Science fiction

[From Bill Powers (930521.1800 MDT)]
A little science-fiction:

I would like to propose a theory: God, for each individual, is a
higher level of control systems in the individual, above the
level where awareness normally resides.

The higher level system can specify reference states for the
conscious level. These are experienced not as reference signals
(a control system does not sense its own reference signals), but
as a judgment applied to perceptions. Some perceptions are
correct, others are wrong. From the standpoint of the aware
systems, the knowledge of good and bad perceptions is simply
given; there is no reason why a given perception is good and is
to be sought, while another is bad and is to be avoided. One
simply knows when a perception is wrong and when it is right. It
is a reasonable hypothesis for the conscious system to conclude
that something other than itself is telling it about good and
bad, right and wrong.

A year ago or so, in discussing how the imagination connection
works, something someone said made me realize that in order to
imagine, a higher system has to put a subordinate system into the
imagination mode. A control system can't do this for itself. This
has always been evident, in retrospect, but was never said in so
many words. By throwing a lower-order system into the imagination
mode, a higher-level system can carry out a control action and
get back exactly the perceptions that it specifies. If the higher
system provided its own imagination connection, it would have to
provide an internal connection for each effect its outputs
normally have on lower-order systems, thus providing each input
to its own perceptual function that would occur with all the
lower-level systems in operation. But those connections already
exist in the normal mode; it would be far more parsimonious to
throw a switch that puts one or more lower systems into a mode
that makes each reference input become a perception in that
system, a perception which then follows the normal pathways to
the higher input function that are used in real-time operation.
So when systems at one level go into the imagination mode, the
imagined information is actually being used at the next higher
level. Only one set of many-to-one perceptual functions is then
needed, instead of one set for normal operation and a duplicate
set for operation through the imagination loop.

Now consider the experience of the state of imagination as if
awareness were limited to a set of lower-level systems,
experiencing only the perceptual signals in those and still-
lower-level systems. When a higher system institutes the
imagination connection, those systems would suddenly begin
experiencing new perceptions that are not coming from the
environment. One could experience, for example, verbal
statements, or perhaps just their meanings. These new perceptions
would arise without any conscious attempt to create them: they
would just occur. There would be no evidence as to why they
occurred or where they came from. It would be just as if someone
else were creating these experiences, using them to communicate
something by a non-physical means. One might find oneself
experiencing whole scenarios in which striving toward some goal-
state was the central theme, or in which the solution to a
problem was revealed.

The organization of these experiences would be elusive to the
conscious system, because it is the organization of a higher-
level system. If, for example, the conscious system were
operating at the logical or program level, a whole new logically-
connected procedure or argument might unfold, but the principle
behind it would not be evident; principles are not programs or
logic. It would be as if the logical self had been told "Do it
this way, and it will work." Even without understanding the
principle (or what a principle is), this level can bring about
the specified perception of a logical process, and sure enough,
it works. Of course it doesn't ALWAYS work, but the miracle is
that it EVER works when there is no logical reason why it should.
To the first person to work out the procedure for multiplication,
the idea for the program must have seemed divinely inspired --
and to others in the same position, that person must have seemed
a magician.

Or suppose that the conscious system were working at the
principle level. This level can perceive examples of principles
in sets of programs or logical procedures, and can act to change
the programs or procedures when the principle they embody departs
from a reference-state, but it cannot choose its own goal-
principles. Those are given to it as outputs from the system
concept level. To a consciousness operating up to the principle
level but no higher, the reference-principles would seem to be
selected as if by an outside intelligence, having all the power
of generalized commandments. This, and not that, is the RIGHT
principle. To another person working at the same level, a
description of the selected principles might seem to indicate
that their originator received them as a gift from another world.
To anyone operating no higher than the principle level, it would
not be evident why this set of principles produces a more
harmonious -- or at least more consistent or workable or coherent
-- life than any other set. Yet some sets of principles clearly
work together better than other sets, in some hard-to-define way.

At some stage in human evolution, there must have been a time
when the neural machinery required to support system concepts
simply did not exist. At that time, principles would have been
selected experimentally, through reorganization, for no
systematic reason. Before that, there must have been a time at
which no principles could be perceived or controlled; then,
logical procedures would have been selected by trial and error.
And so it goes, back to the least organized forms of life before
brains even existed.

As the possibility of new levels came into being, the skills at
using them must have developed in a slow and patchy way. The
highest level at any given time would have to go through a long
process of organization, working at first crudely and then in a
more and more extensive and effective way. Each new elaboration
at the new level must, of course, have been useful in order to be
selected, but the degree of utility would not instantly become
the maximum possible.

And evolution does not proceed in the same way over the entire
human race. Some individuals will have more equipment than others
from which to construct new systems at the developing level, just
by chance recombination of genetic materials. Even in one family
the differences can be large. This does not make the lucky
individuals any smarter than the others; the existence of the raw
neural materials does not specific how they will be used. If one
person is able to perceive and control principles more
extensively than another, the particular principles selected on a
trial-and-error basis might be less effective than those learned
by another person with fewer basic neural capabilities. A person
with more extensive equipment for constructing a higher level
might be far less capable, at a lower level, than many other
people, or even most other people. The development of a new level
and the process of putting it into operation in the existing
world are not systematically organized. Evolution and
reorganization operate through unsystematic change, followed by a
process of selection from the unpredictable results.

Now couple this idea with the mysterious phenomenon of awareness.
Consciousness, I have proposed, is a state that results when
awareness is associated with the perceptual signals at one or
more levels in the hierarchy. There is evidence that the locus of
awareness can change; in at least many cases, the control systems
involved may operate essentially the same way with and without
awareness (save for possible connections of awareness with
reorganization). There is informal evidence, too, that different
people habitually focus awareness at some highest level, at least
as adults, and that for them, the operation of any systems that
became organized at still higher levels is unconscious. At one
time those systems may have been conscious, but eventually people
seem to settle for a favorite level, a level at which they feel
(and may in fact be) most competent, perhaps. Or they may be
forced by circumstances to deal with problems at lower levels,
and come in that way to dwell there.

So a painter may focus at levels involving sensation and form and
relationship, while a physicist may focus at levels involving
categories, sequences, and mathematical logic. A Talmudic scholar
may focus at the level of logic and principle. A Bhuddist monk
may focus on system concepts -- but very few people can survive
by attending exclusively to that level of perception.

Most people, I think, consciously live somewhere in the middle
regions of the hierarchy. Whatever goes on at higher levels
operates without benefit of consciousness, whatever that benefit
is. At one time, they must have been aware at the higher levels
if the idea of reorganization being associated with awareness is
true. But whatever degree of organization came about at those
levels, by the time of late childhood the focus has returned to
lower levels where the immediate problems of life are, and the
higher levels from then on operate automatically, as they were
when last reorganized. This seems evident in at least some
instances, where the organization of higher-level concepts in a
person seems to be very simple and childlike. The last major
reorganizations occured when the person WAS a child.

This is another approach to the problem of belief. In this view,
a belief is not so much a fixed perception or reference signal as
a fixed organization at a higher level. It is evidence of an
unchanging way of controlling for the highest levels of
variables. A person in the grip of a belief is in conscious
control only of some intermediate level and downward; whatever
that person feels impelled to do at the highest level comes from
a source outside awareness, and because of not being subject to
conscious examination, from a source that can't be reorganized.

So when David Koresh said he was waiting for God to tell him what
to do (what to want to experience), he was telling the literal
truth, exactly as others who have said similar things have told
the literal truth. He was conscious of a systematic story, but he
did not know that it was coming from his own higher-level
systems. From the level where his awareness was stuck, all he
could do was wait for the urge to say or do something consistent
with the story. He took this urge, when it appeared in its own
time, as a message from God, and he could do nothing else but
what it demanded. To his followers, self-selected by their own
loci of awareness, David's demands were as much a revelation as
they were to David, and were as little comprehended. People
capable of forming their own principles and system concepts did
not follow David Koresh, or anyone else.

As I said: science-fiction. This is a plausible story put
together from principles that remain to be proven. But it is
grounded in experience, it is part of a logical conception of
human organization, and in principle it is falsifiable. It is
consistent with, or not inconsistent with, a vast body of
physical concepts and observations. It embodies PCT, a proven
principle.

So I ask whether this story is any less plausible than many
others that have been offered as an explanation for the same
kinds of phenomena.

ยทยทยท

-------------------------------------------------------------
Best,

Bill P.

[From Bill Powers (930523.0700 MDT)]

Greg Williams (930523) --

RE: Science fiction

Where are the miracles and wonders? Where are the multitudes
who have been converted to your idea? Where is the "inner
peace" due to belief in these notions? And where is your tax-
exempt certificate? Call me back when you're a Real Church,
with a tithe requirement.

Holy Smokes, man, with requirements like that even Jesus Christ
would have had to give up. After all, it took J. C. 100 years
even to make it into the literature.

However, the tithe requirement sounds like a great idea.

Best,

Bill P.

[ From Ray Allis (930524.10:30 PDT)]

[From Bill Powers (930521.1800 MDT)]
A little science-fiction:

I would like to propose a theory: God, for each individual, is a
higher level of control systems in the individual, above the
level where awareness normally resides.

This is exactly the thesis of Julian Jaynes' "The Origin of
Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind", (c. 1977?),
which (IMHO) is a seminal idea. Earned Julian much ridicule.

Ray Allis

From Tom Bourbon (930524.1057)

[From Bill Powers (930521.1800 MDT)]
A little science-fiction:

I would like to propose a theory: God, for each individual, is a
higher level of control systems in the individual, above the
level where awareness normally resides.

An appealing theory, for all of the reasons you gave in subsequent
paragraphs, and it implies a level above that of system concepts. I have
always though there should be one up there -- self, corporation, team,
nation and their likes all are "places where one can seem to be" and they
imply something coming from above.

..

A year ago or so, in discussing how the imagination connection
works, something someone said made me realize that in order to
imagine, a higher system has to put a subordinate system into the
imagination mode. A control system can't do this for itself. This
has always been evident, in retrospect, but was never said in so
many words. By throwing a lower-order system into the imagination
mode, a higher-level system can carry out a control action and
get back exactly the perceptions that it specifies. If the higher
system provided its own imagination connection, it would have to
provide an internal connection for each effect its outputs
normally have on lower-order systems, thus providing each input
to its own perceptual function that would occur with all the
lower-level systems in operation. But those connections already
exist in the normal mode; it would be far more parsimonious to
throw a switch that puts one or more lower systems into a mode
that makes each reference input become a perception in that
system, a perception which then follows the normal pathways to
the higher input function that are used in real-time operation.
So when systems at one level go into the imagination mode, the
imagined information is actually being used at the next higher
level. Only one set of many-to-one perceptual functions is then
needed, instead of one set for normal operation and a duplicate
set for operation through the imagination loop.

This suggests a modeling experiment. In the cognitive model we used in
"Models and Their Worlds" (from now on referred to as WORLDS), there was
a perfect "plan" for momemt-by-moment positions of the model's simulated
handle. We allowed the model to turn the plan directly into a handle
position. The model acted to produce those positions, independently of
environmental consequences, which were left to be driven hither and yon by
environmental disturbances. In terms of psychiatric diagnostic labels, this
model might be said to be delusional -- a person acting as though the world
worked in a particular way, when it did not, might produce results like these.

In one of the much earlier (and far too lengthy) versions of the
paper, I included the results of simulations in which the PCT model
recreated the results of the cognitive (and S-R) model. To duplicate the
performance of the cognitive model, all the PCT model needed was a reference
signal that specified moment-by-moment perceptions of handle position. The
PCT model did not specify movements; it specified perceptions -- but it
acted through the simulated environment and it sensed the position of the
simulated handle. Someone unfamiliar with PCT (in other words, the near
world!) could easily believe they were watching the actions of a cognitive,
plan-driven system.

The next "Experiment?" To connect the error signals from the (implied --
divine?) level that specifies moment-by-moment perceptions of handle
position to the input function of the level that senses the momentary
position of the simulated handle. If the "imagined" input satisfies the
reference signal from on high, the model should sit there, in simulation,
contemplating its handle positions and doing nothing to its simulated
environment -- "speaking psychiatrically," it would be hallucinating
its interactions with the world; the variables it COULD affect, it will
not affect. (A person speaking as a master of aspiring meditators probably
would use different words to describe the results.)

Will it be necessary to also disconnect the input from the simulated
environment, or will imagination alone be enough to render the environment
ineffective? Or, as seems more likely, will different magnitudes
of environmental actions and consequences occur with different
degrees of "shutting off" of environmental input? These questions are not
as elegant as Bill's "science fiction," but they give a modeler a chance to
"play divine" and stick reference signals into a (simulated) head.

Now consider the experience of the state of imagination as if
awareness were limited to a set of lower-level systems,
experiencing only the perceptual signals in those and still-
lower-level systems. When a higher system institutes the
imagination connection, those systems would suddenly begin
experiencing new perceptions that are not coming from the
environment. ...

Switching from non-imagination to imagination mode in the simulation I just
described should produce an immediate change in actions and consequences.
..

As I said: science-fiction. This is a plausible story put
together from principles that remain to be proven. But it is
grounded in experience, it is part of a logical conception of
human organization, and in principle it is falsifiable. It is
consistent with, or not inconsistent with, a vast body of
physical concepts and observations. It embodies PCT, a proven
principle.

So I ask whether this story is any less plausible than many
others that have been offered as an explanation for the same
kinds of phenomena.

"Any less plausible?" you ask. Certainly not! ("Any less profitable?" you
did not ask. Certainly! Unless the Powers' mountain-top PCT meditative
shrine has acquired a golden dome since the last CSG conference.)

Until later,
  Tom Bourbon