Purpose; control-wise kids might do better

[from: cc> Chris Cherpas (961002.0913 PT)
  [re: BP> Bill Powers (961001.1630 MDT)]

When I try to explain what PCT is about to
a non-academic, non-theological person I often end up feeling embarrassed;
the person will often say "But doesn't everybody know that?"

Gawd, ain't it the truth. My wife's a psychiatrist and I do read
a few of "her" books per year and attend an occasional psycho-pharm
conference; so, when I start frothing about PCT, she has two things
to say: 1) "At least you're not a Skinnerian any more," and
2) "PCT sounds like what I've always thought all along; I don't
need to read Bill Powells or whatever his name is." Geezus Krised.

We who spend our time studying life instead of living it are all nuts,
Chris. Fortunately, being nuts is not a totally useless occupation; now and
then a nut can solve a puzzle or discover something new. But I can
sympathize with Albert Einstein, who said that if he had it all to do over
again, he'd be a plumber. Standing back and watching others or yourself
leads to a strange way of living; in life but not of it. I often wonder what
I've missed.

You speak to my inner child, possibly my inner embryo. My wife
(the shrink), who reads pop psych as a pastime, is currently reading
everything on the "Enneagram" and says, "Chris, you're like that
because you're a 'Nine'." Whatever. I've just never been interested
in anything else than trying to figure out how I got here; by the
time the relevant control hierarchy developed to be able to figure
_anything_ out, it was already too late to exert any control
(qua moi') over the transition from _not existing_ to suddenly appearing
on this layer of Earth's fuzz (aka "terra firma") -- populated with
Greek relatives pinching my cheek and blowing garlic in my face.

As far as missing something, at least you have the advantage of not already
having saturated your receptors with every known chemical source of
artificial enlightenment (which is probably one reason why you've got a
viable theory and I've got merely oddly-shaped distributions of memetic
fragments in perpetual Brownian motion). So, dude, cop some dope and get

No, I can't really leave it like that (though this post is getting
too long). I will say this: if there are any ideas you (actually, y'all)
have on accelerating children's learning how to (sustainably,
"transferably") control their perceptions, please think of how you
could implement them in educational computer programs (which don't rely on
teachers/parents to do anything). Right now, I'm trying to design
an environment in which kids can learn how to control for "reasonable"
degrees of uncertainty. The idea is to have a developmental sequence
of "experiments" which, hopefully, take the student through a perceptual
hierarchy, while making available useful tools for both improving,
and understanding/appreciating the limits of, certainty. At some point
in the sequence, the student would learn how to "behave rationally"
(relatively speaking!) in situations suggested by the "classic balls
in urns" (hopefully, something with more ecological validity can be
used -- I hate dice and coins). Eventually, we'd get to the mathematical
formulation of probability, Bayes, expected value, decision theory,
methods of data analysis/statistics, measurement, argumentation,
_modeling_, epistemology. But "experiments on perception,"
not unlike the DEMO1 programs really, I think is the place to begin
at the earliest possible age. Nobody ever teaches kids how to
talk about, and conceptualize, their own sensory/perceptual experiences
in a systematic way -- in a way that will keep scaling up as they grow.

By the time most people learn sophisticated modeling techniques,
there's virtually no sense of a connection to one's real life or
ownership of one's perceptions of uncertainty/questions. Formal training
in these methods are not grounded in experience -- perceptual control.
Yes, I may be crazy, but I think there's something here that can
put PCT to work early in life and can grow into a ready ability that
gives kids some of the Powers they deserve as descendants of the insane.

A rave on language/school: I think the control kids develop intuitively
is pretty good, even without fancy virtual/experimental environments;
but as they start to get immersed in the language game, they hear adults
using a lot of language that the kids can't really apply yet. A split
begins whereby the kids learn to increasingly talk like adults and
adjust, and often distort, what they learned prior to language to fit
what they are learning to talk about. By the time they hit formal
schooling, they've all but given up, sensing that the meanings which they
had to hastily construct to fit the requirements of playing the language
game can't have much to do with their own, intimate experience of
controlling perceptions. So they learn rote. They "control for
correct answers," not a sense of having answered their own questions
(controlled their own perceptions of uncertainty). They buy into
authority or reject it out of hand, but basically have to do their
most meaningful thinking about their lives far from the interference
of school. "Whole Language" and the "(New) New Math" don't help, and
even make it worse, because even the mechanical aspects of literature
and math don't get learned, while the "wholistic, meaningful" stuff proves
to be more of the same old problem that started with learning language so
unsystematically to being with -- somebody else's sophisticated
meanings are supposed to be magically transferred. And, in a sense,
it is "magic," because when the kids aren't just doing the rote shuffle,
they're inventing meanings to go with the _form_ of adult semiotics,
the meanings of which cannot be reproduced unless through what seem
to be magic -- in short, there is a giant backlog of meanings/perceptions
that kids have not really learned to independently control. So, we go
to college. Great! Now, the prof throws up his hands and says,
"You have to think for yourself! Write a theme! Prove a theorem!
Interpret history!" By the time you get to graduate school, at least
you see that the profs are as clueless as you, so you finally reach back
and try to connect the strands of intuitive control you've managed
to retained throughout this ordeal. Some folks just look at this residual
and say, "I can't do it," and they never finish the goddam dissertation;
some take a look and say, "F- this uncertainty; I'll just keep doing
what everybody else is," and go on to be conventional psychologists (!),
and a few have enough left over to say, "Well, it's a hell of an uphill
trek, but I might as well finish one last formal requirement and start to
reconstruct these intellectual remnants into some kind of coherent
understanding that at least I can call my own." Maybe they even learn
a helpful framework which allows them see that their efforts are, and
always were, the control of their own perceptions, and that there is indeed
is a continuity, a system upon which they can build even better references.

We are devo,

[From Bill Powers (961002.2050 MDT)]
Chris Cherpas (961002.0913 PT) --

When I try to explain what PCT is about to
a non-academic, non-theological person I often end up feeling embarrassed;
the person will often say "But doesn't everybody know that?"

Gawd, ain't it the truth (ETC ETC ETC).

What a great post. You are a Good Guy, Chris Cherpas.


Bill P.