So, what is the problem?

Tom Bourbon [940907.1429]

[Martin Taylor 940907 11:30]

Bill Leach 940907.02:13 EST

Martin writes:

... But in another sense, the world can "blindside" you; and the
problem that presents to the organism is to survive. That, surely is
THE problem, from which the problem of controlling perceptions derives.
...

Bill L:

I posit that this is a case of shifting view points which Martin tacitly
admits with:

Martin:

(What do you mean "tacitly." My intention was to FORCE a shift of
viewpoint!)

But the "new" viewpoint is an old one, Martin; as old as PCT back when it
was CST, and before that in the earliest writings in cybernetics, and before
that . . .. That makes it even older than Rick Marken. :wink:
. . .

Bill :

Somehow I have trouble considering the death of the control system due to
external causes over which it can not have accurate perception in advance
of mortal danger (if any) to be rightfully considered as a control system
failure.

Martin:

In some sense, of course, it is, in that the control system can no longer
control after it dies! But I don't think I suggested that failure to
observe the unobservable was a failure of any of the Elementary Control
Systems within the hierarchy of the organism. If anything, it could be
construed as a failure of evolution to provide the organism with the
appropriate perceptual possibilities.

The death of a control system, due to something the system does not
perceive or control, implies exactly nothing about the success or failure
of the control system, as a control system, does it? It dies of unperceived
and uncontrolled causes, that's all, or am I missing something really subtle
here, Martin?

As for the death of the system revealing "a failure of evolution," once
again, I am having trouble following your logic, Martin. Can you help me
out and expand on the idea that the death of the blindsided system
represents "a failure of evolution?"

(Tom Bourbon said [940902.1451] in response to Gary Cziko:

Gary:

It's kind of neat to consider that our brains evolved via blind variation
and selection, they function using blind variation and selection (as in
control-system reoganization), and we are now using computers and test
tubes [TB: and E. coli] to harness the power of blind variation and
selection to evolve
useful programs, organisms, and products. It looks like blind variation
and selection "all the way down" (and up) to me.

Tom:

And that looks like control, from top to bottom and back again.

Martin:

And it is a failure of THAT control system, if one goes along with Tom
(which I don't, there being no reference signal or perceptual signal
in evolution).

But I never said _evolution_ was control, and I didn't mean to imply it,
either. When I wrote those words I was thinking of the portions of Gary's
post from "as in control-theory reorganization" on to the end. Sorry to
have mislead you. Given that clarification, are you moved to reconsider
going along with me? :slight_smile:

Once again, I am puzzled: which control system do you have in mind when
you say, "it is a failure of THAT control system"? You have dismissed
evolution as a control system, and I go along with you on that. Which other
control system do you mean?

Tom Bourbon [940907.0826]

But attempts to control perceptions are not enough, because you can be killed
by things you don't perceive at all (the thrown knife in the back, intense
gamma radiation, strange bacteria, the sniper bullet when you go shopping
so that you don't starve in Sarajevo).

Everyday occurrences for every person? The probabilities may be non-zero,
but for the species as a whole, they are effectively zero. As for those of
us who end up, "in the wrong place at the wrong time," as the media love to
put it, "them's the breaks."

Exactly. That's how evolution works, to make those probabilities low, at
least in the period of life before gene propagation.

This mustn't be my day, Martin. You have lost me again. :frowning: Are you
saying evolution works to make things like knives, bacteria, radiation and
bullets unlikely before an individual propagates her or his genes? Either
way, what do those examples have to do with your original claim that when
they occur, the perceptual control system has failed? Or is it now that
evolution has failed?

. . . But we don't control perceptions of "survival." Survival
is a side effect of what we do control--a problem we solve without knowing
that we do so.

Survival as a side effect; that I buy and always have.

Might it be the case that, for perceptual control systems qua perceptual
control systems, the circumstance you have described is no problem and,
therefore, is not solved?

The problem is how to control
perceptions in such a way that you are unlikely to be killed or damaged by
something you don't or can't perceive. That seems to me to be the "only"
problem faced by a hierarchic control system that is a living system.

How is this a problem for the individual system?

Perhaps some further development of this theme by you will help me, Martin,

Perhaps it might help if I reword your question by changing "for" into
"solved by."

That doesn't seem to help me.

Looked at from within the individual system, it is not
a problem.

That I do see. My problem is that "from inside the individual system" is
the only place where I can imagine something being a problem for the
individual system. The situation _is_ different from the perspective of an
observer of the system. If, as an observer, I can imagine that the observed
system will not survive in a particular environment, and if I care about the
survival of that system, and if I can do nothing to alter the outcome that I
forsee, then _I_ have a problem (unresolvable perceptual error). Other than
that, why worry? There is no problem.

Looked at from without, the individual system solves it,

It solves the problem it never had?

I trust the shift of viewpoint now seems more coherent?

Sorry. The "shift of viewpoint" wasn't new to me and it did not confuse
me. My problems started with the material after what you called the "shift"
and it remains incoherent to me. Thanks for trying. Can we do it again?

Later,

Tom

[Martin Taylor 940908 11:40]

Tom Bourbon [940907.1429]

I don't know how to respond to Tom. It seems that every "clarification"
leads only to further missed signals and misunderstanding. But perhaps in
this case it is worth trying one more turn around the circuit, rather than
just dropping the issue in the hope that it gets clarified from another
angle in later discussions (my usual way of dealing with hopelessly
tangled discussion).

Martin:

(What do you mean "tacitly." My intention was to FORCE a shift of
viewpoint!)

But the "new" viewpoint is an old one, Martin; as old as PCT back when it
was CST, and before that in the earliest writings in cybernetics, and before
that . . .. That makes it even older than Rick Marken. :wink:

Who said anything about the shift between the organism viewpoint and the
analyst viewpoint being "new?" It's been pointed out as an important thing
to keep straight for as long as I've been reading CSG-L, and as you say,
a lot longer in various philosophies. I wanted to make sure that the
reader was aware that this shift was to be made when reading what followed.
Hardly what Bill Leach called a tacit admission!

The death of a control system, due to something the system does not
perceive or control, implies exactly nothing about the success or failure
of the control system, as a control system, does it? It dies of unperceived
and uncontrolled causes, that's all, or am I missing something really subtle
here, Martin?

No. I think you are looking for something subtle and missing something
really obvious, to whit: a dead control system fails to control.

As for the death of the system revealing "a failure of evolution," once
again, I am having trouble following your logic, Martin. Can you help me
out and expand on the idea that the death of the blindsided system
represents "a failure of evolution?"

The quoted four words by themselves are nonsense. They imply some purpose
to evolution, and, there being no purpose to evolution, evolution can
hardly "fail." What I said was: >If anything, it [death] could be

construed as a failure of evolution to provide the organism with the
appropriate perceptual possibilities.

That is not nonsense. If the organism had had eyes in the back of its
head, it would not have been hit by the knife thrown from behind, since
it would have had a perceptual signal (set) open to control. If the
organism had sensors sensitive to gamma radiation, it would not have gone
(for long) into the region of high radioactivity. Evolution has failed
to provide us with such perceptual control possibilities.

But evolution HAS provided us with a lot of possibilities for perceptual
control, and they are precisely those possibilities that have turned out
to allow the survival of the gene patterns that define us. As Bill P. has
often pointed out, when an organism's hierarchy reorganizes to allow
successful control, the organism has no knowledge of what "really" it is
doing that works. All that happens is that it now controls, when beforehand
control was less successful. Likewise with evolution. If an organism
happens to be born without the perceptual control possibilities that help
it evade some of the dangers to which we are all subject, it is less likely
to pass on its genes than is a similar organism that does control such
perceptions. Almost a tautology, I think, but it is at the heart of
how evolution works.

But I never said _evolution_ was control, and I didn't mean to imply it,
either. When I wrote those words I was thinking of the portions of Gary's
post from "as in control-theory reorganization" on to the end. Sorry to
have mislead you. Given that clarification, are you moved to reconsider
going along with me? :slight_smile:

Yes, if you are talking about the kind of control exercised by breeders
and people who "genetically engineer" bacteria to do things useful to us.
I don't remember the exact context of Gary's posting and I'm too lazy to
look it up at the moment. But if that is what you meant, then we have
"evolution with a purpose" or controlled evolution.

And it is a failure of THAT control system, if one goes along with Tom
(which I don't, there being no reference signal or perceptual signal
in evolution).

Once again, I am puzzled: which control system do you have in mind when
you say, "it is a failure of THAT control system"? You have dismissed
evolution as a control system, and I go along with you on that. Which other
control system do you mean?

The dead organism.

This mustn't be my day, Martin. You have lost me again. :frowning: Are you
saying evolution works to make things like knives, bacteria, radiation and
bullets unlikely before an individual propagates her or his genes?

If you insert the words "death by" between "make" and "things," the answer is
"yes," at least for organisms like us, who have few children and look after
those we have. Of course the actual dangers vary, but the principle of
controlling perceptions that often keep you out of dangerous situations
doesn't change.

If, for example, it were the case that plants frequently had purple edges
to their leaves in regions of high radiation, then I would imagine that
most animals would avoid regions with purple-edged things of all kinds,
without knowing anything about why, and without any direct perception
of the radioactivity. To anthropomorphize, they would just "not like
purple-edged things." We, however, have no evolved perceptions that help
us avoid areas of high radioactivity, since no such danger has existed over
most of evolutionary time.

Either
way, what do those examples have to do with your original claim that when
they occur, the perceptual control system has failed? Or is it now that
evolution has failed?

The perceptual control system didn't fail to control those perceptions it
was provided with, but it sure did after those perceptual controls proved
inadequate to protect it from "the ultimate disturbance."

Might it be the case that, for perceptual control systems qua perceptual
control systems, the circumstance you have described is no problem and,
therefore, is not solved?

Yes. If I understand you correctly.

Now we come to a passage where you ALMOST paraphrase what I was getting at:

Looked at from within the individual system, it is not
a problem.

That I do see. My problem is that "from inside the individual system" is
the only place where I can imagine something being a problem for the
individual system. The situation _is_ different from the perspective of an
observer of the system. If, as an observer, I can imagine that the observed
system will not survive in a particular environment, and if I care about the
survival of that system, and if I can do nothing to alter the outcome that I
forsee, then _I_ have a problem (unresolvable perceptual error). Other than
that, why worry? There is no problem.

The only difference between this and my intention is that you use the word
"problem" as being equivalent to "error in a control system." It requires
some purpose that is not being fulfilled for there to be a problem in that
sense. Since there is no purpose to evolution, there can, in that sense,
NEVER be a problem solved by evolution.

I use the term without that sense of purpose and control. If evolution makes
an elephant's legs much thicker than mine, I am happy to say that evolution
has solved the problem of supporting the elephant's weight while not impeding
my agility. I don't need legs as thick as those of an elephant, even though
I may be subject to conditions under which my legs will break. Stronger
legs would help me then, but I would be less agile (and my ancestors needed
that agility). My legs are probably the weakest that allow them to hold up
for long enough to allow my ancestors with similar bones to run away from
predators and after prey often enough to let them produce offspring. Evolution
solves problems of compromise in the use of energy resources. I could have
much stronger bones, and correspondingly stronger muscles (Neanderthals did),
but then I would need to find more food, and the increased strength might
not help enough to compensate for the extra need.

Looked at from without, the individual system solves it,

It solves the problem it never had?

It solves the problem it never saw. But it had the problem, for sure.

I trust the shift of viewpoint now seems more coherent?

Sorry. The "shift of viewpoint" wasn't new to me and it did not confuse
me. My problems started with the material after what you called the "shift"
and it remains incoherent to me. Thanks for trying. Can we do it again?

No more than once, I think, unless something new emerges. All I can do
at this point is to repeat:

I trust the shift of viewpoint now seems more coherent?

Martin

Tom Bourbon [940909.0935]

[Martin Taylor 940908 11:40]

Tom Bourbon [940907.1429]

I don't know how to respond to Tom. It seems that every "clarification"
leads only to further missed signals and misunderstanding. But perhaps in
this case it is worth trying one more turn around the circuit, rather than
just dropping the issue in the hope that it gets clarified from another
angle in later discussions (my usual way of dealing with hopelessly
tangled discussion).

Sorry to inconvenience you, Martin. Thank you for going to all the trouble.
In the present tangled discussion your words are very simple; my problem is
that many of the implications you seem to want us to draw from those words
escape me.

Martin:

(What do you mean "tacitly." My intention was to FORCE a shift of
viewpoint!)

Tom then:

But the "new" viewpoint is an old one, Martin; as old as PCT back when it
was CST, and before that in the earliest writings in cybernetics, and before
that . . .. That makes it even older than Rick Marken. :wink:

Martin:

Who said anything about the shift between the organism viewpoint and the
analyst viewpoint being "new?"

Sorry. I didn't state my confusion very clearly. When you wrote about
forcing a "shift of viewpoint" I mistakenly fell into thinking about you
wanting to force us to shift _from_ an "old" viewpoint (old meaning
nothing more than "the one we now have") _to_ a "new" one. I was trying to
indicate that the (new) viewpoint to which you wanted us to shift was an
"old" one, in all senses of the word.
. . .

The death of a control system, due to something the system does not
perceive or control, implies exactly nothing about the success or failure
of the control system, as a control system, does it? It dies of unperceived
and uncontrolled causes, that's all, or am I missing something really subtle
here, Martin?

No. I think you are looking for something subtle and missing something
really obvious, to whit: a dead control system fails to control.

I'm not really looking for something subtle. I'm a very non-subtle fellow
who doesn't see the relevance of what you are saying -- to anything.
Please notice that I did not say it is irrelevant, only that I haven't seen
the relevance yet. What is the non-subtle significance of telling us that a
dead control system "fails to control?" Or that a living control system
"fails to control" what it does not sense or that for which it has no
reference signals? To me, your argument resembles the following: frogs
don't have wings; frogs don't fly; frogs haven't solved the problem of
flight (because evolution failed to equip them to solve the problem). Two
statements of fact and a compound non-sequitur. (Again, my failure to see
the significance in what you say is _my_ failure.)

. . . Can you help me
out and expand on the idea that the death of the blindsided system
represents "a failure of evolution?"

The quoted four words by themselves are nonsense. They imply some purpose
to evolution, and, there being no purpose to evolution, evolution can
hardly "fail." What I said was: >If anything, it [death] could be
construed as a failure of evolution to provide the organism with the
appropriate perceptual possibilities.

That is not nonsense. If the organism had had eyes in the back of its
head, it would not have been hit by the knife thrown from behind, since
it would have had a perceptual signal (set) open to control. If the
organism had sensors sensitive to gamma radiation, it would not have gone
(for long) into the region of high radioactivity. Evolution has failed
to provide us with such perceptual control possibilities.

If a frog had wings, it could fly and catch bugs in flight far above the
ground. Evolution has failed to provide frogs with such control
possibilities. Am I on the right track? Could the situation with frogs be
construed that way? ;-))

You probably believe that I am either a jerk, or that I am jerking your
chain, but I don't understand, Martin. Perhaps my problem is that I cannot
see the the following two statements as equivalent:

   "evolution has failed to provide frogs with wings, therefore evolution
    has failed to provide frogs with the control possibility of catching
    bugs in flight far above the ground,"
and
   "frogs do not have wings; frogs do not fly; frogs do not catch bugs in
    flight far above the ground."

But evolution HAS provided us with a lot of possibilities for perceptual
control, . . . [and so on]

This section gave me no problem at all, Martin. Maybe I am the Forrest Gump
of the net, but I don't see what these ideas have to do with your previous
redirection of our viewpoint to the fact that dead control systems don't
control.

. . .

And it is a failure of THAT control system, if one goes along with Tom
(which I don't, there being no reference signal or perceptual signal
in evolution).

Once again, I am puzzled: which control system do you have in mind when
you say, "it is a failure of THAT control system"? You have dismissed
evolution as a control system, and I go along with you on that. Which other
control system do you mean?

The dead organism.

As in: today, as yesterday, and the day before, the frog failed to fly?
. . .

If, for example, it were the case that plants frequently had purple edges
to their leaves in regions of high radiation, then I would imagine that
most animals would avoid regions with purple-edged things of all kinds,
without knowing anything about why, and without any direct perception
of the radioactivity.

Perhaps I am beginning to see your point.

Isn't it likely that animals that sensed something related to what we call
purple-edgedness _and_ something related to intrinsic reference signals (an
association) would be the ones to avoid regions where there are purple-edged
things? No animal would necessarily sense radiation directly, but nausea,
weakness, and other bodily states would be experienced, as might the
presence of dead animals. Would animals that did not sense those variables,
or that did not reorganize and create an association between those perceptual
signals, be likely to avoid such regions?

. . . We, however, have no evolved perceptions that help
us avoid areas of high radioactivity, since no such danger has existed over
most of evolutionary time.

No, but we have come to notice other variables like the ones I mentioned in
the example of your hypothetical animals that avoid regions of purple-
edgeness. We have also developed several means to bring the presence of
radiation into our range of perceptions -- dosimeters, warning devices and
the like, and we use an array of fences, barriers, and signs to discourage
others from entering dangerous regions. It looks to me as though we have
_many_ perceptual functions that help us avoid regions of high
radioactivity, even though we don't sense radiation directly. Of course,
should we wander into such a region unequipped with our artefactual
detectors and warning devices, we would discover that evolution failed to
equip us for the task. ;-))

Either
way, what do those examples have to do with your original claim that when
they occur, the perceptual control system has failed? Or is it now that
evolution has failed?

The perceptual control system didn't fail to control those perceptions it
was provided with, but it sure did after those perceptual controls proved
inadequate to protect it from "the ultimate disturbance."

Yes. And . . .?

Might it be the case that, for perceptual control systems qua perceptual
control systems, the circumstance you have described is no problem and,
therefore, is not solved?

Yes. If I understand you correctly.

Martin

Now we come to a passage where you ALMOST paraphrase what I was getting at:

Martin

Looked at from within the individual system, it is not
a problem.

Tom

That I do see. My problem is that "from inside the individual system" is
the only place where I can imagine something being a problem for the
individual system. The situation _is_ different from the perspective of an
observer of the system. If, as an observer, I can imagine that the observed
system will not survive in a particular environment, and if I care about the
survival of that system, and if I can do nothing to alter the outcome that I
forsee, then _I_ have a problem (unresolvable perceptual error). Other than
that, why worry? There is no problem.

Martin

The only difference between this and my intention is that you use the word
"problem" as being equivalent to "error in a control system." It requires
some purpose that is not being fulfilled for there to be a problem in that
sense. Since there is no purpose to evolution, there can, in that sense,
NEVER be a problem solved by evolution.

And you have both paraphrased, and missed, my point. Maybe we can come
together on this idea, after all. Are we both saying that "evolution" does
not "have" a problem; the observed organism does not "have" a problem;
the observer who sees the organism, _and_ who imagines that the organism's
actions will not be adequate for its survival, _and_ who wishes that events
would be other than as foreseen _does_ "have" a problem, in the form of
unresolvable perceptual error? If we agree on those ideas, what's the
problem? ;-))

. . .

Looked at from without, the individual system solves it,

It solves the problem it never had?

It solves the problem it never saw. But it had the problem, for sure.

Now I'm not so sure we are together.

. . .

I trust the shift of viewpoint now seems more coherent?

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Later,

Tom

[Martin Taylor 940909 17:30]

Tom Bourbon [940909.0935]

Is it you or me that lacks a sense of humour? I look for the joke in your
posting, but it all sounds so deadpan that I am almost tempted to take it
mostly at face value. Sorry if I am impaired in that way.

No. I think you are looking for something subtle and missing something
really obvious, to whit: a dead control system fails to control.

I'm not really looking for something subtle. I'm a very non-subtle fellow
who doesn't see the relevance of what you are saying -- to anything.

Look at the original context of the remark (Martin Taylor 940907 11:30 in
response to Bill Leach 940907.02:13):

Somehow I have trouble considering the death of the control system due to
external causes over which it can not have accurate perception in advance
of mortal danger (if any) to be rightfully considered as a control system
failure.

In some sense, of course, it is, in that the control system can no longer
control after it dies!

Did I really have to put a smiley after THAT? I'm not clear on the formal
name for it, but it is the class of stating something that is so obvious
that to state it makes the reader look for some less obvious meaning. A
standard form of joke, I think. A comment en passant, which I would never
have made, had I realized how many bytes of net bandwidth it would generate.
I did finish the comment with a "!"!

On frogs:> To me, your argument resembles the following: frogs

don't have wings; frogs don't fly; frogs haven't solved the problem of
flight (because evolution failed to equip them to solve the problem).

If many frogs died because they couldn't fly, one would have to say
something of the kind, indeed. But frog genes have other ways of adequately
avoiding the dangers of their environment; making lots of eggs is one of
them.

If a frog had wings, it could fly and catch bugs in flight far above the
ground. Evolution has failed to provide frogs with such control
possibilities. Am I on the right track? Could the situation with frogs be
construed that way? ;-))

Ah, a wink with a double chin! This isn't Tom writing! Tom couldn't
even fake a double chin.

No, you aren't on the right track, but you might be on one going west-northwest,
if the right track goes north. If many frogs had problems catching enough
bugs that their genes were becoming few and far between, and if the ability
to fly could be seen by an outsider as one way in which the bug-catching
could have been vastly improved, that outsider just might construe the
situation as a failure of evolution to supply frogs with wings. But wings
are costly, or at least their use is, and there would have to be a lot better
bug-catching by a winged from than by a wingless one for the construal to
make sense.

Perhaps my problem is that I cannot
see the the following two statements as equivalent:

  "evolution has failed to provide frogs with wings, therefore evolution
   has failed to provide frogs with the control possibility of catching
   bugs in flight far above the ground,"
and
  "frogs do not have wings; frogs do not fly; frogs do not catch bugs in
   flight far above the ground."

What are you questioning? The multiple possible connotations of the word
"failure", the syntax, the facts described? Am I supposed to say that
the two sentences are or are not equivalent? The difference I can see is
that the first would be spoken by some self-important individual who thinks
frogs OUGHT to fly, and SOMETHING SHOULD BE DONE about it. Otherwise, the
facts described look to be the same.

I don't see what these ideas have to do with your previous
redirection of our viewpoint to the fact that dead control systems don't
control.

You may be the Forrest Gump of the network (whatever that means--I missed
something there), but I can't believe that you REALLY thought I wanted
the shift of viewpoint to be from (what?) to "the fact that dead control
systems don't control." ... Or ... Did you?!?

If, for example, it were the case that plants frequently had purple edges
to their leaves in regions of high radiation, then I would imagine that
most animals would avoid regions with purple-edged things of all kinds,
without knowing anything about why, and without any direct perception
of the radioactivity.

Isn't it likely that animals that sensed something related to what we call
purple-edgedness _and_ something related to intrinsic reference signals (an
association) would be the ones to avoid regions where there are purple-edged
things?

Yes, they would, but not by individual reorganization. Things go better
with Coke. But why, there's no knowing. It is just so. Keep away from
purply things, kiddo, if you know what's good for you. Purple is a sick-
making colour, especially in borders. Purple is the colour of Satan.
And so forth. Actually, keeping away from purple-edged things would
be so embedded in our structure that to even mention it might be as
ridiculous as to tell people not to walk off cliff edges. The effects
would have happened so long ago in evolutionary time that animals just
wouldn't go to such places, not that individual animals would go there,
feel sick, and learn not to go there again.

We have also developed several means to bring the presence of
radiation into our range of perceptions -- dosimeters, warning devices and
the like, and we use an array of fences, barriers, and signs to discourage
others from entering dangerous regions. It looks to me as though we have
_many_ perceptual functions that help us avoid regions of high
radioactivity, even though we don't sense radiation directly. Of course,
should we wander into such a region unequipped with our artefactual
detectors and warning devices, we would discover that evolution failed to
equip us for the task. ;-))

No more needs to be said, I hope (:-|0)

And you have both paraphrased, and missed, my point. Maybe we can come
together on this idea, after all. Are we both saying that "evolution" does
not "have" a problem; the observed organism does not "have" a problem;
the observer who sees the organism, _and_ who imagines that the organism's
actions will not be adequate for its survival, _and_ who wishes that events
would be other than as foreseen _does_ "have" a problem, in the form of
unresolvable perceptual error? If we agree on those ideas, what's the
problem? ;-))

I'm going to disregard the smiley this time, because I pondered the same
question in the shower this morning, about whether the observer's "wishes"
were relevant to the idea that evolution "has" a problem. I found myself
looking at "the problem" from another angle. What I saw from that angle
was that if I had been a designer of animals faced with certain constraints
in designing a particular animal, I would have had a problem as to how I
might resolve those constraints efficiently. Now I look at an animal
in an environment that does impose those constraints, and see how that
animal is constructed by some unknown designer competitor. How did that
competitor designer solve the problem I would have had in designing that
animal? Oh, you tell me there was no designer? The animal just evolved?
Nobody "had a problem?" I would have had a problem if I'd been building
that animal for those circumstances, so "of course" evolution solved the
problem.

But the "problem" was mine, as a potential designer of an animal to work
in that environment.

As I said in my earlier posting (940908 11:40),

you use the word
"problem" as being equivalent to "error in a control system." It requires
some purpose that is not being fulfilled for there to be a problem in that
sense. Since there is no purpose to evolution, there can, in that sense,
NEVER be a problem solved by evolution.

The example I used of muscular and bone strength still applies from my
"new" viewpoint of this morning, which uses your sense of "problem" but
applies it to a surrogate designer who is substituted for "evolution."

Looked at from without, the individual system solves it,

It solves the problem it never had?

It solves the problem it never saw. But it had the problem, for sure.

Now I'm not so sure we are together.

If I refrain from walking around bad parts of a city at night, I solve
a problem of reducing the probability of getting mugged or shot. If I
do that just because other parts of the city (or the countryside) are
prettier and have nicer museums and shops, I still solve that problem,
which I never saw. (Actually, this is a real example. I was unaware
for many years of the fact that there were dangerous areas of US cities
where one shouldn't walk, and usually explored on foot in the evenings
after meetings. I naturally tended to go where things were better looking,
and only much later was I told that it was lucky I hadn't gone to places
X, Y or Z. I'm more careful nowadays, and ask if there are places to be
avoided before I go walking in a US city new to me. Now I solve the same
problem by the same actions, but knowing that I have the problem and
controlling a perception that is part of my perception of the problem).

I trust the shift of viewpoint now seems more coherent?

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Between organism and analyst; not between live and dead organism. Does
that clear out the "perhaps" from one side of that line?

Martin

Tom Bourbon [940912.1300]

[Martin Taylor 940909 17:30]

Tom Bourbon [940909.0935]

Is it you or me that lacks a sense of humour? I look for the joke in your
posting, but it all sounds so deadpan that I am almost tempted to take it
mostly at face value. Sorry if I am impaired in that way.

Ah. Now I understand. Your posts about organisms solving problems they
never had, and about evolution "failing" to equip those organisms to solve
their non-existent problems, were _jokes_. To think, I believed _you_
were being deadpan and serious, and I took you at face value. My mistake.

Do I dare add, :wink: ?

. . .

Somehow I have trouble considering the death of the control system due to
external causes over which it can not have accurate perception in advance
of mortal danger (if any) to be rightfully considered as a control system
failure.

In some sense, of course, it is, in that the control system can no longer
control after it dies!

In what sense? Do control systems yet-unborn also fail to control?

Did I really have to put a smiley after THAT? I'm not clear on the formal
name for it, but it is the class of stating something that is so obvious
that to state it makes the reader look for some less obvious meaning. A
standard form of joke, I think. A comment en passant, which I would never
have made, had I realized how many bytes of net bandwidth it would generate.
I did finish the comment with a "!"!

I'm sorry if I offended your sense of the proper amount of bandwidth, but
a few smileys might have helped. They might help us -- me, since I seem to
be the only one who has difficulty recognizing some of your jokes -- know
that your comment about dead control systems was a joke, but that you were
deadly serious in your many other comments about how the demise of control
systems due to blindsiding represented a failure of control, hence a failure
of evolution.

I'm not trying to be difficult, Martin. I want to understand your thinking
on these topics. I just don't follow some of your reasoning, or your choice
of some words. If my failure to follow makes me seem a joke to you, so be
it. I will keep asking my simple-minded questions.

On frogs:> To me, your argument resembles the following: frogs

don't have wings; frogs don't fly; frogs haven't solved the problem of
flight (because evolution failed to equip them to solve the problem).

If many frogs died because they couldn't fly, one would have to say
something of the kind, indeed.

Perhaps if you can explain to me why one would have to say something of the
kind, I would better understand your bigger points about evolution and
control. I can't seem to make my way past this first step, one that you
obviously think of as trivially clear. For example, of all the frogs that
have lived and died, how do we sort out those that died because they could
not fly? Was it all of them? How many others died because they cound not
compose sonnets, or symphonies? (Two additional domains of failure for
evolution -- the list of failures is infinite.) Once again, I am deadpan,
simple-minded serious.

. . .

If a frog had wings, it could fly and catch bugs in flight far above the
ground. Evolution has failed to provide frogs with such control
possibilities. Am I on the right track? Could the situation with frogs be
construed that way? ;-))

Ah, a wink with a double chin! This isn't Tom writing! Tom couldn't
even fake a double chin.

You are a poor observer, Martin. :-)))

ยทยทยท

No, you aren't on the right track, but you might be on one going west-northwest

,

if the right track goes north. If many frogs had problems catching enough
bugs that their genes were becoming few and far between, and if the ability
to fly could be seen by an outsider as one way in which the bug-catching
could have been vastly improved, that outsider just might construe the
situation as a failure of evolution to supply frogs with wings.

Were you to say simply that "many frogs do not catch enough bugs . . .,"
we would agree completely. Then the "problem" and the "failure" exist
_only_ in the judgments of an observer, not in the frogs or in evolution.
The observer might also believe frogs would catch more bugs if they built
campfires and attracted bugs that "are drawn to flames," and that, too,
would bring to light -- ;-), a pun -- yet another problem and failure for
evolution. There is no end to such problems and failures, but that in
itself is no problem, in that we are now talking about failures in the
over-reaching imagination of the observer, not in the biological world of
frogs and bugs.

. . .

Perhaps my problem is that I cannot
see the the following two statements as equivalent:

  "evolution has failed to provide frogs with wings, therefore evolution
   has failed to provide frogs with the control possibility of catching
   bugs in flight far above the ground,"
and
  "frogs do not have wings; frogs do not fly; frogs do not catch bugs in
   flight far above the ground."

What are you questioning?

The idea of "failure" in evolution.

The multiple possible connotations of the word
"failure", the syntax, the facts described?

In my simple vocabulary "failure" implies not-measuring-up to demands,
requirements, expectations, beliefs, and the like. I don't think of
evolution as "having" such conditions placed on it. My admittedly
unsophisticated idea is that "evolution" is our name for a story (word
theory) we intend as an explanation for certain changes that we observe in
the biological world, or that we infer from the geological record. I am
puzzled by the notion that a story, or a process we invoke as part of the
story, can "fail" to do anything other than in our own imaginations. If we
were to subject the theory to quantitative tests, it might succeed or fail
in those tests, but that would be a different matter.

Am I supposed to say that
the two sentences are or are not equivalent?

You are not supposed to say anything. I was trying to work through to an
understanding of how and why our ideas differ, or are similar.

The difference I can see is
that the first would be spoken by some self-important individual who thinks
frogs OUGHT to fly, and SOMETHING SHOULD BE DONE about it. Otherwise, the
facts described look to be the same.

Could you identify for me what _you_ believe are the facts the two
statements have in common? I think of one as factual, the other fanciful.

Skipping ahead:

. . . I pondered the same
question in the shower this morning, about whether the observer's "wishes"
were relevant to the idea that evolution "has" a problem. I found myself
looking at "the problem" from another angle. What I saw from that angle
was that if I had been a designer of animals faced with certain constraints
in designing a particular animal, I would have had a problem as to how I
might resolve those constraints efficiently.

We agree, even though on your side these ideas were all wet at their
inception. "Problems" and "failures" occur for purposive entities, relative
to their intentions.

Now I look at an animal
in an environment that does impose those constraints, and see how that
animal is constructed by some unknown designer competitor. How did that
competitor designer solve the problem I would have had in designing that
animal? Oh, you tell me there was no designer? The animal just evolved?
Nobody "had a problem?" I would have had a problem if I'd been building
that animal for those circumstances, so "of course" evolution solved the
problem.

But the "problem" was mine, as a potential designer of an animal to work
in that environment.

Are we in agreement? I think so; how about you?

As I said in my earlier posting (940908 11:40),

you use the word
"problem" as being equivalent to "error in a control system." It requires
some purpose that is not being fulfilled for there to be a problem in that
sense. Since there is no purpose to evolution, there can, in that sense,
NEVER be a problem solved by evolution.

When you said that, I agreed with you. My problems were with some examples
where you seemed to attribute problems and failures to the innocent.

The example I used of muscular and bone strength still applies from my
"new" viewpoint of this morning, which uses your sense of "problem" but
applies it to a surrogate designer who is substituted for "evolution."

I am much more at ease with the idea that we are talking about events
relative to the intentions or purposes of a designer, an observer, a
theoretician, or a story teller, or any such purposeful creature when we
talk about failures and problems.
. . .

If I refrain from walking around bad parts of a city at night, I solve
a problem of reducing the probability of getting mugged or shot. If I
do that just because other parts of the city (or the countryside) are
prettier and have nicer museums and shops, I still solve that problem,
which I never saw.

You do what you do, and in the process something else happens, or in this
case, it doesn't happen -- you aren't mugged, even though you are not
thinking about being mugged. In fact, an infinite number of other things do
and do not happen. Do you solve a different problem for each of those
"other things?" Isn't that an extremely awkward way to say, "other things
did or did not happen?" Someone observing you might believe you had "solved
the problem(s) of ___," but you did not.
. . .

I trust the shift of viewpoint now seems more coherent?

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Between organism and analyst; not between live and dead organism. Does
that clear out the "perhaps" from one side of that line?

To those two, could we add: not between evolution and organism? With that
change, yes.

Later,

Tom

[Martin Taylor 940913 11:50]

Tom Bourbon [940912.1300]

So what is the problem? I think it hinges wholly on the use of words, as
I suggested in the last go-round. I am more convinced of it now. You say:

"Problems" and "failures" occur for purposive entities, relative
to their intentions.

In the last go-round I made a strong point of saying that this is NOT how
I was using the word "problem." You choose to ignore it and continue to
criticise my argument on that ground. You now add "failure" to the list of
words you restrict to "purposive entities, relative to their intentions."

If I substitute "problicle" and "failurism" for "problem" and "failure"
(thus using words that don't carry such heavy baggage for you, since I
doubt you have come across them before), and assert that I want these to
mean the same as "problem" and "failure" without a purposive entity, would
that resolve your problems in understanding my intentions?

Do I dare add, :wink: ?

No. You don't dare.

Martin

Tom Bourbon [940914.1651]

I was disconnected from the local server for 24 hours and have just now read
the following post from Martin Taylor, which I do not repeat here.

[Martin Taylor 940913 11:50]

Tom Bourbon [940912.1300]

Martin, you seem to think I am taking you lightly. I am not. If my
questions and remarks bother you as much as they seem to do, I'll drop the
thread, at least for a while.

Do I dare add, :wink: ?

No. You don't dare.

Oh? :wink:

Later,

Tom