Skinner the Grate

[From Bruce Abbott (960811.0845 EST)]

Rick Marken (960811.0030) --

Bruce Abbott (960810.1015 EST)

Rick, if this were true they would have used one. Although inertial guidance
systems were available (e.g., V2 rocket), their accuracy was as nothing
compared to that of the >visually-guided pigeon system. Radar-guided
anti-aircraft systems were making their >appearance, but systems that could
discriminate and accurately target objects on the >ground were still far into
the future.

The accuracy of inertial guidance systems has nothing to do with it. All
you need is a circuit that does what the pigeon does: controls a
representation of the 2-D position of the ship. The input to the circuit is
an electronic representation of this variable; we know that this input is
available because it is being converted into a visual display for the pigeon.
The output of the circuit is a variable that has the same effect (via the
environment) on the representation of the 2-D position of the ship as does
the pigeon's pecks. Presumably, the pigeon pecks something that changes the
position of the rudder, thus changing the representation of the 2-D position
of the ship. The circuit that replaces the pigeon is, thus, very simple; it
just computes the difference between the actual and intended representation
of the 2-D position of the ship and converts that difference into the
appropriate output variable (equivalent to "peck location").

Rick, Rick, Rick, Rick. There were NO "electronic representations"
available at the time. The pigeons were looking through an optical system
(basically a window) at their targets. Nor were there computers that could
be "taught" the necessary discriminations. At that time the only systems
capable of doing these things were living ones. Engineers had developed
electrically-actuated steering mechanisms but only the crudest forms of
electronic steersmen.

According to your version of events the military brass of WWII must have
been absolute fools; they insisted on using human-flown bombers equipped
with crude sighting mechanisms while instantly recognizing that Skinner's
contraption could easily be replaced by cruise missiles and laser-guided
smart bombs.

Bruce, what happened? Were you bitten by a Skinerian ghoul over the weekend?

No, I'm the same lovable guy I've always been!