Simon's ant

[From Bruce Abbott (990426.1405 EST)]

Bill Powers (990426.0631 MDT) --

Bruce Abbott (990425.1600 EST)

But to say
that the complexity of the path does not come from "disturbances" is
stretching mightily to make a point, Bill. If the ant just kept walking on
a true heading toward the nest, it would soon encounter barriers and
deflecting surfaces that would either push it off course or bring it to a
complete halt.

The disturbances of which you speak are caused by the ant, not by its
environment.

O.K., have it your way: the environment has nothing to do with it. The
ant's path is complex because the ant is complex, not because its direct way
home is blocked at multiple points along the way. Maybe you believe it; I
don't.

In their absence the ant would make a bee-line (ant-line?)
for the nest.

You are assuming that the _only_ goal is to return to the nest. I doubt
that this is ever the case.

Yes I am. I can do that in order to illustrate a point can't I? You are
doubtless right if we are discussing real ants in all their marvelous
detail, but I thought I was just using the example to make a point about how
an ant whose only goal was to get to the nest by the straightest path
possible would behave if nothing got in its way. It's as if I were
attempting to explain the motion of an ideal pendulum and you said "you are
assuming an absence of friction. I doubt that this is ever the case."
True, but irrelevant to the present argument.

Thus, bringing in additional control systems with their
sometimes conflicting requirements doesn't change the fact that the complex
path observed is a consequence of the complexity of the environment and not
the complexity of the ant. In the absence of obstacles the complexity of the
ant to which you refer still remains, yet the path is simple.

You are now asserting that the complexity of the ant can be greater than
that of its environment.

I assert no such thing. What Simon was saying is that complex behavior does
not necessarily require a complex organism, that the apparent complexity in
behavior may arise because of the complexity of the terrain over the which
the ant must crawl. It's a simple point, Bill, and one with which you of
all people should have no quarrel. The complex waveform of the plot of
handle movement in a tracking task mirrors the complexity of the
distrubances acting on cursor position, not any complexity in the five-line
Pascal model of the control system that can accurately simulate this
behavior. HPCT is fundamentally simple, yet it is capable of generating
extremely complex actions if the environment requires them. Not so?

Also, you are making up an observation to fit the conclusion you want to
draw. I think it would be very hard to find an ant that simply headed in a
straight line for its nest, even in the total absence of irregularities in
the terrain.

This sounds like relevant criticism but it is not. Again, as should be
obvious, the example of the ant was not intended to provide a realistic
model of a real ant, but to illustrate the point that in the absence of
obstacles an ant controlling for heading directly for the nest would move
directly for the nest. (Not a brilliant point but apparently one that needed
to be made, given your previous responses.)

Simon's statements about ants were glib, not scientifically useful.

It's a _very_ simple but elegant point Simon was making: don't assume, just
because the observed actions are complex, that the system producing them
must be complex. There's nothing glib about it, and certainly there is
scientific utility in keeping it in mind when attempting to puzzle out why a
given system behaves as it has been observed to do. If Simon's insight were
wrong, and complex actions required complex systems to perform them, there
would be no way that the complex waveform of handle movement in the tracking
task could be modeled so well by such a simple set of system equations. Yet
they are. The excellent modeling of tracking actions by simple
control-system equations confirms Simon's conjecture.

Bruce

[From Bill Powers (990427.1644 MDT)]

Bruce Abbott (990426.1405 EST)--

The disturbances of which you speak are caused by the ant, not by its
environment.

O.K., have it your way: the environment has nothing to do with it.

The environment has something to do with it. The environment includes the
environmental feedback function through which the ant's actions affect its
perceptions (according to PCT). When the ant comes up against a passive
obstacle, the forces that result are caused entirely by the ant's muscles.
Only if there is an independent active source of forces acting on the ant
would we identify it as the "disturbing variable" in the standard PCT
diagram.

The
ant's path is complex because the ant is complex, not because its direct way
home is blocked at multiple points along the way. Maybe you believe it; I
don't.

If the ant's actions were totally and blindly automatic, the path taken by
the ant would reflect every obstacle and every disturbance. But it does
not. Generally, the ant's path is _not_ deflected by obstacles; it is
independent of them. The ant might turn aside on encountering a large
pebble, or it might simply climb over the pebble and stay on course. The
ant does not veer off of upslopes or turn down downslopes, as Simon
imagined. To the contrary; I know of ants which, on encountering a 6 x 6
post sunk into the ground, climb up it, eventually ending up in my house.
We are not seeing merely a confluence of forces, one due to the goal and
the rest due to the environment, as Simon imagined.

In their absence the ant would make a bee-line (ant-line?)
for the nest.

You are assuming that the _only_ goal is to return to the nest. I doubt
that this is ever the case.

Yes I am. I can do that in order to illustrate a point can't I?

I suppose so, if your point is to write science-fiction. If pigs had wings
they could fly. If ants had only a single goal, and used a perception that
gave them continuous direct perception of their relation to it (such as the
ability to see the goal-object at a distance, or smell it differentially in
two antennae on a windless day), and if it had no other goals and there
were no obstacles in the way, then yes, it would travel in a straight line
toward the goal. But by the time you have specified all the necessary
"if"s, you will have departed from the world of reality.

Of course you are implying that if there were obstacles, the ant would not
travel in a straight line toward its goal. That doesn't follow. If you see
an ant traveling in a straight line, chances are that it's counteracting
disturbances too small for you to see without a magnifying glass, thus
leading you to think that there aren't any. Or you may be assuming that
because the path remains undisturbed, there must not be any disturbing
forces acting. It may be puzzling how one ant could climb right over the
back of another ant while both ants continue on their paths, but you can
always shrug and say that the net force must have just happened to come out
zero for both ants.

You are
doubtless right if we are discussing real ants in all their marvelous
detail, but I thought I was just using the example to make a point about how
an ant whose only goal was to get to the nest by the straightest path
possible would behave if nothing got in its way.

Your observations are too limited. An ant often deviates abruptly from its
path when nothing at all is in its way. During our campground observations
of individual ants, Tom and I would often look at each other and say "Now,
why did it do THAT?" I doubt that you could find any correlation between
the placements of small obstacles and the path of the ant, especially if
you plotted the path from above.

It's as if I were
attempting to explain the motion of an ideal pendulum and you said "you are
assuming an absence of friction. I doubt that this is ever the case."
True, but irrelevant to the present argument.
What Simon was saying is that complex behavior does
not necessarily require a complex organism, that the apparent complexity in
behavior may arise because of the complexity of the terrain over the which
the ant must crawl. It's a simple point, Bill, and one with which you of
all people should have no quarrel. The complex waveform of the plot of
handle movement in a tracking task mirrors the complexity of the
distrubances acting on cursor position, not any complexity in the five-line
Pascal model of the control system that can accurately simulate this
behavior. HPCT is fundamentally simple, yet it is capable of generating
extremely complex actions if the environment requires them. Not so?

Yes, I understand your meaning here, but it is not Simon's meaning. I
repeat, Simon considered the organism to be one gigantic input-output
function, and said so in so many words. He saw a goal as essentially a bias
in a given direction, and behavior as the resultant of goal-driven
tendencies and effects from the environment, totally open-loop. It never
occured to him that the complexities of the behavior of even an ant could
arise from complex interactions among dozens of internal goals at multiple
levels, even in an ant, and be essentially independent of what appear to be
complexities of the environment.

Also, you are making up an observation to fit the conclusion you want to
draw. I think it would be very hard to find an ant that simply headed in a
straight line for its nest, even in the total absence of irregularities in
the terrain.

This sounds like relevant criticism but it is not. Again, as should be
obvious, the example of the ant was not intended to provide a realistic
model of a real ant, but to illustrate the point that in the absence of
obstacles an ant controlling for heading directly for the nest would move
directly for the nest. (Not a brilliant point but apparently one that needed
to be made, given your previous responses.)

But that is not at all assured. You have to suppose that the ant is not
controlling other perceptions to which the presence or absence of obstacles
is irrelevant, such as scents and light variations. You have to assume that
its internal goal structure remains completely fixed, and that all goals
represent static (rather than time-varying) states of affairs. Your example
is indeed not a brilliant point; it rests on unspoken assumptions of which
you seem unaware.

Simon's statements about ants were glib, not scientifically useful.

It's a _very_ simple but elegant point Simon was making: don't assume, just
because the observed actions are complex, that the system producing them
must be complex.

Bruce, how would those statements of Simon's appear to you if you took away
all suggestions that he knew anything about PCT? Simon's argument is really
less like a PCT argument and more like that of Albert Weiss and others who
used the "raindrop analogy" of purposive behavior. One popular idea in
mid-century was that the behavior of organisms that seemed purposive was
analogous to the behavior of a drop of water on an irregular inclined
plane. Under the urging of gravity, the drop would move down the slope,
moving irregularly (Skinner would have said "capriciously") to the left and
right in a complex path as if it were guided by varying internal
motivations, and all the while seeking a goal of being at the bottom of the
slope. In fact, went this story, its path was completely predetermined by
factors outside it. The complex behavior of the drop reflected only
complexities in its environment and the unchanging force of gravity.

This analogy was concocted for the express purpose of showing that
apparently purposive behavior was really caused by the environment. Simon
was merely repeating this well-accepted way of denying inner purposes.

There's nothing glib about it, and certainly there is
scientific utility in keeping it in mind when attempting to puzzle out why a
given system behaves as it has been observed to do. If Simon's insight were
wrong, and complex actions required complex systems to perform them, there
would be no way that the complex waveform of handle movement in the tracking
task could be modeled so well by such a simple set of system equations. Yet
they are. The excellent modeling of tracking actions by simple
control-system equations confirms Simon's conjecture.

No, it would astonish Simon, were he to understand what he was seeing. The
problem is that the handle's movements are not irregular because irregular
forces are being applied to it, but because irregular disturbances are
being applied to the perception being controlled, and being counteracted by
the actions. There are plenty of small irregularities in the handle
movements that are uncorrelated with anything else in the environment (that
we know about). Simon didn't have any insight; he was merely repeating what
many others maintained about complex behavior.

We can explain, now, how it is that the environment can produce variations
in behavior that are as complex as the disturbances applied by the
environment. In fact, seeing how simple the system is that is needed to
counteract environmental disturbances, I think the proper conclusion is
that the environment isn't really as complex as it seems. "Complexity" is a
subjective term, and depends on how much you know. Once you understand
something, it's simple.

And furthermore, seeing a case in which behavior mirrors known disturbances
is not sufficient to show that complexities in behavior are strictly
confined to mirroring complex disturbances. We also have even more striking
cases of complexities in behavior in the absence of any known disturbances
-- in fact, people who indulge in many kinds of complex behavior seem to
seek out environments that are quiet and unobtrusive, to preclude the need
to waste energy counteracting them. If you see an organism producing
complex behavior in a complex environment, you may be quite mistaken in
assuming that the complex variations are highly correlated.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Bruce Abbott (990428.0800 EST)]

Bill Powers (990427.1644 MDT) --

Bruce Abbott (990426.1405 EST)

The environment has something to do with it. The environment includes the
environmental feedback function through which the ant's actions affect its
perceptions (according to PCT). When the ant comes up against a passive
obstacle, the forces that result are caused entirely by the ant's muscles.

I never thought otherwise.

Only if there is an independent active source of forces acting on the ant
would we identify it as the "disturbing variable" in the standard PCT
diagram.

In my view, the actions of one control system may disturb a variable being
controlled by another control system. Hypothetical example: The ant is
moving forward along a given path because of the actions of one set of
control systems; if this forward motion brings the ant to an obstacle in its
path, then a variable being controlled by another system (proximity) gets
disturbed and action is initiated to counter the effect of that disturbance.
The proximity system neither knows nor cares whether the obstacle was
brought into proximity by "an independent active source of forces" or by the
actions of another of the ant's own control systems. It just "sees" a
disturbance to its controlled variable and takes action.

If the ant's actions were totally and blindly automatic, the path taken by
the ant would reflect every obstacle and every disturbance.

First, no one has asserted that the ant's actions are "totally and blindly
automatic." (I am assuming you mean totally open loop.)

But it does
not. Generally, the ant's path is _not_ deflected by obstacles; it is
independent of them.

Not the paths of the ant's _I've_ observed! My observations indicate that
ants navigating on rough terrain do a _lot_ of direction-changing to go
around or over obstacles in their paths.

The ant might turn aside on encountering a large
pebble, or it might simply climb over the pebble and stay on course.

You are now defining "course" two-dimensionally. Do you think the ant does?

The
ant does not veer off of upslopes or turn down downslopes, as Simon
imagined. To the contrary; I know of ants which, on encountering a 6 x 6
post sunk into the ground, climb up it, eventually ending up in my house.
We are not seeing merely a confluence of forces, one due to the goal and
the rest due to the environment, as Simon imagined.

Like the ant, you are veering off course, Bill. I don't care what Simon may
have thought the mechanism was. I've only been defending Simon's insight
that complex actions may reflect complexity in the environment rather than a
complex internal organization. You haven't convinced me that this insight
is wrong.

I suppose so, if your point is to write science-fiction. If pigs had wings
they could fly. If ants had only a single goal, and used a perception that
gave them continuous direct perception of their relation to it (such as the
ability to see the goal-object at a distance, or smell it differentially in
two antennae on a windless day), and if it had no other goals and there
were no obstacles in the way, then yes, it would travel in a straight line
toward the goal. But by the time you have specified all the necessary
"if"s, you will have departed from the world of reality.

This is unfair, because neither Simon nor I ever intended to attempt a model
of any real ant. Simon began with a common observation: watching an ant on
the beach making its way back to its nest. He observed that the ant had
many obstacles in its path, and often took a circuitous route as required to
get around them and continue toward the nest. He noted that if you drew the
ant's path on paper it would appear to be complex -- lots of loops and
wiggles and sudden turns -- but that this complexity need not imply a
parallel complexity within the ant. The path might be capable of being
fully accounted for by some fairly simple "rules" (my word) operating within
the ant, interacting with the complexities of the terrain the ant must cross.

Exactly what those "rules" (system equations) are is not the subject of this
discussion, no matter how much you insist that they are.

Of course you are implying that if there were obstacles, the ant would not
travel in a straight line toward its goal. That doesn't follow. If you see
an ant traveling in a straight line, chances are that it's counteracting
disturbances too small for you to see without a magnifying glass, thus
leading you to think that there aren't any. Or you may be assuming that
because the path remains undisturbed, there must not be any disturbing
forces acting. It may be puzzling how one ant could climb right over the
back of another ant while both ants continue on their paths, but you can
always shrug and say that the net force must have just happened to come out
zero for both ants.

A masterly example of a straw-man argument. You have said nothing here that
has anything even remotely to do with Simon's conjecture.

Your observations are too limited. An ant often deviates abruptly from its
path when nothing at all is in its way. During our campground observations
of individual ants, Tom and I would often look at each other and say "Now,
why did it do THAT?" I doubt that you could find any correlation between
the placements of small obstacles and the path of the ant, especially if
you plotted the path from above.

More of the same. I can't tell if you're _missing_ the point or
deliberately trying to obfuscate it.

It's a simple point, Bill, and one with which you of

all people should have no quarrel. The complex waveform of the plot of
handle movement in a tracking task mirrors the complexity of the
distrubances acting on cursor position, not any complexity in the five-line
Pascal model of the control system that can accurately simulate this
behavior. HPCT is fundamentally simple, yet it is capable of generating
extremely complex actions if the environment requires them. Not so?

Yes, I understand your meaning here, but it is not Simon's meaning. I
repeat, Simon considered the organism to be one gigantic input-output
function, and said so in so many words.

Ah, now I understand the high-gain resistance. I really don't have any
evidence that Simon held this view; it certainly was not expressed in
_Sciences of the Artificial_, at least as I recall it now. And it isn't the
view I am attempting to defend here. How did we shift from a simple
conjecture Simon made about the origins of the complexity of observed
behavior to a discussion about open- versus closed-loop models? Simon's
conjecture does not entail an open-loop model, even if he had one in mind
when he made it.

Regards,

Bruce

[From Bruce Gregory (990428.0928 EDT)]

Bill Powers (990427.1644 MDT)]

But that is not at all assured. You have to suppose that the
ant is not
controlling other perceptions to which the presence or
absence of obstacles
is irrelevant, such as scents and light variations. You have
to assume that
its internal goal structure remains completely fixed, and
that all goals
represent static (rather than time-varying) states of
affairs. Your example
is indeed not a brilliant point; it rests on unspoken
assumptions of which
you seem unaware.

Well stated. My only wish is that an equally enlightened position had
emerged during the discussion of coercion.

Bruce Gregory

[From Rick Marken (990428.0730)]

Bill Powers (990427.1644 MDT) --

You have to suppose that the ant is not controlling other
perceptions to which the presence or absence of obstacles
is irrelevant, such as scents and light variations. You
have to assume that its internal goal structure remains
completely fixed, and that all goals represent static (rather
than time-varying) states of affairs. Your example
is indeed not a brilliant point; it rests on unspoken
assumptions of which you seem unaware.

Bruce Gregory (990428.0928 EDT)

Well stated. My only wish is that an equally enlightened
position had emerged during the discussion of coercion.

What does the fact that organisms (like ants) control many
perceptions simultaneously have to do with the fact that
organisms sometimes coerce other organisms? Why is PCT an
"enlightened position" when one is explaining the behavior of
ants but not an enlightened position when explaining the
behavior of a person who controls the behavior of another
person using force or the credible threat thereof?

Best

Rick

···

--
Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313
Life Learning Associates e-mail: rmarken@earthlink.net
http://home.earthlink.net/~rmarken

[From Bruce Gregory (990428.1127 EDT)]

Rick Marken (990428.0730)

What does the fact that organisms (like ants) control many
perceptions simultaneously have to do with the fact that
organisms sometimes coerce other organisms? Why is PCT an
"enlightened position" when one is explaining the behavior of
ants but not an enlightened position when explaining the
behavior of a person who controls the behavior of another
person using force or the credible threat thereof?

I'm afraid the point is too subtle for you. Just chalk it up to my
distorted view of reality. You will anyway and we can save a lot of time
by arriving at this inevitable conclusion at the outset.

Bruce Gregory

[From Rick Marken (990428.1020)]

Bruce Abbott (990428.0800 EST)--

Simon began with a common observation: watching an ant on
the beach making its way back to its nest. He observed that
the ant had many obstacles in its path, and often took a
circuitous route as required to get around them and continue
toward the nest. He noted that if you drew the ant's path on
paper it would appear to be complex -- lots of loops and
wiggles and sudden turns -- but that this complexity need not
imply a parallel complexity within the ant.

I think the problem in this discussion turns on failure to
recognize that "behavior" refers to both _acts_ and _results_.
Simon focused only on acts; the means used to keep results
(controlled variables) under control. He noticed that complex
acts (like a circuitous route) mirror complex environmental
events (obstacles). What he didn't notice is that results of
these acts (like getting back to the anthill) do _not_ mirror
the complex environmental events that _should_ affect them.

Behavior _appears_ complex when controlled results (variables)
are ignored. Behavior can appear to be much simpler when looked at
in terms of controlled variables. Simon's notion that "complex
actions reflect complexity in the environment rather than a complex
internal organization" is a conclusion he came to only because
he knew nothing about _controlled variables_. When one looks at
behavior in terms of actions (ignoring the variables controlled
by these actions) behavior seems to "reflect the complexity of the
environment"; but when one looks at behavior in terms of controlled
variables, behavior seems to have nothing to do with the complexity
of the environment; any "complexity" one sees in behavior seems
to be _independent_ of the complexity of the environment.

So Simon's apparently wise insight (that "complex actions reflect
complexity in the environment rather than a complex internal
organization") tells us nothing more than that Simon (like all
psychologists before and since) didn't know a controlled variable
when he was looking right at one. He couldn't see, for example,
that the ant's "circuitous route" is itself a controlled variable
that reflects none of the environmental complexities (changes in
slope and texture of the terrain) that should affect it. These
environmental complexities are not "reflected" in the ant's
circuitous route because the ant varies it's gait (lower level
actions) in exactly the right way so it's route is protected
from them.

The environmentally determined complexity Simon saw in behavior
reflects nothing more that Simon's inclination to look at the
phenomenon of control from a particular point of view in his
own perceptual hierarchy: in terms of environment-action
relationships instead of in terms of controlled results of
those relationships.

Once again, Simon's problem comes down to not knowing what a
controlled variable _is_ and, therefore, not noticing this
aspect of behavior when he was looking right at it.

Best

Rick

···

---
Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313
Life Learning Associates e-mail: rmarken@earthlink.net
http://home.earthlink.net/~rmarken

[From Bruce Abbott (990428.1750 EST)]

Rick Marken (990428.1020) --

I think the problem in this discussion turns on failure to
recognize that "behavior" refers to both _acts_ and _results_.
Simon focused only on acts; the means used to keep results
(controlled variables) under control. He noticed that complex
acts (like a circuitous route) mirror complex environmental
events (obstacles). What he didn't notice is that results of
these acts (like getting back to the anthill) do _not_ mirror
the complex environmental events that _should_ affect them.

Simon in his little ant example focused on the observable path of the ant.
He noted that the ant had a goal (whenever possible the ant's path veered
back onto a course toward its nest) and that it eventually reached that
goal, albeit via a circuitous path. He could see that the deviations from a
direct path toward the nest often resulted from obstacles laying in the
ant's path, which the ant had to veer around or crawl over. The path as
drawn on paper would describe a very complex curve. He conjectured that the
complexity of this figure was due mainly to the complexity of the
environment -- to the many obstacles which forced the ant to deviate from
its path toward the nest, and not necessarily to any complexity in the in
the ant itself (i.e., its behavioral system).

In this example, Simon was not trying to describe the system mediating the
observed behavior; he was merely conjecturing that it may be relatively
simple; that complexity in the observed path does not require a
corresponding complexity in the system whose operation, in conjunction with
environmental inputs, produces the complex path observed.

So whether Simon believed that the underlying system was closed-loop,
open-loop, feedback, feedforward, TOTE, heirarchical, heterarchical, or some
combination of the above is ABSOLUTELY IRRELEVANT to this discussion. If
you want to see a nice confirmation of Simon's conjecture, run Bill's CROWD
program. The little moving circles embody a very simple little set of
control systems, yet they produce some astonishly complex paths as they make
their way among the obstacles on the screen toward their reference position
on the other side.

One more thing. You write as if you had some authoritative knowledge of
what Simon did or did not understand, did or did not know, yet I'll bet
you've never even read what he had to say. The "Simon" about whom you write
is completely a product of your own imagination, a straw man you erect in
order to destroy.

Regards,

Bruce

[From Rick Marken (990428.1950)]

Bruce Abbott (990428.1750 EST)

He [Herb Simon] conjectured that the complexity of this figure
was due mainly to the complexity of the environment

And that's just dandy. But it tells us nothing about why that
might be true (why the complexity of the action is "due mainly to"
the complexity of the environment in this case). And what about
other cases where the complexity of the action is clearly _not_
"due mainly to" the complexity of the environment -- as in the
case of the position of the ant at each point in it's path, which
should be affected by the complexity of the slope and texture
of the terrain but is not.

As I said in my post, Simon noticed one aspect of control
(the aspect that most psychologists have noticed -- disturbance
resistance) but not another (controlled variables). We can see
both aspects of control in the crowd demo; we are usually most
impressed by the complex paths that result from disturbance
resistance (people avoiding others who disturb the variables
these people control); but we can also notice (if we look
carefully) that some variables -- such as minimum distance
and destination -- are not influenced much by these disturbances.
So some aspects of behavior seem to be due mainly to the
complexity of the environment (movements of other people in the
crowd, in this case) while other aspects of behavior seems to be due
mainly to complexity inside the behaving system itself. It's this
latter aspect behavior which Simon (along with all other
conventional psychologists) seems to have ignored; it's the aspect
of behavior to which PCT is trying to call people's attention.

You write as if you had some authoritative knowledge of what
Simon did or did not understand, did or did not know, yet I'll
bet you've never even read what he had to say.

Well, I don't know if I have any "authoritative" knowledge of what
Simon did or did not understand; but I have read several papers
by him. I even refer to one in my "Blind men..." paper, which
you migh want to read again. It's at:

http://home.earthlink.net/~rmarken/papers.html

Best

Rick

···

---
Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313
Life Learning Associates e-mail: rmarken@earthlink.net
http://home.earthlink.net/~rmarken/

[From Bill Powers (990429.0712 MDT)]

Bruce Gregory (990428.1127 EDT)--

Marken:

Why is PCT an
"enlightened position" when one is explaining the behavior of
ants but not an enlightened position when explaining the
behavior of a person who controls the behavior of another
person using force or the credible threat thereof?

Gregory:

I'm afraid the point is too subtle for you. Just chalk it up to my
distorted view of reality. You will anyway and we can save a lot of time
by arriving at this inevitable conclusion at the outset.

I _would_ like to know what word you use to refer to one person using force
or the credible threat thereof to control another person's behavior.
Evidently you use "coercion" to mean something else, or perhaps you don't
see the credible threat of force as being as effective as the actual use of
force.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Bill Powers (990429.0545 MDT)]

Bruce Abbott (990428.0800 EST)]

When the ant comes up against a passive
obstacle, the forces that result are caused entirely by the ant's muscles.

I never thought otherwise.

You needed to think it through farther. That means that those forces are
not disturbances: see below.

Only if there is an independent active source of forces acting on the ant
would we identify it as the "disturbing variable" in the standard PCT
diagram.

In my view, the actions of one control system may disturb a variable being
controlled by another control system.

Yes, that is true. But this is not the same as the ant's foot encountering
a grain of sand that gives way beneath it,m or its antennae encountering a
pebble and being guided to prevent further contact. All that does is alter
the form of the feedback function momentarily. The control system has a
slightly higher or lower gain for the moment, but as long as the gain
remains high enough, and not too high, control simply continues. This kind
of "disturbance" is not a consequence of actions taken by some independent
active agency.

Hypothetical example: The ant is
moving forward along a given path because of the actions of one set of
control systems; if this forward motion brings the ant to an obstacle in its
path, then a variable being controlled by another system (proximity) gets
disturbed and action is initiated to counter the effect of that disturbance.
The proximity system neither knows nor cares whether the obstacle was
brought into proximity by "an independent active source of forces" or by the
actions of another of the ant's own control systems. It just "sees" a
disturbance to its controlled variable and takes action.

Precisely how the Crowd program works. In the crowd program, an increase of
proximity above a reference level results in turning right or left and
lowering the reference level for forward speed. The greater the error, the
tighter the turn and the more the slowing. The speed control system is
actually subordinate to the turning control system (as well as to two other
systems).

The result of the right or left turns is to turn the person away from the
obstacle and prevent more than a very slight and momentary increase in the
obstacle proximity signal. Only in a tight concentration of obstacles does
the error increase significantly, and then the result is to turn in a tight
circle until the entrance to the cul-de-sac lies straight ahead and the
person exits. In truth, the people act more like bugs than intelligences.

We can, as you say, think of the turning control system as independent of
the forward speed control system. These are the independent active agencies
involved. They are both coordinated by the collision-avoidance system, the
person-following system, and the destination-seeking system, so they aren't
really independent. They are simply the means by which the ant as a whole
keeps or brings its various perceptions close to their reference levels.

The environment is not among the active agencies; it is entirely passive
and initiates no actions. It provides the stage on which the actions and
their consequences are played out by the ant.

If the ant's actions were totally and blindly automatic, the path taken by
the ant would reflect every obstacle and every disturbance.

First, no one has asserted that the ant's actions are "totally and blindly
automatic." (I am assuming you mean totally open loop.)

But it does
not. Generally, the ant's path is _not_ deflected by obstacles; it is
independent of them.

Not the paths of the ant's _I've_ observed! My observations indicate that
ants navigating on rough terrain do a _lot_ of direction-changing to go
around or over obstacles in their paths.

True, they can't go _through_ obstacles. But if the obstacles were
determining their paths, you would see the same path every time an ant
encountered the same obstacle. Instead, the ant goes left, right, or over
the obstacle. If you were to do a real study of the ant's movements, I
believe you would find they are only slightly correlated with the presence
or placement of obstacles with respect to the ant's lateral direction of
movement. Ants do a lot of direction-changing, but when they re-visit the
same location they do not do the _same_ direction changes. Those direction
changes, I maintain, are not caused by the terrain, although there is
probably some small systematic relationship of ant to obstacle -- due
entirely to the ant's preferences and actions.

The ant might turn aside on encountering a large
pebble, or it might simply climb over the pebble and stay on course.

You are now defining "course" two-dimensionally. Do you think the ant does?

No, I suspect that the ant doesn't define "course" at all. I'm describing
my view of the ant. It probably maintains certain odors and perhaps blobby
light concentrations in states it prefers, by using its leg muscles. It may
not even distinguish its own orientation in the gravity field. It probably
steers in part by equalizing the intensity of odors detected by its two
antennae. Speaking of the ant as having the intention of "returning to its
nest" is a human anthropomorphism. The ant probably has no concepts of
space or geometry.

The
ant does not veer off of upslopes or turn down downslopes, as Simon
imagined. To the contrary; I know of ants which, on encountering a 6 x 6
post sunk into the ground, climb up it, eventually ending up in my house.
We are not seeing merely a confluence of forces, one due to the goal and
the rest due to the environment, as Simon imagined.

Like the ant, you are veering off course, Bill. I don't care what Simon may
have thought the mechanism was. I've only been defending Simon's insight
that complex actions may reflect complexity in the environment rather than a
complex internal organization. You haven't convinced me that this insight
is wrong.

If Simon didn't make his statements for the right reasons, he might as well
not have made them at all. The whole point lies in what you mean by the
weasel-word "reflects." If you mean that the complex actions reflect the
complex terrain in the way that a drop of water sliding down a rough plane
reflects, exactly, the path of least resistance, then your (and Simon's)
interpretation is wrong in my view; if you mean that the path taken
reflects the sum of all goals the organism has, with some small influences
from the terrain but by no means any determining influences, then you are
talking about something entirely different.

This is unfair, because neither Simon nor I ever intended to attempt a model
of any real ant.

It's not unfair because without a model you have no real knowledge.

Simon began with a common observation: watching an ant on
the beach making its way back to its nest.

That is not what he observed. He observed the actions of an ant controlling
some set of perceptions of which he knew nothing, and he anthropmorphized
by assuming the ant wanted what he would have wanted in its place: to get
back to a location in geometric space which is a "nest". The ant may know
nothing either of a nest or of its spatial relationship to it. It may live
in a world of light and taste and odor, in which moving up or down
gradients of either result in changes it is genetically set up to prefer to
experience.

He observed that the ant had
many obstacles in its path, and often took a circuitous route as required to
get around them and continue toward the nest.

He observed that the ant followed a path that seemed to him circuitous,
under the assumption that the ant was trying to take the shortest path to a
particular location. He dismissed the variations in the path as being
nothing but ostacle avoidance, but I doubt very much whether he carried
with him the equipment necessary to find out if the path bore any
relationship to the placements of what he saw as being obstacles. In
effect, Simon assumed that the ant was too simple to be generating a
complex series of path changes, each with a specific purpose, so he
interpreted the path changes as being caused entirely by the obstacles. And
from this assumption, he drew the "insightful" conclusion that the path
deviations from a straight line to the next were caused by obstacles. In
other words, his insight consisted of reiterating the prejudices he brought
to his observations.

He noted that if you drew the
ant's path on paper it would appear to be complex -- lots of loops and
wiggles and sudden turns -- but that this complexity need not imply a
parallel complexity within the ant. The path might be capable of being
fully accounted for by some fairly simple "rules" (my word) operating within
the ant, interacting with the complexities of the terrain the ant must cross.

That is a possibility. But another possibility is that some unknown
fraction of the loops and turns reflected not the placement of obstacles
but variations in error signals relating to things other than obstacles.
It's perfectly possible that the ant is just as "complex" (another
weasel-word) as its environment, and that depending on circumstances,
anywhere between 10% and 90% of the loops and turns are due to variations
in the ant's reference signals. Simon's "need not" and "might" suddenly,
without reason, turned into "is not" and "is". Why did that happen, when it
was equally possible that the correct answers could be "is" and "is not"?
something else must have come into play -- perhaps a conviction that ants
ought not to be complex, and that the environment ought to be responsible
for most behavior.

Exactly what those "rules" (system equations) are is not the subject of this
discussion, no matter how much you insist that they are.

Of course you are implying that if there were obstacles, the ant would not
travel in a straight line toward its goal. That doesn't follow. If you see
an ant traveling in a straight line, chances are that it's counteracting
disturbances too small for you to see without a magnifying glass, thus
leading you to think that there aren't any. Or you may be assuming that
because the path remains undisturbed, there must not be any disturbing
forces acting. It may be puzzling how one ant could climb right over the
back of another ant while both ants continue on their paths, but you can
always shrug and say that the net force must have just happened to come out
zero for both ants.

A masterly example of a straw-man argument. You have said nothing here that
has anything even remotely to do with Simon's conjecture.

Your observations are too limited. An ant often deviates abruptly from its
path when nothing at all is in its way. During our campground observations
of individual ants, Tom and I would often look at each other and say "Now,
why did it do THAT?" I doubt that you could find any correlation between
the placements of small obstacles and the path of the ant, especially if
you plotted the path from above.

More of the same. I can't tell if you're _missing_ the point or
deliberately trying to obfuscate it.

It's a simple point, Bill, and one with which you of

all people should have no quarrel. The complex waveform of the plot of
handle movement in a tracking task mirrors the complexity of the
distrubances acting on cursor position, not any complexity in the five-line
Pascal model of the control system that can accurately simulate this
behavior. HPCT is fundamentally simple, yet it is capable of generating
extremely complex actions if the environment requires them. Not so?

Yes, I understand your meaning here, but it is not Simon's meaning. I
repeat, Simon considered the organism to be one gigantic input-output
function, and said so in so many words.

Ah, now I understand the high-gain resistance. I really don't have any
evidence that Simon held this view; it certainly was not expressed in
_Sciences of the Artificial_, at least as I recall it now. And it isn't the
view I am attempting to defend here. How did we shift from a simple
conjecture Simon made about the origins of the complexity of observed
behavior to a discussion about open- versus closed-loop models? Simon's
conjecture does not entail an open-loop model, even if he had one in mind
when he made it.

OK, who was it who quoted Simon on the net recently about the input-output
function? He said it more than once. He believed it. And he was simply
reflecting the Zeitgeist, to the effect that the environmment is the
ultimate determinant of behavior. This was Simon's way of showing his peers
that he had not strayed into apostasy -- that he was still among the
annointed.

Simon's conjecture entails SOME model whether he knew it or not. As I
pointed out, he assumed that an ant saw the world the same way he did, and
had purposes like his. His "description" was loaded with private
interpretations.

Bruce, I have a right to reject Simon as a major player in this game. I
lived through the same years he lived through and worked on the same
problems using the same knowledge. But I did it the hard way: not with airy
"conjectures" but by working out models that would actually behave in the
right way. I did it without fanfare, and I kept my mouth shut until I had
something concrete to show. Simon went for the spotlight, and stayed in it,
so people got used to considering his off-the-cuff remarks as containing
wisdom. After all, if someone is well-known, he must know a lot about
everything, right? Thus we have a country in which someone can capture
attention by saying "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV." That "but"
carried loads of subtle implications, the main one being that playing a
doctor is the next best thing to being one.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Bruce Gregory (990429.1115 EDT)]

Bill Powers (990429.0712 MDT)

I _would_ like to know what word you use to refer to one
person using force
or the credible threat thereof to control another person's behavior.
Evidently you use "coercion" to mean something else, or
perhaps you don't
see the credible threat of force as being as effective as the
actual use of
force.

As you know, all societies use "the credible threat of force" to
maintain social order. If you believe there is a difference between The
People's Republic of China and the United Kingdom you must go beyond the
simple existence of the credible sense of force to model this
difference. A Marine Drill Instructor and an RTP teacher both use a
credible threat of force to control their subjects in the PCT model. You
can use the same model to represent each. But you can't predict very
much with this model. You certainly can never understand the differing
perceptions of their students as to what tasks they are engaged in and
why they are engaged in them. If you tell me such questions are beyond
PCT, I will accept this.

Bruce Gregory

[From Rick Marken (990429.0830)]

Bill Powers (990429.0712 MDT) to Bruce Gregory --

I _would_ like to know what word you use to refer to one
person using force or the credible threat thereof to control
another person's behavior.

Bruce Gregory (990429.1115 EDT) --

As you know, all societies use "the credible threat of force"
to maintain social order...

Thanks for sharing. Now how about either answering Bill's
question or just saying you don't want to answer it.

Best

Rick

···

--
Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313
Life Learning Associates e-mail: rmarken@earthlink.net
http://home.earthlink.net/~rmarken

[From Bruce Gregory (990429.1140 EDT)]

Rick Marken (990429.0830)

Thanks for sharing. Now how about either answering Bill's
question or just saying you don't want to answer it.

Don't speak unless you are spoken to.

Bruce Gregory

[From Bill Powers (990429.1144 MDT)]

Bruce Gregory (990429.1115 EDT)]

Bill Powers (990429.0712 MDT)

I _would_ like to know what word you use to refer to one
person using force
or the credible threat thereof to control another person's behavior.
Evidently you use "coercion" to mean something else, or
perhaps you don't
see the credible threat of force as being as effective as the
actual use of
force.

As you know, all societies use "the credible threat of force" to
maintain social order. If you believe there is a difference between The
People's Republic of China and the United Kingdom you must go beyond the
simple existence of the credible sense of force to model this
difference.

]
There is a difference between less pleasant and more pleasant societies in
how many other approaches are used before force is threatened or used. In
some societies (and homes) force is the first resort; in others, the last.
I would prefer to live under a system in which it is the last resort.

Of course I would prefer even more to live under a system in which coercion
is not used at all, except in defense against violence by others. But there
seem to be no societies in which people are smart enough to figure out how
to live that way.

Anyway, I guess you're saying that if coercion is done in a country like
China it's bad, but if we do it, it's all right. Or were you making some
other point?

Best,

Bill P.

[From Bruce Gregory (990429.1725 EDT)]

Bill Powers (990429.1144 MDT)

Anyway, I guess you're saying that if coercion is done in a
country like
China it's bad, but if we do it, it's all right. Or were you
making some
other point?

Like you, I favor less coercion rather than more. I was simply noting
that saying that all societies are coercive fails to make important
distinctions. I think the same point applies to different ways of
dealing with disruptions caused by students. You don't resent the
stranger who pulls you out of the way of an oncoming bus even if she is
coercing you. Motives seem to matter to human beings.

Bruce Gregory

[From Rick Marken (990429.1800)]

Bruce Gregory (990429.1725 EDT)--

I think the same point applies to different ways of dealing with
disruptions caused by students. You don't resent the stranger
who pulls you out of the way of an oncoming bus even if she is
coercing you.

But she is coercing you, right?

How much you liked being coerced is a seperate issue, isn't it?

Best

Rick

···

---
Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313
Life Learning Associates e-mail: rmarken@earthlink.net
http://home.earthlink.net/~rmarken/

[From Bruce Gregory (990430.1010 EDT)]

Rick Marken (990429.1800)]

Bruce Gregory (990429.1725 EDT)--

> I think the same point applies to different ways of dealing with
> disruptions caused by students. You don't resent the stranger
> who pulls you out of the way of an oncoming bus even if she is
> coercing you.

But she is coercing you, right?

How much you liked being coerced is a separate issue, isn't it?

Can you be as dense as you seem to be? It is an act isn't it? "I'm just
a country boy from L.A. who doesn't understand English..." Try my
posting on the coercive thermostat. It doesn't contain confusing terms
like "yes" and "no".

Bruce Gregory

[From Rick Marken (990430.0750)]

Bruce Gregory (990429.1725 EDT)--

I think the same point applies to different ways of dealing with
disruptions caused by students. You don't resent the stranger
who pulls you out of the way of an oncoming bus even if she is
coercing you.

Me:

But she is coercing you, right?

How much you liked being coerced is a separate issue, isn't it?

Bruce Gregory (990430.1010 EDT)

Can you be as dense as you seem to be?

You bet!

It is an act isn't it?

The pull is an act; the result (moving you out of the way
of the bus) is a result. If the result is intended (controlled)
then the act that produces it (push, pull, whatever) will be
whatever is necessary, given the circumstances, to produce it.
So I presume you are saying that "it" (someone pulling you out
of the path of a bus) is a control process. Since the variable
controlled (your location) is an aspect of your _behavior_,
and since coercion is "control of behavior by force or the
credible threat thereof" then I guess what you are saying
is "yes, the person pulling you out from in front of the bus
is coercing you". Is that right?

I so, then, according to you, coercion (pulling you from an
on-coming bus) is occurring even though the coercer's reference
(you being out of the way of the bus) is aligned with yours.
Is that correct?

I take it, then, that you disagree with issac, who has just
said that there is no coercion if the references of coercer
and coercee are aligned. So, according to isaac (I think), the
person who drags you out of the bus's path is _not_ coercing
you because you want to get out of the bus's path too. Pulling
you from the bus's path would only be coercion (according
to isaac) if, say, your intention was to remain in the bus's
path (for whatever higher level reason). Is this right?

Best

Rick

···

--
Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313
Life Learning Associates e-mail: rmarken@earthlink.net
http://home.earthlink.net/~rmarken

[From Bruce Gregory (990430.1112 EDT)]

Rick Marken (990430.0750)

The pull is an act; the result (moving you out of the way
of the bus) is a result. If the result is intended (controlled)
then the act that produces it (push, pull, whatever) will be
whatever is necessary, given the circumstances, to produce it.
So I presume you are saying that "it" (someone pulling you out
of the path of a bus) is a control process. Since the variable
controlled (your location) is an aspect of your _behavior_,
and since coercion is "control of behavior by force or the
credible threat thereof" then I guess what you are saying
is "yes, the person pulling you out from in front of the bus
is coercing you". Is that right?

Yes, this is my understanding of the PCT model.

I so, then, according to you, coercion (pulling you from an
on-coming bus) is occurring even though the coercer's reference
(you being out of the way of the bus) is aligned with yours.
Is that correct?

Yes.

I take it, then, that you disagree with issac, who has just
said that there is no coercion if the references of coercer
and coercee are aligned.

I believe Issac is using the term coercion in a way that is inconsistent
with the simple PCT model that you defend with such enthusiasm. His is
the way many people use the word coercion. The PCT use of the term
simply refers to the actions of a control system whose feedback loop
includes a human being. My cruise control is coercive to the extent that
I am unable to alter its reference setting, since it is controlling with
no regard for my "wishes".

So, according to isaac (I think), the
person who drags you out of the bus's path is _not_ coercing
you because you want to get out of the bus's path too. Pulling
you from the bus's path would only be coercion (according
to isaac) if, say, your intention was to remain in the bus's
path (for whatever higher level reason). Is this right?

You'll have to ask Isaac.

Bruce Gregory