Thoughts PCT and biological research

Even I don't understand why I'm allowing myself to pontificate on this subject other than I do have very strong feelings about it.

I find myself often thinking about one of the most profound observations of William James where he pointed out that nothing in the behavioral science theory of the time could explain the behavior of Romeo. It is indeed, sad that the behavioral science world did not see how vitally important James' observation was to science.

Today it does seem that many in the biological sciences are beginning to stumble around with closed loop negative feedback control as an explanation for what they are seeing. Just looking at the examples presented on this net indicate this is occurring.

However, the deep problem is that without an understanding of the implications of PCT a lot of flailing around and unsupportable conjecture is in the literature about what the observations mean.

Personally, I'm convinced that the root of the problem is that instead of a PCT approach, these researchers are trying to fit what they observe to a sequential cause model. That we have to use a sequential explanation to explain the operation of a control loop is itself a contributor to the problem though within PCT adherents are quick to point out the this explanation is only used to explain the physical behavior required of each element of the control loop and IS NOT an explanation of the phenomenon of control.

Another thing that I think we, the PCT enthusiasts need to note as well is that the biological researcher is in a very unique situation in that they can usually measure things that we can not, such as the actual perception, error signal, and reference signal in some cases.

I don't have any contact in that world so I have no idea of how to go about introducing PCT to biological researchers but it sure seems to me that should that introduction be made and stick, the biological sciences would advance much faster than even its current pace.

bill

[Eetu Pikkarainen 2019-02-19_08:57:50 UTC]

Bill, I warmly agree with your concern. I also think that generally (for our general understanding of the world we live in) it would be even more important that biologists would understand PCT than psychologists and engineers. But it might be also even more difficult to make them understand because they seem to control for the perception that it is possible to understand something about living nature only form their current starting points. (I have got this impression when working with biologists in the area of nature conserving.) But anyway I have made my part by trying to start discussion with one special branch of biologists namely biosemioticians as I told in [Eetu Pikkarainen 2019-02-01_14:44:41 UTC].

eetu

···

-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Leach <csgnet@lists.illinois.edu>
Sent: Sunday, February 17, 2019 11:39 AM
To: csgnet@lists.illinois.edu
Subject: Thoughts PCT and biological research

Even I don't understand why I'm allowing myself to pontificate on this subject other than I do have very strong feelings about it.

I find myself often thinking about one of the most profound observations of William James where he pointed out that nothing in the behavioral science theory of the time could explain the behavior of Romeo. It is indeed, sad that the behavioral science world did not see how vitally important James' observation was to science.

Today it does seem that many in the biological sciences are beginning to stumble around with closed loop negative feedback control as an explanation for what they are seeing. Just looking at the examples presented on this net indicate this is occurring.

However, the deep problem is that without an understanding of the implications of PCT a lot of flailing around and unsupportable conjecture is in the literature about what the observations mean.

Personally, I'm convinced that the root of the problem is that instead of a PCT approach, these researchers are trying to fit what they observe to a sequential cause model. That we have to use a sequential explanation to explain the operation of a control loop is itself a contributor to the problem though within PCT adherents are quick to point out the this explanation is only used to explain the physical behavior required of each element of the control loop and IS NOT an explanation of the phenomenon of control.

Another thing that I think we, the PCT enthusiasts need to note as well is that the biological researcher is in a very unique situation in that they can usually measure things that we can not, such as the actual perception, error signal, and reference signal in some cases.

I don't have any contact in that world so I have no idea of how to go about introducing PCT to biological researchers but it sure seems to me that should that introduction be made and stick, the biological sciences would advance much faster than even its current pace.

bill

Eetu, you'll need to forgive me as I did not notice that post. It does appear to me that you may well have embarked upon a formative task! I salute you for engaging that community.

The main reasons that I mentioned molecular biologists is that many world renowned researcher in that (and related fields) have quite explicitly stated that a phenomenon they were studying was indeed a closed loop negative feedback control system. To me, one can infer that such people might well be more open to understanding that such control can be fundamental in achieving a proper understanding for all of the behavior we see in living systems.

The paradigm shift between sequential causality and control might seem at first examination seem to be subtle, trivial, and slight but the reality is that it is a profound change in thinking. It is really difficult to explain this difference to anyone that has not already thought deeply about circular causality.

Bill Powers, Professor Runkel, and many others, have provided great examples of how different the conclusions are when each of these paradigms are used for analysis.

I do agree with you that engineers are not that important when it comes to dealing with living systems. Indeed, engineers so often fall back to the 'stimulus-response,' 'computed output,' 'directed output' or some other such models rather than doing the difficult work of explaining behavior in a manner that remains consistent with PCT. That is, they take the easy and lazy way out and fall back to 'classical behavioral paradigms' for explanation. They often do that without any recognition of how horribly inconsistent those explanations are in the presents of control theory.

I also believe that having those in the behavioral sciences begin to understand PCT is very important and might well be the most important group. However, that whole field seems also to be the most resistant to seeing the significance of a control system paradigm!

So the approach that you, and others, are using to bring an awareness to other fields of biological sciences where some members are already showing signs of seeing control phenomenon is a really good idea.

bill

···

On 2/19/19 2:11 AM, Eetu Pikkarainen (eetu.pikkarainen@oulu.fi via csgnet Mailing List) wrote:

[Eetu Pikkarainen 2019-02-19_08:57:50 UTC]

Bill, I warmly agree with your concern. I also think that generally (for our general understanding of the world we live in) it would be even more important that biologists would understand PCT than psychologists and engineers. But it might be also even more difficult to make them understand because they seem to control for the perception that it is possible to understand something about living nature only form their current starting points. (I have got this impression when working with biologists in the area of nature conserving.) But anyway I have made my part by trying to start discussion with one special branch of biologists namely biosemioticians as I told in [Eetu Pikkarainen 2019-02-01_14:44:41 UTC].

eetu

<snip>

Hi everybody

this is finally superb discsussion about PCT being general theory of how organisms function.

Bill P. at all (50th Anniversary, 2011) :

Perceptual Control Theory (PCT) provides a general theory of functioning for organisms

This basics of PCT were supported and “signed” by : Bruce Abbott, Timothy A. Carey, David M. Goldstein, Warren Mansell. Richard S. Marken, Bruce Nevin, Richard Robertson, Martin Talyor.

So I assume that all this members support idea of PCT being general theory of human behavior and thus how organisms function

Bill P (B:CP):

CONTROL : Achievement and maintenance of a preselected state in the controlling system, through actions on the environment that also cancel the effects of disturbances

….and it should be developed and upgraded in that direction. Some of last Bill Leach posts are inevitably showing in that direction.

Bill Leach by my oppinion opened “new era” in development of PCT. He aimed PCT toward biologist, physiologist, biochemistry and so on who deal with leaving organisms.

It’s really great PCT experience after all these years when I last spoke about these issues with our teacher Bill Powers. Now I’m looking into incredibly good presention which was given by Bill Leach in some last posts.

It was really a “dark age” for at least 5 years talking about fruitless, absurd, childish RCT (Ricks Control Theory) about “Behavior is Control” and about “Controlled variable” in external environment and of course “Controlled Perceptual Variable” or CPV in afferent nerv which were leading nowhere. All above elements are part of Ricks control loop in outer environment which has of course nothing to do with PCT and LCS III diagram.

image001249.jpg

HB : There was no progress in PCT. More or less retardation and I still don’t beleive that Rick will confirm that LCS III diagram shows basics of PCT theory and it show also that “Behavior is not control” and that there is no “Controlled variable” in environment and of course no “Controlled Perceptual Variable”.

Rick do you agree that LCS III diagram shows right PCT theory and your elements of outside control loop show wrong PCT Theory ?

If anybody don’t beleive or don’t understand what I’m talking about she/he can visit CSGnet archives and see for her/him-self what Rick was writing last five or six years. I’m sure that Rick will gladly expose his historical work on misleading forum for such a long time.

Writings of Bill Leach fill me with hope that finaly PCT discussions will be directed into right way talking about how organisms really function and how other natural sciences could make new approcah to their research. Because of this writings I decided that I’ll stay for a while on CSGnet. Other my answers are in down in Bill Leach text…

···

-----Original Message-----

From: Bill Leach (wrleach@cableone.net via csgnet Mailing List) csgnet@lists.illinois.edu

Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2019 11:02 AM

To: csgnet@lists.illinois.edu

Subject: Re: Thoughts PCT and biological research

Eetu, you’ll need to forgive me as I did not notice that post. It does appear to me that you may well have embarked upon a formative task! I salute you for engaging that community.

The main reasons that I mentioned molecular biologists is that many world renowned researcher in that (and related fields) have quite explicitly stated that a phenomenon they were studying was indeed a closed loop negative feedback control system.

HB : I agree.

Bill Powers went far ahead noticing that such control units Bill Leach mentioned built up micro organisms as well as macro ones. Your notion Bill Leach about control units as building blocks in any organism which are closely connected in their functioning (discussion with Eetu) is incredibly good description I ever saw on CSGnet. It shows by my oppinion main principles of how organisms function as the whole.

We must not forget that cells (control units) which constitute organisms are tiny control units that build up tissues and whole organism. And main rule in keeping constant bio-environment (homeostasis) in cells and organs and whole organisms is that : every cell contributes to homeostasis and every cell has something from it. So if I translate that into PCT language : every cell control unit contribute to homeostasis so that organism survive. The organisms is thus for itself one big feedback negative control system constituted from smaller ones. It’s incredible Bill Powers insight into organisms functioning. And we have to remember that PCT is general control theory about how organims function not theory about “Control of behavior”.

BL : To me, one can infer that such people might well be more open to understanding that such control can be fundamental in achieving a proper understanding for all of the behavior we see in living systems.

The paradigm shift between sequential causality and control might seem at first examination seem to be subtle, trivial, and slight but the reality is that it is a profound change in thinking. It is really difficult to explain this difference to anyone that has not already thought deeply about circular causality.

HB : I agree.

Bill Powers, Professor Runkel, and many others, have provided great examples of how different the conclusions are when each of these paradigms are used for analysis.

I do agree with you that engineers are not that important when it comes to dealing with living systems. Indeed, engineers so often fall back to the ‘stimulus-response,’ ‘computed output,’ ‘directed output’ or some other such models rather than doing the difficult work of explaining behavior in a manner that remains consistent with PCT. That is, they take the easy and lazy way out and fall back to ‘classical behavioral paradigms’ for explanation. They often do that without any recognition of how horribly inconsistent those explanations are in the presents of control theory.

HB : I agree.

I also believe that having those in the behavioral sciences begin to understand PCT is very important and might well be the most important group. However, that whole field seems also to be the most resistant to seeing the significance of a control system paradigm!

HB : I agree.

So the approach that you, and others, are using to bring an awareness to other fields of biological sciences where some members are already showing signs of seeing control phenomenon is a really good idea.

HB : I hope you’ll stay on this course and try to improve or ugrade PCT and show main principles to other sciences.

Boris

bill

On 2/19/19 2:11 AM, Eetu Pikkarainen (eetu.pikkarainen@oulu.fi via csgnet Mailing List) wrote:

[Eetu Pikkarainen 2019-02-19_08:57:50 UTC]

Bill, I warmly agree with your concern. I also think that generally (for our general understanding of the world we live in) it would be even more important that biologists would understand PCT than psychologists and engineers. But it might be also even more difficult to make them understand because they seem to control for the perception that it is possible to understand something about living nature only form their current starting points. (I have got this impression when working with biologists in the area of nature conserving.) But anyway I have made my part by trying to start discussion with one special branch of biologists namely biosemioticians as I told in [Eetu Pikkarainen 2019-02-01_14:44:41 UTC].

eetu