The Fun of Poor Control

[From Rick Marken (960606.1300)]

Bruce Gregory (960606.1445 EDT) --

I am interested that you equate all purposive behavior with control.
(Not antagonistic just interested.)

Control = producing a consistent result by actions that vary, as necessary,
to counter variable disturbances to the result.

Purposive behavior = producing a consistent result by actions that vary, as
necessary, to counter variable disturbances to the result.

That's why I equate control and purposive behavior.

Why are we interested in outcomes even when we can do nothing about them
(unlike our Nintendo outcomes)?

It _seems_ to me that our intense interest in the outcome of events that we
cannot control is not similarly amenable to a "quick and dirty" control
model.

Control theory is about control (purposive behavior). It is not about
"interest" (whatever that is).

Anyway, your question seems to be about why people control for things (like
attending a Red Sox game) that have uncontrollable components; you can
control being at the game but you can't control the outcome (actually, you
can control the outcome of the game -- just ask Arnold Rothstein's ghost --
but let's assume that you can't).

When I go to a game I do want my team to win -- and I cheer or yell when
someone on the team does something that might contribute to a win. Fan
behavior looks like an attempt to control the outcome of the game; and it
probably is. Fans might actually be controlling for a win -- using whatever
means they think will work (there is obviously a WIDE range of behaviors that
fans try) - - but the gain of this loop is pretty low; I have VERY little
effect on whether the team wins or not.

So I'm thinking that some people might actually go to a ball game in order to
control the score. Of course, their control is very poor -- and they often
walk out with a big error signal resulting from a loss. But I think that's
part of the fun of any kind of game. Controlling skillfully can apparently
get pretty boring; and most of our lives are spent controlling VERY
skillfully -- maintaining our balance, rarely getting in car accidents,
reaching precisely toward what we want, etc.

I believe there is some fun to be had from SAFELY losing control. This loss
of control produces a level of stress that we seem to find enjoyable (if we
know we won't be hurt). The Nintendo game is fun because you can't get the
maximum (or even close to the maximum) score every time -- and when you fail
you don't _really_ die. The Sox game is fun because you can do all kinds of
things to try to coax the perception of a "win" out of the team -- but you
get this perception only rarely (or extremely rarely with the Sox). The
stress that comes from this kind of "safe" loss of control is what I think we
experience as _fun_ (getting your "adrenalin" up).

So I guess my answer to your question about "why people are interested in
things they can't control" is "because people seem to enjoy being in a
situations where control is not good (low loop gain) but is safe. You would
not want to have poor control of a car going down the freeway at 60 mph. But
apparently you (and I) enjoy poor control when it's safe -- and when, through
learning, we can even get a little better at it.

Best

Rick