[Martin Taylor 991228 11:00]
[from Mary Powers 991227]
I hope this will not continue past the New Year. It would be nice to make
a fresh start, and I am tempted not to make this reply. On balance,
however, to reply seems better than not to do so. Even though I fear
that this message will not contribute to ending the topic.
to Martin (991226 09:19)
I have some comments on the explanation that followed your apology to Bill.
First, the idea that CSG is "rather like a Royal Court" (!), in which
everything Bill says carries more weight than what anyone else says, and
therefore he has to be more careful about what he says than anyone else:
Carrying more weight is only true (or should only be true) when it is a
matter of expertise.
Agreed, and it is true that Bill has more expertise on most aspects of
perceptual control than do any of the other participants. That's what
makes whatever Bill says more important than whatever anyone else says,
and why it matters more to the advancement of PCT and the usefulness of
CSGnet as a whole that he be _very_ careful about what he says. The King
can't avoid being King just by not wanting to be King.
Bill has never tried to get rid of anybody - they depart on their own. And
Henry II did not order Thomas' death; his courtiers interpreted "get rid"
as "kill". It was like asking for a sandwich and getting a 7-course meal.
That was my point. Henry didn't want to get rid of Beckett, either.
Beckett had been, and to some extent remained, his best friend. Henry
made a human comment out of frustration with Beckett's political
actions--but the King was King, however much at that moment he would
have preferred just to be one of the boys, and Beckett died.
Next, the idea that PCT can't afford to lose people who understand PCT:
If someone really understands PCT, then leaving CSG doesn't matter.
But I was not talking about someone leaving who _really understands_ PCT.
(Come to think of it, I'm not sure that any such people exist, and I
include Bill in this, taking him at his word.)
My comments were explicitly about those who might come to understand PCT
well, and who bring with them expertise on matters that are not well
understood by the existing participants. That seems to me to be a common
denominator linking many of the people who have left. No advantage
is taken of their special expertise, and when they try to bring it to
bear, they are told that they simply don't understand (perhaps they are
told even that they don't understand that their expertise is irrelevant
to PCT). Maybe they don't, and maybe their expertise _is_ irrelevant,
but usually they vanish before they can come to understand, and before
the relevance of their expertise can properly be assessed.
They'll go off thinking and doing PCT whether or not they stay in touch.
If getting mad at Bill and therefore dumping CSG means dumping PCT, then no
loss, they never really got into it anyway.
Why is that "no loss?" It seems to me a potentially great loss that they
didn't get into it. That's what really worries me about this pattern of
Finally, your own reluctance to mention aspects of control systems because
you will be criticized for them:
Not "because I will be criticised for them." Relevant criticism is what
I would hope for if I were to start discussing those notions.
Bill has subjected your ideas to what he believes was "constructive
analysis" and "cogent criticism", even if you do not.
No, I do not, in most cases. What usually seems to happen is that an
initial comment has been to the point. When I address that comment,
if it hasn't solved the issue, there may be a second relevant answer, but
the usual pattern has been to slide the topic away from the point that
was at issue into something quite different, leaving any ideas that might
have been seriously addressed hanging in the air, obscured by a smokescreen
What he did not do
was agree enthusiastically that your analyses will advance science as much
as you think they will.
I've never wanted that. What I want is relevant analysis and criticism. It
is very difficult to advance a science without putting forward ideas that
prove to be wrong when addressed by someone else who is prepared to think
seriously about why they might be right or why they might be wrong. I
haven't found that level of seriousness to be common when I or anyone
else advances an idea that was not in the original description of HPCT,
but that the originator thinks might be scientifically helpful to the
understanding of what PCT actually implies.
If the idea advanced is really wrong, then any real scientist will be able
to see that it is so, given appropriate arguments or experiments. If it
remains plausible when attacked, it remains to be determined in what way
it is wrong or inadequate (I start from the proposition that _all_ theories
are either wrong or inadequate).
I don't care who it is that provides the criticism. I usually "talk to"
Bill because (a) has usually has the most expertise, and (b) nobody else
seems prepared to advance comment. Why I am often reluctant to present
my notions for critical comment is not becasue I fear they will be shot
down, but because experience has led me to expect that they will remain
flying through the smoke of mis-aimed fire, while the gunners proclaim
that since they can no longer be seen, the ideas have been shot down.
I'd rather they be properly shot down. It's to nobody's benefit to have
one's mind cluttered with notions that are simply wrong.