Time-spanning control

[From Bill Powers (921023.1100)]

Greg Williams (921023) --

If the controlled person does not anticipate the future error, the
action desired will take place and the controller will be satisfied.
When the future arrives, however, the effect on the controlled
person (if it occurs as predicted) may cause an error. The
controlled person will then act to oppose the effect. If this action
by the controlled person is successful, the controller will
experience an error and reorganize.

IF such action is possible. There might be no way to "right the
wrong" -- no successful (or maybe even partly successful) action

Read one more sentence:

If it is unsuccessful, the controlled person will experience an
error and reorganize.

This [the controller experiences an error] presumes that the
controller remains accessible and continues to control for the same
perceptions as during the interaction.

If the controller is not around at the finish, where is the control?
Don't confuse prediction with control.

The above also assumes that the controllee has not changed
circumstances so the future effect is no longer relevant, or has not
changed goals or perceptions so the future effect is no longer
considered adverse, or has not taken steps to prevent the future
effect from happening at all, or has not learned in the interim how to
oppose disturbances like those of the future effect, and so on and so
on. There are many assumptions involved in the hypothetical scenario
when we talk about effects of present actions on future consequences.
The future is not a fixed function of the past, at least not as far as
any human being knows. We make it up as we go. Controlling over a span
of time is very difficult, not to mention very slow (how rapidly can
the controller react to counteract failure of control with a year's

So, when the conflict arises some time AFTER the controller has
finished controlling the controlled person's actions, "real"
problematic control of another's actions can have been successful.

Did I suggest anywhere that it can't be successful on any given
occasion? Of course if the controller isn't present to maintain the
control, it's hard to see how this could be called "control." The
controller can see to it that there's a chance that a future
disturbance will occur of a type that the controllee might not be able
to handle when it occurs. But this isn't to say that the future effect
will actually occur as predicted, or that the controllee won't learn
to handle it. The controller can persuade the controllee to sign the
deed. But when this proves to have been a mistake by the controllee (a
problem arises) the controller can't then get the controllee to sign
ANOTHER deed (even if there is no future danger in doing so).

When we introduce the time dimension, we can't arbitrarily cut it off
after a single time-spanning experience. Over time, people learn from
experiences, mostly from doing things or having things done to them
that create error for themselves. I can fool a toddler into thinking I
have pulled the end of one finger off, so I can make the toddler laugh
(or cry) in this way -- once or twice. But I can't go on doing that
indefinitely. In the short term I can use this means to control the
toddler's actions, sort of. But in the long term the toddler
reorganizes and can no longer be controlled in that way. Repeated
experience with situations that lead to error results in
reorganization that continues until those situations can no longer
cause uncorrectable error, or until death.

Because they realize that it can (often, I claim, based on empirical
evidence) be successful, many, many people are concerned about the
nature and limits of controlling others' actions and of having their
own actions controlled by others -- not only when the outcomes of
such interactions are problematic for any of the parties, but also
when they aid or make possible ("facilitate") control of some
perceptions of the controlled person (and employing reorganization to
do this, in some cases).

I think that most people who are concerned in this way are trying to
achieve control of something that is at best only loosely and
uncertainly controllable. I think that most people who think they HAVE
control of others, for good or for evil, are indulging in wishful
thinking. I think that people are very, very bad at predicting either
good outcomes or bad ones.

There is a great difference between wishing that you could control the
future and actually being able to do so. There is a great difference
between wishing to facilitate the learning of children and actually
having that effect. What seems to one person like aiding or
facilitating the control of others may appear to another like meddling
and coercing. Remember that judgments about the success of controlling
others are usually made by the controllers, not the controllees. And
even when controllees agree that the effects existed and were good,
they can be mistaken: they may not realize how much the success
depended on themselves.

I also think that people quite unnecessarily assume that they are
being controlled against their will or without their knowledge, when
in fact it's their own assumptions and beliefs that lead them to
behave in the way they see as externally controlled. They don't
realize that it's their own goals and perceptions that trap them, and
that by rethinking their goals and perceptions they could shed the
apparent control without difficulty, if it is causing them any

I'd like to see the empirical evidence you have. There may be
interpretations of it that lead to different conclusions than those
you have decided upon.


Chuck Tucker (921023) --

      what happens
      between people (excuse spelling errors) is coercing, forcing,
      physically or cognitively manipulating, influencing, persuading,
      pleading, bribing, requesting, asking. begging, conning,
      convincing, rationalizing, indirect manipulating ("rubber
      banding"), agreeing, committing, taking for granted, assuming,
      "of coursing," "why notting," promising, pledging, contracting,
      willing, buying, selling, envisioning, respecting, loving,
      threating, entraping and the like BUT NOT CONTROLLING.

I agree. To carry this debate much further than it has gone until now,
I think we have to start looking at all these other kinds of
interactions that people often CALL control of others and HOPE is
control of others and see what is really going on. Perhaps when Greg
presents his empirical evidence we will be able to separate what is
control from what is not, and begin exploring other modes of
interpersonal behavior.

      My proposal is to forget about [those who don't want to learn]
      and attempt to incorporate PCT into the lives of younger
      people and see if they pick up on it and use it.

The only selling we have to do is to make sure that what we present
hangs together and fits the facts. Those who are interested in ideas
with those qualities will come to PCT. Those who are not are not the
sort of people I want to hang out with anyway. Everyone in the CSG and
on the net is self-selected. Nobody had to write commercials telling
these people how great control theory is, and how much better they
would feel if they analyzed two control systems before breakfast every
day. There are people who have prepared themselves to grasp the
principles of PCT and who have no stake in preserving the sciences of
life as they are. If we can get our materials out into public view,
those people will see them, understand them, and get involved. That is
how people became attracted to my ideas in the first place, how the
CSG came into being and grew, how this network conference arose and
grew, and how we will progress in the future. We have nothing to sell:
only something to describe as well and clearly as we can. If there is
something in it, the right people will see it.

      What can I do according to PCT to get all of you to vote for the
      Democratic ticket on November 3, 1992?

Don't push. This simply creates counterefforts.

Anyway, partisan activism on this publicly-supported net is, I
believe, a no-no. Couldn't it cost some not-for-profit institutions
who help support bitnet and internet their charters?

I don't support any political party. What I support is anyone who is
out to enhance the will of the people and who aims (realistically) to
minimize the coercive control of others. If others agree with such
PCT-informed concepts, they can certainly make up their own minds as
to which candidates come closer to meeting these and other such
Best to all,

Bill P.