Superficial Behavior, Nefarious PCT

[From Rick Marken (940518.1400)]

Mary Powers (940517) --

Oded, you are a cynical s.o.b. :slight_smile:

I'm going to have to remember those smiley's myself!

Like Tom, I'm not inclined to see the movie [Shindler's List]. The newsreels
in 1945 were more than enough for this person's lifetime.

What really got me about the movie was that it seemed to go along with the
idea that the more graphically one depicts horrific behavior, the more one
learns about it. I have heard that some people didn't think that the movie
was sufficiently horrifying -- it didn't show people as starved skeletons, it
didn't show people actually being gassed, being shovelled in ovens, etc.
There seems to be a belief in some circles (and I think it is quite
prevalent) that the graphic depiction of what people DO -- especially
if it is particularly remarkable behavior -- tells us something significant
about human nature. I see this attitude as being very consistent with the
attitude in conventional behavioral science, which focuses on the external
appearance of behavior and ignores the underlying processes that might be
responsible for it. I see it in the work of cognitive scientists and
roboticists who believe that they have learned something important if they
have been able to program systems that produce complex looking behaviors,
even if the processes that produce those behaviors (typically, programmed
output) are nothing like those responsible for producing the behavior of
living systems. It is an attitude toward behavior that is completely and
intentionally (I think) superficial.

I don't think, by the way, that superficical aspects of behavior should be
ignored, especially when they are very important to us. I am not saying that
movies should not be made that depict the horrible events of the holocaust or
of the killing fields of Cambodia or whatever. If there are people out
there who have never seen what happened in Poland in the early 40's then
I highly recommend that they go see "Shindler's List". It is important to see
what people do. But once seen (and, like Mary, I have seen plenty of real and
simulated footage of the holocaust) it seems that the next step is to go and
figure out what's going on; what is it about people that makes it possible
for them to do what I've seen? what is it about the nature of people that
makes it possible for people to kill other people while listening to
Beethoven? I was upset about the movie because I was told that it would
explore the moral transformation of a person. It did that -- but it did it in
about 1/2 hr. The remaining 2 1/2 hours showed, in the most horrifying
detail, why this should have been the easiest moral transformation of the

There are moral principles to be derived from PCT, as there are,
when you think about it, from any psychology - one of the unique
features of this particular science. I know that I think that PCT
supports the Golden Rule as being a principle more compatible
with people-as-living-control-systems than, say, rampant profit-
motivated capitalism, or any I'm-for-me-firster philosopher like
Ayn Rand.

I emphatically agree -- though I'm certainly glad that you were the one
who said it!

Bill Powers (940518.0930 MDT) --

But Greg was right, a person who
understands PCT could use it to find out what people want, and then
by applying cleverly-designed disturbances, get those people to
produce the actions that the manipulator wants to see.

Tom Bourbon (940518.1300)--

That's exactly one of the points I was making (not too successfully) in my
previous posts on violence and controlling others.

I just can't believe that promulgating PCT will create any more problems with
controlling than those that already exist. PCT doesn't tell people how to
control people better than they already can be controlled; the only way to
arbitrarly control people is by force -- big time force; merciless force.
There is no way to get someone to do something that they either don't want to
do or that has side effects that they don't want to perceive. The disturbance
resistance game works only as long as the result you want to see is either
irrelevant to or wanted by the person you are controlling. PCT does not show
people how to arbitrarily control other people more effectively -- because
there is only one way to control other people arbitrarily -- by force, and
that approach to arbitrary control is well known; PCT would not be letting
the cat out of the bag if it said that brutal dictatorships work (as long as
the dictator is willing to be brutal).

I think it's a happy fact of human nature that PCT cannot possibly be
misused -- at least, people can't do any worse with PCT than with what
they already know from Skinner, Machiavelli or from just winging it.
Understanding PCT is, at worst, of no consequence, and, at best, the basis
for more mutually satisfying ways of getting along -- once we get all that
birth control powder into the water supplies, anyway.