[Martin Taylor 951107 16:40]
Bill Powers (951107.1330 MST)
You are still taking the experimenter's view rather than the cat's.
Martin Taylor 951107 11:15 --
I'm only considering the case in which everything the cat does
purposefully is actually irrelevant to what the God-experimenter
knows to be effective.
Are you saying that you could devise an experiment in which this would
occur, and in which a person "versed in the art" could not discover what
the cat is actually controlling?
I don't know whether an experimenter could determine what the cat is
controlling during any specific escape sequence. I don't care. The
question is about what the cat might be doing, not the experimenter.
I know I started by asking about the application of the Test, but the
Test leads into the organism tested, doesn't it?
There are two levels of control being
considered here: one, the perception that the cat is in fact
controlling, and two, the indirect effect of controlling that variable
on a second variable that the cat is also controlling.
The "second variable" is, I presume, related to the escape and the subsequent
access to food. The first variable exists, but keeps changing during any
one escape sequence.
It should always be possible to discover what the cat is actually
controlling by applying disturbances and seeing if they are resisted,
and of course then going on to complete the Test.
During rapid reorganization?
In that case, if I moved the stick so that the cat no longer brushed
against it, the cat would do nothing to restore contact and I would
reject contact as part of the controlled variable.
But the cat WOULD do something to restore contact, or it wouldn't
get out of the box.
But the test goes on, if it isn't failed at that stage. We then have to
establish that preventing the cat from sensing contact (even when there
is contact) will destroy control.
By hypothesis throught this interchange of messages, the cat doesn't perceive
the contact. So, again by hypothesis, preventing it from sensing contact
will not destroy control--the cat escapes nevertheless.
In that case, we will be able to show that the cat is not controlling
the stick position or contact with it. If we move the stick so that
contact no longer occurs, the cat will not restore contact, and it won't
escape from the box, either. What you're trying to imagine is, I think,
an impossible situation: where the cat's behavior just happens reliably
to restore contact with a stick moved in any arbitrary direction or to
any arbitrary position, but where there is no control of contact.
Two answers: (1) you are asserting that no matter what variation there
is in the set of feedback functions made available in the environment,
control will be maintainted IF the truly effective perception is what
is being controlled, and (2) you are asserting that if the truly effective
perception is non-existent, then control will not occur as the side effect
of other control, no matter how restricted might be the universe of
available feedback functions.
No, Thorndike's cat would have been extremely unlikely to have escaped
even once, if the box were 2 miles square. And No again, the cat would
almost certainly escape very quickly if the box were so small it could
hardly avoid the stick. The actual situation is somewhere inbetween.
As a cat explores (or at least that's what it looks as if it is doing),
it moves around and brushes things. There's a reasonable chance that
its exploration may involve it brushing the (possibly only virtual) stick.
And at that point it escapes, as we presume it wants to do.
By analogy, in the world in which we live--society and all--if we do certain
things, other things happen (usually). We need never know why, so long
as God doesn't disturb the environment as you propose your experimenter to
do. So long as the feedback paths remain unchanged, if we discover a way
to influence our perceptions, we can control them. It is inconsequential
that some element of the feedback path is a pure side-effect of controlling
another perception for which the main output sets the reference levels, so
long as the environmental feedback paths don't change. But when they do,
those side-effects may be quite different.
So with your disturbances to the cat. When you change the cat's environment,
it may well go back to "random" behaviour, changing its actions until some
different side-effect of some different perceptual control system happens
to have the right influence on the main controlled perception--being out
of the box and at the food.
other words, you are saying that there can be a reliable coincidence
that will fool us. Considering how unlikely such coincidences are, is
this really a serious problem?
In view of the above, do you think that it is either unlikely or a problem?
The action that the cat learns from
one success will not work on the next trial because the disturbance will
be different. Yet if the cat has learned to control the right variable,
it will succeed on every trial even though it must produce a different
amount or direction of action each time.
Yes, quite. And I presume it is through attaining control and retaining it
as the environmental feedback functions change that the cat (and we) learn
what is really the effective perception to control in order to control the
higher-level one. Once the feedback path ceases to depend on side-effects
that change with the environment, it becomes reliable and control consistent.
I am indeed trying to deal with the situation in which it is the
side-effects of control that do the intended job.
This can be the case only if you always use the same disturbance that
has the same relationship to a side-effect.
I hope you see now that it is precisely the variation in the "effective
side-effects" that is at the heart of what interests me in this situation.
Must go. Possibly more on general reorganization and "open-loop"
experiments tomorrow. Perhaps not.