Culture

Part 2: Simple Perceptual Control (Page 86)
Chapter 4. Basic Aspects of Control
4.1 Perception, control, and reality
4.2 The Basic Control Loop
4.3 The Behavioural Illusion and Model fitting
4.4 The Output Function
4.5 The Reference Input Function
4.6 The Comparator Function
4.7 Perceiving Magnitude and Perceiving Place
Chapter 5. Further Aspects of Perceptual Control
5.1 Tolerance
5.2 Quality of Control and Introduction to Rattling
5.3 Control Stability
5.4 Perceptual Complexes
5.5 The Control Hierarchy
5.6 When Are We? Past, Present, and Future
5.7 Atenfels and Molenfels
Chapter 6. Practical Control Issues
6.1 Opportunity, Attention, and Cost
6.2 Cost and the perception of “worth”
6.3 “Worth” and the Perception of Self
6.4 Frustration and Reorganization
6.5 The “Bomb in the hierarchy”
6.6 Avoiding, and the perception of “Not”
6.7 Resource Limitation Conflict
Chapter 7. Consciousness and Imagination
7.1 The Conscious Perceptual World
7.2 Alerting
7.3 The Imagination Loop
7.4 Exploring and Searching
7.5 Planning and World Models
7.6 “You can’t tell what someone is doing …”
7.7 Teaching, Imagination, Learning and Invention

Part 3: Interacting Control Loops (Page 168)
Chapter 8. Motifs of Control: Stiffness and Tensegrity
8.1 Control “Stiffness”
8.2 Five domains of tensegrity
8.3 Basic Tensegrity
8.4 Approach-Avoidance and control tensegrity
8.5 Dynamic Tensegrity
8.6 Tensegrity and the Control Analogue
8.7 Conflict-induced Stabilities in Control
8.8 Approach to Control Tensegrity I: One using three.
8.9 Approach to Control Tensegrity II: Two using five
8.10 Control tensegrity: A Minimal 3-D structure
Chapter 9. Lateral Inhibition
9.1 Why Lateral Inhibition?
9.2 Edge Enhancement and Displacement
9.3 Hebbian-anti-Hebbian (HaH) process
9.4 Flip-flops and Polyflops
9.5 The HaH process, e-coli reorganization and Novel Perceptual Functions
9.6 Labels and Association
9.7 Analogue and Categorical Hierarchies in Parallel.
9.8 Similarity and Dissimilarity

Part 4: Uncertainty, Novelty, and Trust (Page 228)
Chapter 10. Uncertainty and Structure
10.1 What is “Information”?
10.2 Basic Concepts
10.3 Uncertainty and Perceptual Information
10.4 Channel Capacity and Perceptual Speed
10.5 Good Form and the Reality of Structure
10.6 Structure, and Objects in perception
10.7 The a priori improbability of Structure
10.8 Fuzzy Nested Macrostates
10.9 The Expanding Universe of Possibility
10.10 Uncertainty Constraints in Language
Chapter 11. Boxes, objects, and Objects
11.1 Reorganization: changing hierarchy parameters
11.2 Reorganization: growing the hierarchy
11.3 Object-Oriented Programming and its Objects
11.4 Black Boxes and White Boxes
11.5 Reorganization: Idealism and Rigidity
11.6 Modularity of Reorganization
11.7 Reorganization and Evolution
11.8 So What is an object that we perceive?
Chapter 12. Novelty, Uncertainty, and Illusion
12.1 Real Reality, Perceived Reality, and the Observer
12.2 Visual Illusions
12.3 Effects of Perceptual Experience: Figural after-effects
12.4 Decisions, Patterns, Habits
12.5 Trust
12.6 Belief and Uncertainty
12.7 Perceiving what’s missing or wrong
12.8 Surprise and belief change
12.9 Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?
12.10 Planning and Performance
Chapter 13. Resilience of a Control Hierarchy
13.1 Control as cooling
13.2 The Use of Energy
13.3 Control as Active Insulation
13.4 PCT and the “Free Energy Principle”
13.5 Uncertainty and information around a control loop
13.6 Two levels of control
13.7 Distribution of effects
13.8 Control Tensegrity III: Hypernodes and Reorganization
13.9 Consciously Perceived Objects as Hypernodes

Part 5: Networks of Creative Stability (Page 348)
Chapter 14. Autocatalysis: Inanimate Creativity
14.1 Catalysis and Autocatalytic Networks
14.2 Population and Autocatalysis
14.3 Anti-catalysis: Inhibitory effects
14.4 Constructive Revolutions: Levels of Autocatalytic Loops
14.5 Autocatalysis to Homeostasis
14.6 Homeostatic Loop Development
Chapter 15. Control: an Example of Homeostasis
15.1 Homeostasis and control
15.2 What is the Environment of Control?
15.3 Variety from Uniformity
15.4 Membranes, Tubes and Cells.
15.5 What’s in it for the Cell?
15.6 A cartoonish “e-coli” and its descendants
15.7 Tightening the homeostatic loop: Eukaryotes
15.8 Putting it all together

Volume 2: (Page 398)
Introduction to Volume 2
Chapter 16. Self Organization and Maintenance
16.1 What is Infrastructure?
16.2 Entropy and energy
16.3 Entropy and Energy Mapping
16.4 Is there a Latent Heat of Homeostasis?
16.5 The Nature of a Tensegrity Structure
16.6 Entropy and Evolution
16.7 The Environment as Infrastructure
Chapter 17 “Rattling”: Process and Measure
17.1 Quantifying Organizational Rattling
17.2 Leaves and Smarticles
17.3 Turbulence, and Group Self-Organization
17.4 Descriptive Spaces: Interior and Exterior Rattling
17.5 Rattling and Individual Reorganization
17.6 Building a Control Hierarchy through Rattling
17.7 Rattling and Modular Tensegrity
17.8 Rattling and the Growing Hierarchy
17.9 The Free-Ranging Child and the Cosseted Child
Chapter 18 Crumpling and Perceptual Control
18.1 Crumpling a Flat Sheet
18.2 Crumpling, Pressure and Energy
18.3 Networks and Their Duals.
18.4 Facets and the analogue hierarchy
18.5 Facets, Facet-objects, and “Searching For”
18.6 Conflict, Action, Choice
Chapter 19. Crumpling and Rattling: Development
19.1 Crumpling in Evolution and Individual Development
19.2 Crumpling, More than a Metaphor? 1: first “words”
19.3 Crumpling, More than a Metaphor? 2. Shockwaves
19.4 Crumpling, More than a Metaphor? 3. Teenagers
19.5 Crumpled Humour: Riddles, Jokes and Buns
19.6 Rattling and Crumpling: Tensegrity and Pressure
Chapter 20. Reorganization and Consciousness
20.1 Reorganization in the Individual Revisited
20.2 The Homeostatic Interface to the Control Hierarchy
20.3 Quality of Control and Reorganization Rate
20.4 Misperception and Reorganization
20.5 Reorganization on Many Scales
20.6 The REV hierarchy
20.7 The Mechanic’s Toolbox
Chapter 21. Consciousness as Mechanic’s Tool
21.1 Consciousness: The Mechanic as “Director”
***q21.2 Conscious Controlling and PCT
21.2 Consciousness and Genetic Algorithms
21.3 Consciousness and Qualia
21.4 Consciousness and Emotion
21.5 Music and Emotion
21.6 Emotion and the “stiff” Personality

Part 6: Dyads and the Creation of Meaning (Page 518)
Chapter 22. Private protocols of Mother and Baby
22.1 Baby’s early interaction: getting someone to feed it
22.2 The Generic Protocol Form
22.3 Cora and Ivan: Early Development of Meaning
22.4 Protocols and Social Perception
22.5 Cora’s Conflict
Chapter 23. A Geometric Interlude
23.1 The Little Man
23.2 Syncons and the synx
Chapter 24. Growing a Language
24.1 The story of Rob and Len
24.2 Baby Len babbling syncons
24.3 A language of syncon sequences
24.4 The story of Len and Sophie
24.5 Len and Sophie have a child
24.6 A Note about Language Divergence
24.7 Autocatalytic Creation and Words for Abstract Concepts
24.8 Higher-level trajectories
24.9 Phonetic Symbolism and the Regularization of Verbs
24.10 Development and Maintenance of Perceptual Functions
Chapter 25. Protocols
25.1 Protocols and belief control
25.2 The Protocol Motif
25.3 The Three Basic Propositions
25.4 Control of belief: the Syntax of a Protocol
25.5 Protocol Function: R-Display and Interrupt
25.6 Protocols are for communication, too
25.7 The meaning of “Meaning”
***q25.8 Protocols and Human-Machine Interfaces
25.8 Protocol Failure I: Error Correction
25.9 Protocol Failure II: Learning to Fix It
Chapter 26. Protocol Implementation Issues
26.1 A Hierarchy of Protocols
26.2 Protocol loop dynamical considerations
26.3 Multiplexing and Diviplexing
26.4 Protocol Identification
26.5 Protocol as the syntax of interaction
26.6 Protocol versus Ritual
26.7 Deceit and camouflage
26.8 Counter-Control

Part 7: Community, People in Larger Groups (Page 606)
Chapter 27. Collective Control
27.1 Collective Control: Basic Concepts
27.2 Stochastic Collective Control: A Gedanken Experiment
27.3 Stochastic Collective Control in Action
27.4 Are Our Own Perceptions Virtual?
27.5 The Giant Virtual Controller and the Platonic Ideal
27.6 Stochastic Collective Control and Reorganization
27.7 A Short Taxonomy of Collective Control
27.8 Tensegrity of Collective Control
Chapter 28. Autocatalysis and Side-effects
28.1 Co-reorganization
28.2 Types of interaction
28.3 Side-effect Loops
28.4 Control, Tensegrity, and Homeostasis
28.5 Different social behaviour of related species
28.6 Loops of Loops
28.7 Conflicted Side-effect Loops
28.8 Many people performing the same role
Chapter 29. The Fractal Community
29.1 Collective Control of Protocol Form
29.2 Tensegrity and Modular organization
29.3 Individuals and roles
29.4 Extending Len and Sophie’s family
29.5 Marcel: a stranger among the Js
29.6 Modular networks revisited

Part 8: Community: Truth and Trust (Page 665)
Chapter 30. Conforming to the Community
30.1 Roles and Belonging
30.2 Protocol failure III: Reorganization to the Collective
30.3 Protocol, ritual, and collective control
30.4 Rights, Customs, Obligations
30.5 Morals and Laws
30.6 Authority and Rules
30.7 Quarantine, Nonconformity, Schism
Chapter 31. Language and Other Intangible Artifacts
31.1 Language: Catalyst for Invention
31.2 Cultural Convergence
31.3 Language: Broadcast versus face-to-face
31.4 Broadcast language as “Official”
31.5 Broadcast language: drifts and definitions
31.6 Cultural Drift
31.7 Language and Culture as Malleable Artifacts
Chapter 32. Social Norms, Illusions, and World Models
32.1 Trust and Truth
32.2 Is Truth an Artifact?
32.3 Artifactual World Models
32.4 The Tail of the Invisible Rabbit
32.5 The Convenient Myth
32.6 The Child’s World Model
32.7 The Stability of Norms
32.8 Cultural Norms and Anchors
32.9 Superstition: The Cultural “Truth” of a World Model

Volume 3: (Page 722)
Chapter 33. Ownership and Trade
33.1 The Meaning of Ownership
33.2 Ownership Empowers Money
33.3 Transfer of Ownership
32.4 Trade and the Evolution of Money
33.5 Basic Concepts
33.6 The Trade Motif
33.7 Tradeable IOUs
33.8 Networks, atenexes and infrastructure
Chapter 34. Energy, Money, Inflation
34.1 Work and Structure, Investment
34.2 Decay and Maintenance
34.3 Banking, Saving and Lending
34.4 Forms of Money
34.8 Money and Uncertainty
34.5 The Need for Inflation
34.6 Organization Management
34.7 Money as Infrastructure
Chapter 35. Ownership and the Commons
35.1 Shared Ownership and the Commons
35.2 Types of Commons
35.3 The Commons: Energy and Structure
35.4 Growth of the creative Commons of Ideas
35.5 Depletion of the Commons of Ideas

Part 9: Organizations, Formal and Informal (Page 781)
Chapter 36. Rattling, Crumpling, and Society
36.1 Aggregations and organizations
36.2 Rattling Averages and Extremes
36.3 Rattling Averages and Localized Density Variation
36.4 Rattling and the Stiffness of Conflict
36.5 Individual Crumpling in Conflict
36.6 Interlude: Other People as Black Boxes
36.7 Crumpling Facets: Roles Reduce Rattling
36.8 Crumpling and Individual Facet Networks
36.9 Hypernode Analysis as a Measure
36.10 Rattling Interactions and the Environment
36.11 General Environmental Rattling
Chapter 37. Social Ecologies and Tipping Points
37.1 Cultural Phase Changes: Social Punctate Evolution
37.2 Rattling, Phase Shifts, and Roles
37.3 Tensegrity and Rattling
37.4 The Physical Environment and the Social Environment
37.5 Ecologies of Persons and Roles
37.6 Collective Controllers and Organizations
37.7 Toward Formal Organizations
Chapter 38. The Evolution of Organizations
38.1 Role Networks and Person Networks
38.2 A Hierarchy of organization
38.3 Informal Organization
38.4 Cultural Reorganization
38.5 Song and Dance: Music and Belonging
38.6 Belonging and Trust
38.7 Scheveningen and Shibboleths
Chapter 39. “Us”, “Them” and the “Middle Ground”
39.1 “Us”, “Them”, and Bullying
***39.2 Colonists: Collective Bullies
39.3 “Us and Them”: Rural and Urban
39.4 “Us and Them”: Income Disparity
39.5 It’s THEIR Fault: Unfamiliarity, Fear, and Hate
39.6 Aliens: The Story of Robin in Silverwater
39.7 Refugees
39.8 Immigrants and Hybrid Vigour
Chapter 40. Non-Human Aliens
40.1 What is Autonomy?
40.2 Autonomy and the Single Robot
40.3 “Bots”, “botnets”, and Robots
40.4 Robots — Conscious and Emotional?
40.5 Aliens among us: Robots and Society
Chapter 41. Morality, Ethics, and Fairness
41.1 “Right” versus “Wrong”: Morals and Laws
**41.2 Moralities and Ethics
***q38.5 Long-term Cultural Stability
**41.3 Fairness, Ethics and the Abuse of Power
41.4 Laws and Atenfels
41.5 Social Power
41.6 The Power of Organizations and the “Social Bomb”
42.7 Teams and team spirit
41.8 Cliques are not Teams
Chapter 42: Formal Organizations
42.1 Organizations as control systems
42.2 Organization, Employment, and Unions
42.3 Unions, Organizations, and the Stock Market
42.4 Protocols within Organizations
***q42.5 Inter-cultural protocols
42.5 Trust and Leadership
42.6 “Trust but Verify”

Part 10: Power, Authority, Fairness, and Government (Page 925)
Chapter 43. Formal Government
***43.1 Autocratic Monarchy and Dictatorship
43.2 Monarchy and the Ombudsman
***47.2 The Great Man
***43.3 Government and Civil Service
***43.4 Political Parties and the Middle Ground
Chapter 44. Power and Political Parties
44.1 Teams and Political Parties
44.2 Party Factions and Splits
44.3 Elections and Power
44.4 Representation, Coalitions and the Convergence of Power
44.5 “Divide and Conquer”
44.6 Apostasy, Defection, Betrayal
44.7 Social Control Systems and Defection
44.8 Power, Individual and Social
***44.9 Commercial Power versus Political Power
Chapter 45. Government, Freedom and Revolution
45.1 The Big Lie
45.2 “The Others” and the Big Lie
45.3 Before the Truth gets out of Bed
45.4 Truth Control for Acquiring Power
***45.5 The Madness of Crowds and the March of Folly
**45.6 Through Violence to a Calmer Place
***x45.6 Rattling and Revolution
45.7 Social Maladies: Network Chaos
45.8 Democracy, Autocracy, and the Destruction of Ebla
***Chapter 46 Widespread and Environmental Issues
***46.1 Global Average Rattling Effects
***46.2 Global Average Rattling changes: Climate Change
***46.3 Global Average Rattling changes: Internet
***46.4 Geographic Borders in the Age of the Internet
***46.6 International treaties and Institutions
***Chapter 47. Epilogue: PCT as Science and Guide

Working Papers
W1: To Sharpen Ockham’s Razor
W1.1 Introduction
W1.2 The Universe of hypotheses
W1.3 Addendum: The predictive power of hypotheses
Appendix 1: General Negative Feedback Loops
Appendix 2. Atenfels and Molenfels
Appendix 3. A proposed notation for control loops and protocols
Appendix 4: The Bomb in the hierarchy
Appendix 5: Some features of Uncertainty and Information
Appendix 6: Separations of items in spaces of high dimensionality
Appendix 7: The Giant Virtual Controller
Appendix 8: The General Protocol Grammar

1 Like

Martin, this is so wonderful to see in completion! I have been, am, and will continue to be, stunned by your intellect, erudition, creativity, artistry, application, perseverance and bravery….

Warren, Thanks for the “eulogy”, but I would prefer some comment (critical or otherwise) on the content. From you, since a while ago you participated in a thread on Friston’s blog, what do you think about the passage on Friston’s approach to Predictive Coding and “fast and slow” non-conscious and conscious control?

Will do Martin!

I thought it would help me to offer myself (and everyone else into the bargain) an overview of PPC rather than the now outdated ToC. Because of the requirements of the publisher to whom I considered proposing the book, I split it into four Volumes, and wrote myself a Synopsis of each as they now stand. This enabled me to see several places, especially in Volume 4, where other orders of Chapters and Sections might work better, where valuable considerations have so far been ignored, and so forth. Nevertheless, I thought that to offer the four Synopses for criticism and comment might be mutually useful to me as author and you as potential readers, so here they are.
Synopsis of Volume 1
Volume 1 is mostly devoted to the foundational concepts underlying “Perceptual Control Theory” (PCT) as developed by W.T Powers from around 1950 until his death in 2013. These concepts support the newer material in the other volumes, some of which diverges from the work of Powers, though his work provides the basis for it all.

The first three Chapters of thirteen form a kind of orientation to this four volume book, Chapters four through seven treat the basic “Laws of Nature” underpinnings of PCT, and what Powers made of them. Similar basic material can be found in many other books about PCT, but this set of introductory chapters may be based more on “hard sciences” with general application than most. Nevertheless, I try to avoid mathematical analysis wherever possible, in order to focus on the meaning underlying the mathematics that is avoided.

Chapters 8 and 9 introduce some concepts about interactions among the “control systems” introduced in the earlier chapters, including an important extension to Powers’s “hierarchical” PCT, “Lateral Inhibition”. These chapters introduce the idea of “Motifs” of perceptual control, such as “stiffness”, “tensegrity”, the reasoning behind the apparently but not actually opposed concepts of similarity and dissimilarity, as well as categorical perception, which will form an important part of the later Volumes of this book.

Chapters 10 through 13 form a group collectively titled “Novelty, Uncertainty, and Trust”. Chapter 10 introduces at a conceptual level the information theory introduced to the public by Shannon in 1949. Much development of “information theory” has been published in the intervening six decades, but I rely on Shannon’s fundamental mathematical work rather than on what other writers have said about it.

Chapter 11 introduces a view of Powers’s perceptual control theory that I believe to be novel, based on Norbert Wiener’s approach to discovering the functioning of a “Black Box” by building a “White Box” that functions the same according to all available tests. The Powers hierarchy is seen as many levels of nested White Boxes that perform the functions of the levels of the PCT hierarchy.

Chapter 12 develops ideas of belief to include illusions, both conceptual and perceptual. It is here that Feynman’s words quoted on the title page of every Volume come into play: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself. And you are the easiest person to fool.” I refer to Shakespear’s “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” as an example (in fact, we refer to the keen insights of Shakespear occasionally throughout the four Volumes). Chapter 12 discusses beliefs, surprises, and the perception of what’s missing or wrong about what you perceive.

The final chapter of Volume 1 returns to the “hard physics” of perceptual control, to talk about control as an active insulator of the living control system from the destructive potentialities of the outer world. Perceptual Control is functionally a refrigerator that uses plugged in electrical energy to flush entropy introduced through the passive insulation from the relatively warm room back to the outer air. In the same way living control systems, whether they be bacteria, vegetation, mammals, fish, or anything else, ingest food to take in energy, and flush out entropy in their waste. This Chapter 13 sets the stage for Volume 2, which continues with Chapter 14.

Synopsis of Volume 2
The reader cannot be expected to retain all the detail in Volume 1, and does not need to do so in order to make sense of the core ideas of Volume 2. Nevertheless, the reader should have enough knowledge of the finer points of PCT covered in Volume 1 but often omitted in PCT books to follow the concepts developed in Volume 2, which is entitled “Creativity, Consciousness, Communication”.

The Volume has four conceptual parts, starting in Chapters 14 through 16 with concepts of autocatalytic and homeostatic loops, which though apparently leading toward stability nevertheless provide creativity that can sometimes generate what I call “Constructive Revolutions”. In the course of this section we use the concepts to suggest a plausible evolutionary approach to the constructive revolution that perhaps produced the first life, following ideas by Stuart Kauffman.

Chapters 17 through 21 form the second part of Volume 2. They consist of the development of the measure called “rattling” and the development and refinement of conscious perceptual control analogous to the crumpling of paper in a process that we call, surprisingly, “crumpling”. I argue that using the crumpling analogy leads directly to PCT-based insights, for which I use as examples the first “words” of a baby communicating with its mother, which we follow in detail in the fourth part of Volume 2, potential avalanches of reorganization following unexpected shocks, and the sometimes unexpected behaviour of teenagers.

Crumpling appears to be closely related to category perception, verbal language, and conscious control leading to reorganization, whereas rattling measures the likelihood that collectives will reorganize and how, statistically, the reorganization will be manifest. The measure itself is of the same nature as “variance” or “uncertainty”, and is widely applicable to the development of structure in general. The structures of most interest to us are of the interactions among control units in the Powers hierarchy and among language elements used in protocols as well as internal thoughts.

The third part of Volume 2, Chapters 22 through 24, is less theoretical and more practical. The reader might not lose too much in a quick scan of the potential “Powers of Perceptual Control” by skipping the first two parts of Volume 2. The third part, Chapters 22 through 24, deals with the initiation and development of language within a real human family and then in a family of“synthetic people” that starts with a small formal language programmed into an interactive robot, which develops into a language with all the flexibility of the languages real humans use.

The final part of Volume 2, Chapters 25 and 26, develops the concept of the “protocol” motif and the control of belief that was introduced in Volume 1. Control of belief is seem as the “syntax” of all protocols. This leads to discussions of various uses of protocols for cooperative and deceitful communications, and the end of Volume 2.

Synopsis of Volume 3
[Note: Material marked off by * is material not yet included in the main text]
Volume 3 has less distinct differences among its parts, though a division into four parts would not be unreasonable. The first part would be a single chapter, Chapter 27, on “Collective Control”, which explains a concept underlying much of the rest of the Volume. The words “collective control” have had a fairly wide variety of meanings in discussions among the PCT community. This range of meanings may be due to there being several different forms of collective control, which I gather into a taxonomy of collective control types.

One particular kind of collective perceptual control is “Stochastic”, in which discrete individual interactions with different actors together have the same effect as would a continued influence from a single imaginary actor that we designate as a “Giant Virtual Controller” who controls a virtual perception not controlled by any of the individuals who form the collective.

Stochastic Collective Control is central to the second part of the Volume, Chapters 28 and 29, in which re-examine autocatalytic loops, this time from the viewpoint of co-reorganization among members of groups by means of side-effect interactions that in sufficiently large collectives might form stable autocatalytic or homeostatic creative loops. These would be favoured by the “low rattling” principle, according to which the lower the structurally induced rattling in a collective, the longer the collective is likely to retain that structural configuration. *By the same token, side-effect loops may generate inter-loop interactions that form super-stable loops of loops in a hierarchical fashion that grows logarithmically as a function of the number of individuals in the collective. This logarithmic growth is found also in the crumpling process,were it is related to the total energy absorbed in the formation of facets that we identify with refinements of perceived categories by facet fragmentation.*

Stochastic collective control, in Chapter 29, is taken to generate a fractal fragmentation of a community into self-similar collections of “roles”. A role is a set of Giant Virtual Controllers with which other roles interact, as when one “shopper” role player interacts with one “cashier” role player while another “shopper” interacts with another “cashier” in a different “shop”. *A “shop” can be treated as a role for environmental places rather than as an individual place where some shoppers interact with some cashiers. The individuals interact by playing the roles, but those roles can be played only where the interactions are in a suitable environment.*

Chapters 30 through 32 begin to ask how individuals new to a community such as babies or immigrants learn to use effectively the language, roles, and culture of the community, and how the process of developing the roles and the structures of language and culture lead to culture-specific protocols, to rights and obligations, and to morals, laws, and authorities that have specialized forms associated with the changing branches of the fractal structure. Chapter 32 asks how this developmental process leads to trust and distrust of “truths” promulgated by members of the larger and slower-changing or smaller and more rapidly changing branches of the community structure. “Truth” may be a stochastically collectively controlled perception as much as it is a perception that can be personally tested by any individual person.

Chapters 33 through 35 deal with ownership, trade, and money. In Chapter 33, Trade is seen to be another PCT motif that uses the protocol motif as part of its structure, and that includes a 2x2 set of conflicts as a necessary component. The Trade motif implies the perception of what I call “Worth”, the ability of some individual or collective to control a range of perceptions to a level of precision. In a fair trade, both parties increase their worth.

Chapter 34 extends this discussion by integrating the concepts of energy and uncertainty (or entropy) to deal with the cost of maintenance of a steady state structure, which must be added to the cost of developing new structure. Money can be valued in terms of the energy needed for maintenance and structural creation, which shows the importance of sufficient steady inflation to continue a stable economy.

Chapter 35 finishes Volume 3 with a discussion of shared ownership and the Commons. There are four types of Commons, only one of which is subject to the famous “Tragedy of the Commons”. These types are distinguished by the energy available for their maintenance and the collective control of the energy extracted in their use, not by what the Commons consists of, which in the original “Tragedy of the Commons” was grazing land for the cattle owned by community members.
The Chapter, and the Volume, concludes with discussion of the Commons of Ideas, in which the maintenance and development energy (and usually monetary cost) is invested in the creative autocatalytic processes with which we started Volume 2. We point as examples to the creative revolutions that occurred in localized places such as the iron and steam-based Industrial Revolution in England, or the computing revolutions in first New England and then California’s Silicon Valley.

Synopsis of Volume 4
[Note: The last part of this Synopsis largely reflects my intentions rather than the existing text, since much of the text is unwritten as of 2021.10.21. Also, very probably some of the Sections and whole Chapters may be shuttled around from time to time.]
Volume 4 is entitled “Society: Politics, Revolution, Us and Them”. As of 2021.10.21, it contains Chapters 36 through 47, which discuss effects in larger groups than in the earlier Volumes. Chapters 36 through 38 deal with rattling and crumpling in these large groups. As we have noted in various earlier parts of the book, new things happen when the numbers of individuals in a collective grows beyond some ill-defined bounds. For example, beneficial loops of side-effect interactions are likely to form, reducing the total rattling over the members of the collective who participated in forming the loop, while enhancing the total rate of creative invention by the loop members.

At the same time, a collective with a large number of members may develop a wide variety of variation in the density of interactions among its members, *often leading to the creation of “small-world” networks. The principle that organizations tend toward low-rattling structures then suggests that although small-world networks reduce the number of direct links from person X to person Y, these relatively short linkage distances also lead to independent reorganizations associated with reducing the rattling in different hub-centred social groups.*

Chapter 37, largely unwritten, deals with rattling induced not by interactions among the members of the organization, but by environmental changes that are likely to disturb many of them at the same time. Hurricanes and earthquakes disturb and increase the rattling experienced by many people in a locality. Climate change and pandemics have wider ranging effects, *mostly reducing the Worth of many people by eliminating many atenfels they would have been accustomed to use to control their perceptions, without offering others of equal effectiveness. Since the environmental change affects many people within the same region of a “small world” network of interactions, that group is biased toward choosing similar actions to correct their increased average error, calming their local rattling total while increasing the rattling experienced by other groups in the network. The result is inter-group conflict and avoidance*.

Other global changes such as the “explosive” growth of the internet may both increase the available atenfels (statistically perhaps tending to reduce rattling) and increase interactive disturbances that increase rattling. *All these increases lead to a wide variety of actions by different people in different hub-centred groups such as internet “echo-chambers”, to reduce the rattling to which the environmental changes exposed them. In other words, some of these groups coordinate to change the local organization drastically, rather than coordinating to reduce the direct effects of the environmental shock.*

Chapter 38, entitled “Social Ecologies and Tipping Points” continues this line of thought, starting with a discussion of archaeological evidence that a particular sequence of rapid Phase changes seem to happen in the same way all over the world, though at vastly different times, when local population densities reach the same approximate sizes, no matter the type of geographical environment. These phase changes are in the form and activities of collectives, such as congregating into towns in which live plyers of various specialized trades or roles, rather than everyone being a Jack or Jill of all trades. The first of these jumps in “Punctate Social Evolution” happens when the number of people living in close proximity reaches about 100.

*Subsequent jumps resemble side-effect loops of loops (Chapter 28 in Volume 3)*, in that they occur at larger reasonably well defined sizes of population centres all over the world. One such jump includes a transition into organizations defined by convention. All these conventions would have been circulating individually in a “soup”, making connections now and then long before the phase change in which they form a self-sustaining creative homeostatic loop. At this level, collectively agreed moral “good and evil” strictures become set, and give rise to supernatural Gods who have long been collectively agreed to exist, but who now form a link that firms up the homeostatic loop.

*These moral strictures, collectively controlled, reduce the rage of atenfels available to individuals, and thereby limit the set of Roles whose interactions will define the culture of the society. Only in the next phase-shift at yet higher population sizes do these moral strictures get refined in the form of defined laws of disallowed and required behaviours of ever-increasing complexity that require the new specialty role of Lawyer to parallel the ancient specialty of priest or shaman or witch-doctor.*

At the next jump, which incorporates written laws, the earliest of which I know being those of Hammurabi around 3800 years ago though I wold not be surprised if there were earlier ones in places like China, we get formal organizations that include roles such as kings and judges, as interactions such as lawsuits and contracts. Chapter 37 also discusses how these phase shifts affect the tensegrity of the post-phase-change culture — its ability to endure despite external events, somewhat akin to the ability of living control systems to bring their perceptions of external states toward their reference values.

Chapter 38 continues the discussion of specific kinds of formal organization and organizations, mostly dealing with their interactions in regard to money, such as corporations and unions, and the Stock Market. This Chapter also begins a discussion of trust and leadership that will later be important when we discuss forms of Government.

The next conceptual chapter sequence, Chapters 39 through 41, is more about “belonging” and “exclusion”, or likeness and difference, which in this context seem to connote very much the same. Between belonging and exclusion there lies a middle ground of those who might come to belong or might be excluded. Chapter 39 deals with social structures, mostly of inclusion, and the reorganization of these structures. People tend to trust members of groups to which they belong rather than members of groups from which they are excluded. Why? The chapter leads toward a discussion of methods of inclusion, such as delighting in the same kind of music and dance, or of exclusion, such as the creation of shibboleths.

Chapter 40 looks more closely at the constructs of “Us” and “Them” that are likely to be in conflict, each perceiving for their own “Us” to be generally perceived as better than the others, the “Them”. If both groups perceive the same group to be “better”, the other is likely to be bullied. As examples, we use a school classroom, colonial expansion, rural and urban political disparity, and income disparity. The bad things that happen to members of either group (significant disturbances to their controlled perceptions) are likely to be perceived as having been caused by the other group as a whole, and the appropriate control actions involve inter-group interactions.

The Chapter then concludes with a discussion of the effect of group interactions with aliens whose cultures differ in unfamiliar ways, whether the alien is an isolated individual, a refugee group, or simple immigrants. The results of such intergroup interactions might be beneficial (hybrid vigour in the form of vivified development of creative autocatalytic networks) or detrimental (combative “my way is right and yours is wrong” conflict). The Middle Ground, in all these cases, allows an individual to perceive atenfels, routes by which they may avoid conflict and perhaps move from one polarized group to the other.

Chapter 41 discusses a different class of alien entirely — the robot as it might become decades or centuries from now. The Chapter deals with “bots” and “botnets”, as well as with physically embodied robots. What does it mean to be “autonomous”, as we believe we are? Is an “autonomous” vacuum cleaner such as those even now being sold, really autonomous? Could they develop consciousness and self-consciousness, empathy with organic living things, and emotions? If not, why not? And is there any reason why robotic intelligence should function in any way as does human “intelligence”. If it did, would robots be a beneficial addition to organic ecologies, beneficial implying the enhancement of the Worth of living control systems? Or would they evolve to become the feared tyrants of much science-fiction?

[Apart from Chapter 45 on political parties, the remaining chapters, currently intended to be Chapters 43 through 46 plus an Epilogue, are only written in parts. I omit them here because they might well change substantially in structure and content as the book progresses toward completion.]

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Martin, I just sat down to read this post. Eight printed printed pages :slight_smile:
Awesome! Your work is just terrific, covering so much ground; from physical basics to implications in many important fields of great interest. The life sciences will be better for it. I sure look forward to reading this important work. Let me know if I can be of any assistance.
Best, Dag


Thanks. Will do.


Maybe or anyone else might like to tear to shreds my today’s draft of Volume 1, the introduction to the rest of the book. A PDF is at https://www.dropbox.com/s/v2boq0l3u6ucfzs/PPC_v19_Vol1_21.10.29.pdf?dl=0. You will find a fair bit that disagrees with Powers and with the consensus in IAPCT discussions. One notable case is my attempt to integrate the Friston-Seth et al. “Free Energy” or “Predictive Coding” approach to control with PCT. I think it has a hand in higher-level reorganization, but not reorganization at low levels. That’s relevant to http://discourse.iapct.org/t/time-scale-of-reorganization/15873.

I thought at the same time I might allow you to further shred today’s draft of Volume 2 of PPC, which is in a less complete state (in my mind) than is Volume 1. Volume 2 has a bit more of Free Energy/Predictive Coding, which is why I open it to view now, even though there is a lot more to write about the symbiosis between it and PCT than is so far there. Section numbers with two stars “**” are far from complete and with three stars are largely unwritten. But questions and comment on those parts are as welcome as on any other material. https://www.dropbox.com/s/sho8eo4cj164ceo/PPC_v19_Vol2_21.10.29.pdf?dl=0.

I have added a new introductory section at the end of Chapter 2, dealing with the problem of words in describing what we perceive.

Comments and criticisms, error corrections and so forth, are, as always welcome.

I thought I might as well offer links to a newly reorganized version 20 of PPC, the whole thing this time.
Volume 1: https://www.dropbox.com/s/hd0f12ud5q2j2e9/PPC_v20_Vol1_21.11.23.pdf?dl=0
Volume 2: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ni0d00bailmedne/PPC_v20_Vol2_21.11.23.rtf?dl=0
Volume 3: https://www.dropbox.com/s/q5evwan9jif23us/PPC_v20_Vol3_21.11.23.pdf?dl=0
Volume 4: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ykll4blzjcx5d1p/PPC_v20_vol4_21.11.23.pdf?dl=0
Refs: https://www.dropbox.com/s/j1f8u1ghdane0bu/PPC_References.21.11.23.pdf?dl=0

One of many new things is an argument as to why one should expect any evolved perceptual control hierarchy (though not a designed one as might exist in a designed robot) should not only have the resilience and strength of a tensegrity structure, but why it should be expected to be one in the context of the environment in which it grew up (Section 13.7 in Volume 2).

Thanks Martin!


I didn’t read yet all Volumes. So my critics is limited.

My oppinion is that your language expression is unique and fluid for reading. Anyway language expression is original in every human. It’s quite unique idea of constructivism.

I also thought that our previous talkings will have some results, but it seems that you kept your original version of Preface and in this way I think you didn’t make good PCT foundation for the rest of your Volumes.

When you described original foundation for PCT you wrote :

"According to PCT, every intentional action is for control of some variable called a ‘perception’. The word has a specialized meaning in PCT, and does not necessarily refer to a perception of which one is conscious. What often remains obscure, however, even to oneself as ‘the actor’, is what variable, what ‘perception’, is being controlled by some action…//… As we shall find as we read through this book, the answer is seldom unique. Any “action” may well support control of many variables, and control of a given variable is usually performed by many actions".

Sorry to say it Martin, this is quite wrong understanding of PCT and I doubt that Bill thought about “intentional behavior” as controlling perception. We went through this problems many times on CSGnet. The Title of the book is “Behavior : The control of perception”. It doesn’t say specifically that “action IS for control of perception”. Also diagram in LCS III clearly shows that behavior (output) is consequence of “perceptual control”. Perception is controlled in comparator not outside. It seems that you put references outside of organism what Henry Yin denyed in quite sofisticated way.

Mantra in PCT is that output “intentional behavior” as “some action” is not used for controlling perception. Behavior (actions) are not controlled in PCT specialy not every single action or some actions. Bill even offered physiological evidences.

Also your understanding of control that external actions are not “pushing” perceptions toward references on the bases of Friston shows that “behavior” as single action or some actions can’t be control.

Where can I see this sort of thinking : Behavior is controlling perception in Powers work? Nobody ever proved me that on CSGnet. It can be that Bill sometimes changed his mind and maybe you got wrong impression that he is talking about “behavior as control”. But generally he didn’t write about that.

I’m again sorry to say that your statement more looks like some of Ricks’ statements. In RCT (Ricks’ Control Theory) is clear that “behavior (intentional action) is controlling perception”, but Rick never offered any serious scientific evidences for his statements. **Whatever Rick wrote about it’s sure not PCT.

At least I would expect that you would use some Bill Powers statements for comparison about what is PCT “according to PCT” and what is not.

For ex. you could use his OUTPUT FUNCTION :

In B:CP (2005), OUTPUT FUNCTION is defined as the portion of a system that converts the magnitude or state of a signal inside the system into a corresponding set of effects on the immediate environment of the system

In LCS III (2008) …the output function shown in it’s own box represents the means this system has for causing changes in it’s environment.

I don’t see any traces in Powers definitions, that “intentional behavior” (action, ouput of the Living system) could be used for “controlling” perception. Definitions are quite clear : behavior (output, actions) are used for causing changes (set of effects) to immediate environment.

You probably mixed something. References are not outside the Living system but inside. So perception is controlled inside the system as Bill described, not outside as RCT (Ricks Control Theory) wrongly predicts.

“Intentional behavior” is used only for causing “set of effects” or changes in external environment. It’s just means for controlling internal states of Living system. By Ashby all behaviors are homeostatic, used for keeping “essential variables” inside physiological limits. Behaviors (actions) are product of nervous system which is “attached” to essential variables as you can see in my presentation.

So statement about intentional behavior could look something like this if it would be in PCT meaning:

According to PCT Intentional behavior (actions, some actions)…is defined by set of effects (changes) to immediate environment and in this way actual perception is also disturbed or disturbances are also cancelled.

We must not forget Powers defintion of control (B:CP, 2005): " CONTROL : Achievement and maintenance of a preselected state in the controlling system, through actions on the environment that also cancel the effects of disturbances.

Not all effects caused by behavior (outpout, actions) are disturbing perception or cancelling the effects of disturbances. And beside that It’s ALSO cancelling the effects of disturbances (among other effects) not categorical control.

Bill probably meant effects made by action or some actions, which can be united into “Line of behavior” (Ashby’s terminology). Under certain conditions “line of behavior” can come very close to control, so that every action could really “push” perception toward references.

Any life experiment** that could measure single output will show that “intentional behavior” just cause effetcs (trial and error) to external environment and thus fully confirm Bill’s definitions. When you connect measured “points” you get “Line of behavior” which usually ordinary people does not show that perception is directly “controlled” toward references. Many attempts usually do not show that “intentional behavior” could form “Line of behavior” toward references. It’s some other mechanism which was fleetingly described by Bill but it seems that you missed it like all the others, specially Rick.

I think that any book about “intentional behavior” should be written when one understands how organisms function.

Another big problem I see in your statement :

“The fundamental structural element of his “Perceptual Control Theory” (PCT) is the “control loop”, a mathematical description of a servomechanism implemented into organic, living things, The book title “Powers of Perceptual Control” is a deliberate pun on his name”.

If I remember right you were talking about algebraic description not matehmatical. That’s at least how you described Rick’s mechanical “mathematical” understanding of control loop through “behavior is control”.

I see also a problem when you are talking about “implementation of servo mechanism” into Living beings. This is problematic, because “servo mechanism” can be only a breaf model for understanding how control works in organism. It can not be directly implemented. Beside that it’s showing control of output.

Human does not work as machines. But there are similarities. Bill probably took the idea in Ashby’s work (homeostat), and Ashby quite clearly distinguished machines and Living beings, as Wiener did. Principles how Living beings work can be “implemented” into machines, but mechanical understanding of machines can’t be directly aplied to understanding how Living beings work.

There is also another BIG PROBLEM. On p. 28 you wrote :

"According to PCT, all these are based on one single idea: if you perceive that something is not as you want it, you act and try to fix the discrepancy (the “error”). More precisely, if you perceive (the “What” of the loop) that something is not as you would like it to be (the “Why” of the loop), you act (the “How” of the loop) in ways that bring your perception of it closer to how you want it. That, put simply, is “control of perception”. This is by no means a new idea. Powers liked to cite Aristotle and John Dewey as his intellectual ancestors in noticing that everything you do, you do to serve your own purposes".

I don’t understand how you equated and connected phylosophers and psychologists view of achieveing own purposes to “Control of perception” as means for achieving goals.

If “Control of perception” is not new Powers idea, show me please where exactly can I find in works of Aristotle and John Dewey or any intellectual ancestors or anywhere, that purposes, goals can be achieved through “Control of perception”???

I personally think that phylosophers and psychologist including specially Rick and you, think that goals can be achieved through “Control of behavior”, controlling some “external variable” or CEV, which somehow produces “controlled perception”.

I even think that almost 99,99 % people on Earth think like you and Rick.

"Control of perception" for achieving goals is unigue concept of W.T. Powers and should be burried deep into Cybernetics and Psychology. You reduced or diminished Powers work to the level of any average phylosopher and any average psychologist although we all know that Bill seriously criticized their work. Maybe you should read again Bill’s work, before you write such a statements or book.

But maybe now I understand why nobody wants to help me find Bill’s deserved place in history of Cybernetics including the owner of PCT. Becuase it seems that nobody understands PCT and Bills contribution to Cybernetics and science in whole.

That’s what I also tried to show in my presentaion on Cybernetics Society. What is unigue idea of W.T. Powers among other Cyberneticians. Many presentations will follow and among other issues they will highlight really deserved place of W.T. Powers in the history of science.

Another problem:

"Finally, I must try to give at least a little credit where much more credit is due. I cannot overemphasize the importance of Bill Powers in helping me to understand his insights, and his gentle persistence in correcting what he (but not always I) saw as my errors".

It seems that you forgot somebody that talked to you with PCT knowledge and you understood PCT better. Even in discoussions with Bil he supported you when he was “protecting” Rick. I think you should take a walk though CSGnet archives and our private conversations on through ECACS.

Do you still keep my PCT analysis of school system? You explicitelly asked me if you could keep it.

I do not know how you are able to interpret Martin’s words as saying that actions are controlled. To say that an action is intentional is merely to say that it is the control output of a control system. The control output (do not misread that as “controlled output”) has perceived environmental effects which oppose the effects of disturbances on the controlled perceptual input. As you know, the effect of a control output upon a perceptual input is directly due to the difference between the perceptual input and a reference value for that input. Such actions are our behavioral means of controlling perceptual inputs. When they are measured in an experimental laboratory situation, we call them output quantity variables (see figure), and likewise the disturbance variable and the perceptual input variable are difficult to quantify precisely outside of a controlled laboratory situation.

Martin wrote “intentional action” to distinguish control outputs from actions that are not outputs of control systems. If you do not know what I mean, or if you disagree that such unintended actions exist, that is a conversation that we could have next, without delay. (And when I say “intended” and “unintended” it has nothing to do with being aware or unaware.)

As Martin says, an ‘action’ that you observe might support control of more than one perceptual input. His use of the word “support” is interesting. He’s just saying that the influence of a given behavioral output through the environmental feedback function may affect more than one perceptual input.

You say that the title behavior: the control of perception ‘doesn’t say specifically that “action IS for control of perception”.’

“At the conceptual core of the theory is the observation that living things control the perceived environment by means of their behavior.” –Powers et al. 2011

  • Output Quantity: measure of system’s physical output action or observed behavior.

  • Feedback Function: Physical properties that convert action or behavior into effect on input quantity.

  • Input Quantity: physical variable that affects sensory inputs of controller (may be multiple).

  • Disturbance: Physical variable that affects input quantity (maybe multiple).

The feedback function and three quantities (output, disturbance, and input) are perceivable physical properties of what the observed subject, the experimenter, and an observer all perceive to be the environment.

Be very careful to understand what a person has written before you accuse them of not understanding PCT.

Thanks,Bruce, but it’s OK. Boris’s logic is impeccable. I don’t understand his version of PCT, and therefore I don’t understand PCT. Quite simple, and irrefutable.

I do have one question, however, based on both private and public communication. I do not understand why Boris adamantly refuses to answer any direct questions about his system, but goes off on another topic whenever one is asked.

Martin, here is one possible answer to your question, which Boris posted in another topic:


as i already told you what I think about you (intelligent person who understands what is going on). i’m surprised that I have to repeat the same things all over again. It’s not my version of PCT. It’s PCT version of PCT what I proved 100x with citing Powers work. See CSGnet archives. And it’s not my version of organisms functioning as I’m integrating knowledge from many scientific sources. It’s scientific version. I hope that you understand what is scientific.

My “impeccable” logic is not in your range because you don’t think scientifically. I know that you asked me to exactly explain to you my DBCS theory because you don’t understand scientific ground for it. My presentation tells a lot about scientific understanding of organisms functioning. I know that many people do not understand it as it is simply scientific. You have to understand science and then you’ll understand my DBCS. That goes for Bruce amd Rick and so on. Only science present real advancement in human understanding of Universe, Solar system and Life on Earth etc.

You are all rotating on one place because you stopped integrating scientific knowledge into your understanding of the World around you and understanding how you really function. You’ll need time to adapt on my logic of thinking although once you understood it quite well.

I made my point with my presentation and I’ll make more scientific points in my next presentations.

I couldn’t present my real knowledge on CSGnet because Rick was obviously stealing my knowledge and present it as his own. Bruce borrowed ideas from my presentation and started a “revolution”. You don’t want to admit my influence on your understanding of PCT. You still didn’t answer my question. Do you still keep my PCT explanation of school system??? You made speccial request to keep it. Why?

If you want my knowledge we’ll have to establish trustfull and honest relationship without manipulations of all kinds like you and Bruce are doing now. If you’ll want to improve your knowledge you’ll do it even without my knowledge. But it seems that you are not willing to make a step forward. You are defending your positions. What a known general “reaction” of ordinary people. Why change anything if it goes well.



V V ned., 12. dec. 2021 ob 00:30 je oseba Bruce E. Nevin via IAPCT <noreply@discourse.iapct.org> napisala: