[From Bill Powers (940717.1640 MDT)]
General comments on "alerting."
If "alerting" is a special phenomenon that requires treatment different
from that given to any other control phenomenon, then it seems to me
that there are many other phenomena equally deserving of a special place
in the PCT model.
There are, for example, "foraging" signals which indicate to the
organism that it should allocate some resources from the limited output
degrees of freedom to executing search strategies likely to produce
There are also "mating" signals, which indicate the presence of a
potential mate and tell the systems to switch to controlling for
And how about "calming" signals, which tell the systems that there is no
longer any need to be alert because all important variables are under
control and lower-priority activities can now safely be resumed.
Then we have "aggression" signals, which tell the organism that it
should switch from a defensive mode of action to a more proactive mode.
The list could probably be extended considerably by going through old
psychology books and finding all the traits and tendencies and
proclivities and instincts that have been observed and named from the
time of Aristotle onward. The classification and naming of patterns of
overt behavior is an ancient and honorable pursuit, as is the attempt to
find generalizations describing the circumstances under which they are
This, however, is not how modeling works. Modeling is concerned with the
organization of a system that can show all the classes and types of
behavior that are seen, under all possible circumstances. Taxonomy
creates the appearance of a huge number of unrelated patterns; modeling
attempts to show that behind all these patterns there is a single system
which behaves in the same way no matter what is going on. Once we start
trying to install specific architectures aimed at explaining how
specific behaviors occur under special circumstances, there will be no
end to it: the model, instead of being a general-purpose system, will
become a large set of special-purpose sub-organizations. This, it seems
to me, leads away from the goal I am pursuing.