This is a continuation of a Thread entitled "Corrections and comments to Rick’s The Study of LCS.
I would certainly hope so!
PCT has so much power in so many aspects of the interactions among living control systems and with their non-living environment at all scales that it would have been rather disappointing to find that we had been thinking along the same lines.
Apart from being completely beside the point of the thread “Corrections and comments to Rick’s The Study of LCS”, and therefore belonging in a different thread such as this, [RM] brings up an important point on which I directly disagree with Bill (and with RM).
I disagree because it is inconsistent with something else on which Bill insisted, that we cannot know what exists in Real Reality, despite that all the effects of our actions are on and what we sense are of Real Reality. What we perceive is, as Bill occasionally felt the need to restate, is NOT Real Reality. What we perceive is in a Perceived Reality that is created by our perceptual functions including inputs from our imagination.
The environmental variables that we perceive changing are only in that perceived external reality we generate in our minds, and they don’t correspond to our perceptions. They ARE our perceptions. They are not what we affect in the Real Reality environment by our actions or sense happening as a result of our actions.
What Rick quotes approvingly refers only to Perceived Reality. The “Controlled Environmental Variable” (CEV) I talk about is not there. It is in Real Reality, and we can know no more about it than whatever approximation we have reorganized to perceive. Why did we reorganize to perceive what we do? Because the more closely our Perceived Reality coincides with Real Reality in the effects of our actions on our perceptions, the more likely it is that we will keep our intrinsic variable dynamics in a state that keeps us alive.
The CEV to which I often refer is not Bill’s CV. Bill’s CV IS the controlled perception, projected into some consciously perceived world that functions more or less like the Real World in which we actually live — more at the lower levels of the perceptual control hierarchy, less at the higher levels.
MT: This is a continuation of a Thread entitled "Corrections and comments to Rick’s The Study of LCS.
RM: I agree that this should go under that rubric. Is there some way to move it back there?
RM: It’s certainly based on PCT as described by Powers, but not all that firmly. For example, your concept of a controlled environmental variable (CEV) is particularly problematic.
MT: Apart from being completely beside the point of the thread “Corrections and comments to Rick’s The Study of LCS”, and therefore belonging in a different thread such as this,
RM: It think it’s not beside the point of that thread at all; I specifically address this point in section 1.5, Controlled and Perceptual Variables, of SCLS.
MT: [RM] brings up an important point on which I directly disagree with Bill (and with RM).
RM: That’s why I wrote that section of the book; not only because your view is fundamentally inconsistent with PCT but because it is fundamentally inconsistent with the PCT approach to the study of living control systems.
MT: I disagree because it is inconsistent with something else on which Bill insisted, that we cannot know what exists in Real Reality, despite that all the effects of our actions are on and what we sense are of Real Reality.
RM: But he also “insisted” that we can achieve increasingly better approximations to that reality using the methods of science. I think Bill would say that “complete knowledge of Real Reality” is a limit that is more and more closely approached using the methods of science but that will never actually be reached.
MT: What we perceive is, as Bill occasionally felt the need to restate, is NOT Real Reality. What we perceive is in a Perceived Reality that is created by our perceptual functions including inputs from our imagination.
RM: Pretty close. Leave out the phase “in a Perceived Reality that is”, add “based on Real Reality” and delete “including” and I think you’ve got it: “What we perceive is created by our perceptual functions, based on Real Reality and inputs from our imagination”.
MT: The environmental variables that we perceive changing are only in that perceived external reality we generate in our minds, and they don’t correspond to our perceptions. They ARE our perceptions. They are not what we affect in the Real Reality environment by our actions or sense happening as a result of our actions.
RM: This is not a correct description of the PCT view of perception. In PCT perceptions are assumed to be constructed from environmental variables – what you call Real Reality. These environmental variables, and, therefore, the perceptual variables constructed from them, are affected by our actions. When we control our perceptions we are at the same time controlling the environmental variables from which those perceptions are constructed.
MT: What Rick quotes approvingly refers only to Perceived Reality. The “Controlled Environmental Variable” (CEV) I talk about is not there.
RM: What I quote approvingly, I presume, is Bill’s statement that “The CEV can never be defined independently of the perceptual signal". And that CEV is based on real reality. So Bill was not referring only to perceived reality; he was referring to a perceptual aspect of real reality.
MT: [The CEV] is in Real Reality, and we can know no more about it than whatever approximation we have reorganized to perceive.
RM: This implies that your CEV (like Bill’s understanding of it) is a perception of an aspect of real reality.
MT: Why did we reorganize to perceive what we do? Because the more closely our Perceived Reality coincides with Real Reality in the effects of our actions on our perceptions, the more likely it is that we will keep our intrinsic variable dynamics in a state that keeps us alive.
RM: This is probably true, but controlled variables – what you call CEVs – are known only to us as perceptual variables.
MT: The CEV to which I often refer is not Bill’s CV. Bill’s CV IS the controlled perception, projected into some consciously perceived world that functions more or less like the Real World in which we actually live — more at the lower levels of the perceptual control hierarchy, less at the higher levels.
RM: So your idea is that some CVs (of the Powers’ kind) function more like the Real World (which I take to be CEVs of the Taylor type) than others. So how would you know this? What kind of research do you do to test this? It seems to me it is untestable unless you know what the CEV is that is supposed to be controlled. But you can’t know the CEV is other than via your own perception. So it seems to me that the only way to test this notion is to find a CEV among your own perceptions that a person should be able to control and see how well the person can control it. For example, see how well a driver can can control the speed of the car.
RM: This sounds like classic human engineering research to me. Human engineering research differs from PCT research (the topic of my book) in that the former is aimed at determining how well a person controls what should be controlled and the latter is aimed at determining what actually is controlled. There is certainly nothing wrong with engineering psychology but, as Bill has said (quoted on p. 9 of my book) “if one’s interest is in the properties of persons…” then trying to understand those properties using the methods of engineering psychology [a discipline that makes what Bill calls the “man-machine blunder”] “…pulls a red herring across the path of progress”.
The difference is in what we postulate about Real Reality, beyond accepting that all we can know of it are perceptions. Rick limits his postulate to atomistic ‘aspects’ which we perceive at the Intensity level. For terminological parity with Martin’s CEV I’ll call these ‘Simple environment variables’ (SEV).
For some wider purposes that Rick is disinterested in, Martin has needed a term for complexes of SEVs, and he calls these complexes CEVs.
The lemonade example continues to be useful. Rick argues cogently that there is no single thing in the environment that corresponds to the taste of lemonade. That taste perception is constructed from Intensity perceptual variables including some degree of sweet, sour, some aromas, etc. Martin does not assert that a single thing “the taste of lemonade” exists in the environment, but something that we perceive as sweet, something that we perceive as sour, something that we perceive with this or that aroma, etc. exist in the environment. And not just that they exist in the enviroment severally, they exist together in a complex, and that is why these intensity perceptions are concurrent, which is prerequisite for constructing the higher-level “taste of lemonade” perception.
Rick inserted into his comments on Adam’s comments on his book a critique of my notion of the CEV as the Real Reality variable that through its effects on sensor systems corresponds to the controlled perceptual variable.
Which I followed with
This last is something on which I absolutely agree with Bill. It has been a core of pretty much everything I have written about reorganization. But it clearly depends on making a clean distinction between the Real Reality (Bill’s term, not mine) CEV and the Perceptual Reality (my term) CV that is a projection of the controlled perception into a consciously perceived environment. If you didn’t, there would be nothing for experiment to approximate.
That’s a reasonable paraphrase of what I wrote, as it clearly implies that what we perceive is not Real Reality, but is based on it, without directly saying so, as my text did.
Apart from the always irritating reference to “PCT” as something that is inerrant ex cathedra, that is mostly correct, but the last sentence might prove misleading, in that it ignores that control is not perfect. Whereas the CV in Perceptual Reality IS the perception (not corresponds to the perception) the “Corresponding Environmental Variable” is not. It is whatever unknown properties of Real Reality affect the senses, and after much neural processing, possibly accompanied by a contribution from imagination, the perceptual value,
Not so. The CEV is NOT a perception. Bill’s CV is. The CEV is unknowable, though what it does is discoverable through observation and experiment. (Remember my old discussion of the Goblin Bureaucratic Model of Real Reality, which I introduced as a ridiculous but impossible to refute possible description of how what we perceive comes to be.)
I don’t understand the “but” in that plain and correct statement. Should it not have been “and”? Alternatively, after the “but” you could have said “are known to us only approximately, and only through their functions as parts of environmental feedback loops”.
You describe the underlying basis of everything generally accepted as being “Science”. What can we deduce about our CEVs from the effects we observe in our perceptions either passively or in experiments.
As for the “speed of the car” example, without looking at a speedometer whose existence was the result of science and engineering studies, one can be very wrong, as I discovered to my cost when I got a speeding ticket for believing a faulty speedometer and underestimating how its reading related to the police radar reading.
RM: I’m pretty sure that’s not the case, as you shall see.
BN: The difference is in what we postulate about Real Reality, beyond accepting that all we can know of it are perceptions. Rick limits his postulate to atomistic ‘aspects’ which we perceive at the Intensity level.
RM: Actually, the aspects of which I speak are the perceptual aspects of Real Reality (which, in PCT, is simply called the “environment”) that are postulated in the hierarchical PCT model. These aspects can be as “atomistic” as intensities or as “molar” as programs, principles and system concepts.
MT: For terminological parity with Martin’s CEV I’ll call these ‘Simple environment variables’ (SEV).
RM: In PCT there are no such things as environmental variables that vary from simple to complex. The simplicity or complexity of a controlled aspect of the environment is in the “eye” (and “ear” and “tongue”, etc) of the perceptual functions.
MT: For some wider purposes that Rick is disinterested in, Martin has needed a term for complexes of SEVs, and he calls these complexes CEVs.
RM: Whatever “wider purposes” Martin has in mind for his CEV they have nothing to do with studying the nature of living control systems from a PCT perspective. PCT based research starts with observation of some example of skilled behavior – a behavior, such as catching fly balls or solving algebra problems – that appears to involve control because it is produced consistently in the face of disturbances.
RM: Once you have observed such a behavior you do tests to determine the variables around which the behavior is organized – controlled variables. In PCT research there is never any concern about how well controlled perceptions match the environmental correlates of those perceptions. Once you know what variables the agent is controlling – the controlled variables around which the agent’s behavior is organized – you know the aspects of the environment that are being perceived and controlled as the agent is carrying out the behavior. And you can demonstrate your understanding of how the observed behavior works by building a model that behaves just like the real thing by controlling those variables.
BN: The lemonade example continues to be useful. Rick argues cogently that there is no single thing in the environment that corresponds to the taste of lemonade. That taste perception is constructed from Intensity perceptual variables including some degree of sweet, sour, some aromas, etc. Martin does not assert that a single thing “the taste of lemonade” exists in the environment, but something that we perceive as sweet, something that we perceive as sour, something that we perceive with this or that aroma, etc. exist in the environment.
RM: And those “somethings” are the atoms and molecules that the models of chemistry tell us are the entities that make up real reality. What you are saying is that Martin’s CEV is a perception, not something in the environment. If Martin could accept that fact and discard the useless and confusing concept of a CEV then we would, indeed, be in violent agreement.
BN: And not just that they exist in the environment severally, they exist together in a complex, and that is why these intensity perceptions are concurrent, which is prerequisite for constructing the higher-level “taste of lemonade” perception.
RM: It’s the perceptual functions that determine what is and what is not a relevant “concurrence”. Think of it in terms of the problem of recognizing configurations in a visual image such as this one:
What this picture “really” consists of is an array of pixels, some black and some white. What it looked like at first to me was a bunch of randomly shaped black blobs surrounded by white spaces. These blobs presumably reflect the spatial concurrence of same color pixels – black near black and white near white. But how these concurrences form into blobs and background is the result of the operation of perceptual functions. The concurrences themselves don’t determine what is seen; they just make it possible to see certain things.
RM: After looking at the image long enough I was able to perceive a familiar configuration – that of a bearded man looking directly at me. This perception was the result of looking at the picture via a perceptual function that constructed a perception based not only on the concurrence of black with black and white with white but also of white with black, forming a contour.
RM: In PCT, the real world makes certain perceptions possible but it doesn’t determine what those perceptions should be. We learn to construct perceptions that are adaptive, not ones that are “correct”. It apparently is adaptive to be able to see human faces in a sensory array if that is a possibility. Hence, you were probably able to see the face in the image above either immediately or after some time staring at the image. So, was the face really there all along? PCT would say “no”, only the possibility of a face was there all along. The face doesn’t exist until there is a perceiver there who can perceive it.
RM: Since PCT assumes that controlled perceptual variables are constructed, there is never a question of how well these perceptual variables correspond to variables in real reality. What we want to know is what these variables are not how well they match variables in real reality. And we can find that out what the perceptual variables are using the test for the controlled variable.
RM: Once you have determined, using the test, what perceptual variable(s) an agent is controlling, you know the aspects of the environment that the agent is controlling – what are called controlled variables or controlled perceptual variables. The CEV, as Martin conceives it – as a variable in the real world to which the controlled perception can correspond to varying degrees – is simply irrelevant to PCT research. But, as I said, it has always been an important concept (though not by that name) in engineering psychology research. In engineering psychology the CEV is called “the variable a person should be controlling”. Engineering psychology is about finding how well people can control what they should be controlling when they carry out a prescribed task; PCT is about finding out what people are controlling when they are doing anything.
As usual, There’s no real point in trying to argue with Rick. He knows he is correct, and that’s all there is to it. If he won’t even accepts something Bill Powers insisted upon, because he knows that wasn’t what Bill meant — that we cannot perceived what is in our Real Reality environment, though we can come arbitrarily close to its functionality — what’s the point of trying to have a serious discussion intended (on one side) to resolve scientific issues?
I will discuss the science of Perceptual Control by individuals or in society with anyone willing to make serious criticisms of things I propose, or wiling to make cogent counter-arguments to criticisms I have made of their work, since I tend to believe that all science is either fundamentally wrongly based, or is only an approximation that could be improved. I am not prepared to discuss the gospel of “PCT”, even if it were rather more stable than in the absence of Bill Powers it has seemed to be.
My current understanding is that CEVs exist in Real Reality, and that how they function can never be known. CVs that are the projections of a perception into a conscious Perceptual Reality environment are known, by definition, and can be well controlled if and only if they correspond well to the CEV that provided the data used by the perceptual function to produce the controlled perception.
RM: … In PCT perceptions are assumed to be constructed from environmental variables – what you call Real Reality. These environmental variables, and, therefore, the perceptual variables constructed from them, are affected by our actions. When we control our perceptions we are at the same time controlling the environmental variables from which those perceptions are constructed.
MT: Apart from the always irritating reference to “PCT” as something that is inerrant ex cathedra, that is mostly correct,
RM: When I say “PCT” I know I am referring to a perceptual variable that is not the same for everyone. So when you see me say “PCT” just know that it is shorthand for “my view of PCT”.
MT: but the last sentence might prove misleading, in that it ignores that control is not perfect.
RM: The last sentence is: “When we control our perceptions we are at the same time controlling the environmental variables from which those perceptions are constructed”. Why might this be misleading? I can see that a much better (but more convoluted) way to have said this would have been: When we control our perceptions we are at the same time affecting the environmental variables (from which those perceptions are constructed) in such a way that the aspects of the environment that correspond to the controlled perceptions are also being controlled.
RM: An concrete example of what this horribly convoluted sentence means can be seen in what you do when you are controlling the area of the rectangle in my “What is size” demo. The environmental variables in this demo are the lengths of the rows of pixels that make up the horizontal (x) and vertical (y) sides of the rectangle. One perception (and aspect of those environmental variables) that can be constructed and controlled is x * y. Your output (mouse movement, o) affects one environmental component of this perception, the length of x such that x = o. So you control tan aspect of the environment – x * y – by varying o such that the perception that corresponds to this aspect of the environment – also x * y – is controlled.
MT: What can we deduce about our CEVs from the effects we observe in our perceptions either passively or in experiments.
RM: Can you give me an example of how anyone has gone about doing this?
MT: As for the “speed of the car” example, without looking at a speedometer whose existence was the result of science and engineering studies, one can be very wrong, as I discovered to my cost when I got a speeding ticket for believing a faulty speedometer and underestimating how its reading related to the police radar reading.
RM: But you can still control the speed of the car sans speedometer. Your apparent inability to control speed accurately simply means that you are not perceiving the same variable that the speedometer is perceiving. PCT research is aimed at determining the variable a driver is actually controlling when they are controlling what we see as her control of speed. Sometimes it might be the speedometer reading but more often (since you can’t keep your eyes constantly on the speedometer) it is probably some aspect of the visual movement of the surrounding environment. It’s the same situation as exists in the “What is size” demo; if the subject in that experiment perceives size as perimeter then you would see them doing a poor job of controlling the size of the rectangle if you perceive size as area.
In the slogan “it’s all perception”, “all” does not refer to what is (ontology), it refers to what we perceive (phenomenology) and know (epistemology). But that is not all there is. In fact, our perceptions and our knowledge are just kind of a decorative fringe on all that is. Or as our elder brother Isaac said, we are picking up pretty pebbles along the shore of a vast ocean. Get real.
Rick’s version of constructivism abandons ontology, on the grounds that perceptions are all that we can know. But ontology is the fundamental object of science: determining what is by testing and refining the collectively controlled perceptions of practitioners of a field iteratively in a disciplined way.<*>
Rick’s version of PCT might be of interest to scientists as a kind of metascience exercise in the philosophy of science, if a PCT researcher were to make it relevant to them by investigating, let’s say, what perceptions Katalin Kariko was controlling between the 1970s and this year, making connections between disparate findings in biochemistry, creating the mRNA platform for vaccine development (as sketched in this article in the Penn alum magazine). But nor she nor anyone else in the life sciences would consider for an instant that the proper home for their field is under the PCT umbrella.
No working scientist takes the terminologies and models of science to be realities. They act as though they are realities for the purpose of refining them. A failure of control may be an opportunity for such refinement, once errors of materials, method, and logic have been ruled out.
If we say that PCT abandons the ontological aims of science, and that doing so follows from fundamental principles of PCT, then we are of no interest to science and will not be taken seriously.
Psychology as it is institutionalized today, with its wannabe pretensions, does not exemplify how to do science. Maybe that’s why Rick lost touch with the commitment that science has to real reality. Conant’s case studies in experimental science would be a good antidote.
<*> Of course the perceptions that constitute a field of science are collectively controlled by its practitioners. That is what makes it a discipline. Learning a discipline is a matter of learning to perceive, and then to control, and then to join in collective control. Learning and grasping PCT is no different.
BN: In the slogan “it’s all perception”, “all” does not refer to what is (ontology), it refers to what we perceive (phenomenology) and know (epistemology). But that is not all there is. In fact, our perceptions and our knowledge are just kind of a decorative fringe on all that is. Or as our elder brother Isaac said, we are picking up pretty pebbles along the shore of a vast ocean. Get real.
RM: In PCT, perception is a hell of a lot more than a “decorative fringe”. The perceptual functions that define our perceptions in PCT define the aspects of Real Reality that we have to be able to control in order, ultimately, to survive. Without those perceptual functions you couldn’t tell a panther from a rolling stone (the kind that is actually a stone that rolls).
BN: Rick’s version of constructivism abandons ontology, on the grounds that perceptions are all that we can know. But ontology is the fundamental object of science: determining what is by testing and refining the collectively controlled perceptions of practitioners of a field iteratively in a disciplined way.<*>
BN: Rick’s version of PCT might be of interest to scientists as a kind of metascience exercise in the philosophy of science…
RM: I certainly don’t “abandon ontology” – perhaps you didn’t notice the “environment” component of “my version” of the PCT Model – but I am ready to abandon the version of PCT that seems to be prevalent on this list and in IAPCT in general. But “goodbye” is too good a word so I’ll just say “fair thee well”.
RM: If anyone would like to work with me on “my version” of PCT please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With more sleep and more patience I had better have said “it seems as though you are saying this, is that really what you intend?”
The substance would have been the same: Physicists, chemists, and other scientists are liable to interpret your words in a way that perhaps you don’t intend, and the result will be disinterest at best.
Yes. Cue a thundering chorus from the choir. We all agree on that. With a somewhat different emphasis, we might even say that “complete knowledge of Real Reality” is an oxymoron. Whether it be true knowledge, false, complete, defective, hypothetical, verified, theoretical, or dogmatic knowledge, what we know is perceptions.
What we know is perceptions which we take to be real, and which we experience as though reality. We often use the term ‘projection’ for perceptions experienced as though they are reality. When we say that we ‘project’ our perceptions into the environment we’re talking about that subjective experience of being in a real environment amid realities that we perceive just as they really are.
A muddle forms around two senses of the word “perception”. As you know, in PCT the word ‘perception’ is often used as a synonym of the technical term “perceptual signal”. ‘Perception’ in this sense does not refer to our subjective experience, although each perceptual signal is presumed to “correspond to” a perception-experience. The correspondence is quite mysterious and unexplained. This unexplained mystery is at the nexus of our inquiries about consciousness, awareness, and attention. Attempts to reduce these subjective phenomena to mechanisms in the model run aground on this ambivalence of terms. For the slogan “phenomena first” it seems that only certain collectively controlled perceptions qualify as phenomena. These subjective phenomena of consciousness, awareness, attention (except for its outward manifestations), and the qualia of experience are privately experienced and as such cannot be collectively controlled. It is this which makes them intractable for science.
“Perceptual aspect of real reality” is a fancy way of saying “low-level perception of reality”; low level because the perceptions of interest in the discussion are composed of them.
Real Reality :: perceptual aspects of Real Reality
Environment :: perceptions
EV :: CV at any level
CEV :: CV at a higher level
EV investigated in physical sciences :: “perceptual aspect of real reality” :: Intensity CV
Here, Bill is talking about a definition of the CEV. Such definitions of course are perceptual. As I understand him, Martin has never attempted to define a CEV. He only refers to it and asserts that it must exist, whatever it is.
It is the work of science to define CEVs in terms of the technical, collectively controlled concepts and terminology of each science. In everyday life we don’t attempt such definitions, we just assume that we experience realities.
The distinction that you are making here says that environmental variables are realities and perceptual variables are constructed from them. You use the term “environmental variables” to refer to those realities. Martin uses the same term, abbreviated EV. Martin also uses the term complex environmental variable, abbreviated CEV.
“Real Reality” was Bill’s term. He also referred to it as “Boss Reality”.
We presume that is the case. We have very good evidence. The evidence is perceptual, and the presumption is by inference from perceptions. The inferences themselves are perceptions.
The atoms and molecules and the models of chemistry and physics in which they are postulated are perceptions that physicists and chemists learn to perceive and control. By collective control they attempt to define CEVs which are not perceptions. (If a definition is not collectively controlled it is merely a private opinion. That is the social aspect of science.)
If your phrase “Martin’s CEV” refers to the concept ‘CEV’ then yes of course the concept is a perception. But for Martin, the term ‘CEV’ refers to something in the environment that is not a perception. It does not define what that something is. Under exactly the same essential limitation, your phrase “the environmental variables” refers to something real without attempting to define it.
CEV :: environmental variables
At times, one or another of us have waffled and have referred to the perceptions of an observer or experimenter as a surrogate for the CEV/environmental variables.
How can you ask? Deduction of gravity from Galileo’s experiments (plus other data that Newton had). The Michelson–Morley experiment dismissing the concept of the luminiferous aether. Need I go on? Deduction from experimental evidence is fundamental to science. One might say elementary, with or without Sherlock Holmes’s hat and pipe.
But you object specifically to the C in CEV.
The perceptual functions could not produce the higher-level perception unless the lower-level perceptions were concurrent. Not only concurrent, but in certain relationships to one another.
Those ‘aspects’ of your trick image which enable it to be recognized as a face are not merely present, they are co-present in certain relationships to one another. Those relationships must be perceived in addition to the atomized ‘aspects’ that you take to be sufficient. Put sugar, tart substances, certain oils, water, etc. on the tongue one after the other and the result is definitely not ‘the taste of lemonade’. In the artificial image are distinct configurations which are oriented and juxtaposed in a certain way. To make lemonade the ingredients are perceived severally as such and then they are mixed and the sugars dissolved into the mixture—a sequence of bringing-into-relationship activities. Or to analyze it a chemist separates the constituents of the mixture called lemonade.
Or you take it on faith that a chemist could do so—and in fact that statement of faith based on collectively controlled perceptions is all that has been offered. You invoke the chemist’s perceptions as warrant to say that “the models of chemistry tell us that atoms and molecules are the entities that make up real reality”, and presumably you would invoke the physiologist’s perceptions as warrant to say that those atoms and molecules cause sensors to produce the Intensity-level perceptual signals from which a higher-level neural function (also really real) assembles a neural signal that we experience as the taste of lemonade. So why not go along with the chemist’s sure conviction that those ingredients are really present in the real environment, whether or not we perceive them severally as aspects of the environment. Either the PCT model refers to really real realities or it’s not science and what’s the point. Because as you affirm the point of science is to construct a closer and closer approximation to true knowledge of reality.
Now what is learned by demonstrating that perceptual input functions can be fooled?
That’s a two-dimensional artifact, designed to be a challenge for facial recognition (e.g. by clipping just above the eyebrows and by extreme contrast in a binary palette, which has the effect of merging pixels into blobs). It’s not an environmental phenomenon of the sort for which those input functions for facial recognition evolved (genetic inheritance) and have reorganized with experience (learning). By its artifactual nature it shows that our perceptual functions can create perceptions of things that are not actually there. It demonstrates nothing about what is actually there in a natural environment. It demonstrates that we can fool our perceptual input functions; it does not demonstrate that they are fooled all the time.
I repeat that our perceptions tell us very little about reality. This is seen by investigations using instrumental extensions of the senses, investigations into perceptual inputs that non-human organisms control, and differences among individual humans. I don’t know why you quarrel with this observation.
You and I don’t have the perceptual input functions and reference values that enable foraging peoples (‘hunter-gatherers’) to make those kinds of distinctions. We live in a comprehensively built environment, amid and coddled by collectively maintained human artifacts on every side, with occasional glimpses of what we call ‘nature’ in parks, gardens, and cracks in the sidewalks. There are people who can train you in the skills of a tracker. That would be a start. In part, it involves hours of observing animals in habitat and examining the traces left on the ground after the activities that you observed. It also involves being in habitat through the course of days and gaining reference values for what sounds and smells ordinary, so that e.g. intrusion of a major predator would be big news long before any danger.
The project of science is to leverage our perceptions and collectively controlled artifactual extensions of our perceptions, to learn more than is presently evident. Isaac Newton alluded to this in his image of picking up pretty pebbles along the shore of an unknown ocean. Whence, my image of a decorative fringe.
In the history of science, as well as in everyday practicality, we have a propensity to dismiss as imaginary and unreal any evidence that other humans and creatures other than human perceive aspects of reality that we do not perceive. What we are pleased to call ‘materialism’ is no more than a reduction to familiar and tractable perceptions. Of actual material, that is all we know.
We build knowledge by fitting new information into the systems concepts that we already control. When something has to change in order to fit, the systems concept generally wins, because when it changes a lot of its inputs require adjustment. The place of collective control in PCT is this sort of challenge for you. A perspective that looks at systemic properties of control systems, control hierarchies, and interacting hierarchical control systems presents other sorts of challenges. It is perfectly OK and actually quite wonderful to stay with the kinds of experimental work and modeling in which you are most adept.
I think you ignore a crucial distinction, between what Nature does and what is the mechanism whereby if does it, “Does” and “Is” are res[ectively knowable and unknowable.
What Nature does is accessible to science, and to our reorganization processes. How Nature does it is not. I sometimes roll out my pet organization of bureaucratic gnomes to illustrate how impenetrable is the How. Nobody can scientifically refute an assertion that the gnomes are actually what is in Real Reality to do what we perceive Nature to do, though very few, I think would deem it very likely that Nature does what it does trough a complex structure of message-passing bureaucratic spirits. Nevertheless, it remains irrefutable as a possibility.
In contrast, the advancement of at least the physical sciences tells us ever more about how the internal operations of atoms and molecules work, but they only tell us, for example, what the different kinds of quarks and gluons “do” differently, never what they actually “are”.
In our Perceptual Reality. we can see what perceived entities are. At least at the lower levels of the perceptual control hierarchy they must work very much the same as does what whatever might be in Real Reality, though they may do what they do very differently indeed.
Nice. Wasn’t in the scope of what I was replying to, but I agree. Though I would say we can see what nature has done. If we could see what nature is doing we would see how. Moses could only see God’s ‘hinder parts’. In a kind of parallel to indeterminacy, we can see what’s happening without knowing what it is, or we can see a result or effect without seeing how.
Of course we obscure this by projecting explanatory principles and take the unfolding of the model in imagination to be a memory of witnessing the unfolding of the event. ‘Realists’ always win by defining the universe.
Fairly early in “Power of Perceptual Control” I introduce Norbert Weiner’s concept from the intro to “Cybernetics” of Black Boxes and White Boxes. Wiener asks a question about a Black Box that you can’t see inside, which has on its visible surface two sets of terminals, a set labelled “Input” and a set labelled “output”. Wiener’s engineer is tasked with finding out what the box does, and how it does it. The Engineer’s best effort is to build a “White Box” with a replica two sets of terminals, and produce a mechanism that produces the same outputs as does the Black Box when given the same inputs.
Software designs using Object Oriented Programming (OOP) work the same way. An Object (I use CAPS to distinguish a software Object from a perceived object such as a chair on which you sit) has a set of inputs, a programmed set of functions that transform those inputs into some output terminals. All the terminals connect to elsewhere in the software structure, and one might replace an Object written in C with one written in JAVA without at all affecting the functional relationships between input and output terminals. The internal functioning of a complex Object could even be written in OOP, so its internals consist only of simpler Objects, the properties of the bounding Object being determined by the connection patterns among the simpler Objects.
The same is true of everyday objects.A long time ago Eetu introduced me to his form of Semiotics by telling me (If I don’t misrepresent him) that every object has a pattern of ways of interacting with the world, and those patterns defne what the object is to the person acting on it. If it is pushed, it resists, how much and why depending on how else the object meets the world. Is it on a rough surface? What is its mass? How hot is it? and s forth, all of which affect how it resists your action on it. Does it move, does it surround your pressing finger, does it stay inert, simply resisting your push?
These are the object’s ways of functioning in the world, taking inputs and emitting inputs. If the object is or contains an invisible internal control system these input-output relationships are not necessarily consistent from event to apparently similar event, so to produce a “White Box” simulation of the object becomes much more complex. Physical or abstract objects are what they are, and we can find out about them by building White Boxes no more than nothing more than that a successful White Box does what the object does when interrogated by something like a finger push.
Real Reality is a Black Box with a hidden complication. It might have a whole set of hidden input or output terminals we cannot see when we build the White Box simulation. A successful simulation may include, for example, that Real Reality contains electromagnetic waves, a very small portion of which might influence our own input terminals (retinal rods and cones), or that we are flooded continually with trillions of wavicles we call “neutrinos” that do almost nothing we can detect. We have theories, all of which are built on a base of “if this is what that does, then the other magic will usually happen”.
Nothing is guaranteed, but much is highly probable, one of which is that few of our current White Boxes we call “science” will form parts of useful White Box models a few millennia from now. That is why I follow Niels Bohr in asking that you always treat as a question anything I assert .
Clever people might build White Box realities (working models) that do what Real Reality does, but they will never know whether Real Reality does it the way the White Boxes of Perceptual Reality do it.
Thanks for referencing Martin. Your interpretation is not exactly according what I thought and said - but actually it is better and like the way I think now. I had then learned a lot from a great ontologist John Heil, who said that it is the task of the ‘fundamental physics’ to find out what it is what basically exists. But now I think like you Martin that this task is not a realistic one.
Let’s call something existent X. We can know anything about X only via our perceptions. Our perceptions are based on and tell us only something that X ‘does’ to us = how it affects our sense organs = how it behaves. When we perceive (observe) X we often (or perhaps - in principle - always) also affect it. Often we do or try to control our perceptions of it. We can acquire new and different perceptions (= data) by observing more, from different angles, using or developing new input functions or metering devices. But they still are perceptions and based on the behavior of X. We can also make calculations and inferences, but they still are just complex perceptions based on our simpler perceptions.
So, could we know something about WHAT X is? No, only that is THAT which behaves like other Xs. We can give names to things. We can, for example, call those things who behave in a certain way atoms. If X behave like those thing we can say that it is an atom, but still we don’t know WHAT an atom is, only how it behaves. (This problem some how reminds me about the theme of dormitory principles.)
Ok, this was actually a long intro to another theme, which probably should be discussed in another thread. All existent things behave. But they don’t all control perceptions. So the dictum “Behavior = control of perceptions” is generally wrong. It is acceptable only against the background of behavioristic psychology. At least from my European perspective the slogan should be “Action = control of perceptions”. I have written about this earlier and I know it is hopeless to control others ways of speaking and thinking but I think this difference could be useful to take into account when spreading the word about PCT.