Turn, turn, turn

[From Rick Marken (941003.0945)]

Oded Maler (940929) --

What I mean to say is that what thousands of people are doing in, what
I can roughly term as "cognitive neurosciences" which includes motor
control, vision, speech recognition (including the more theoretical
foundantional aspects such as dynamical systems, organizational
principles, information) is not non-sense and useless just because it
is not based on PCT terminology and principles.

Bill Leach (941001.11:00 EST) replies:

I even doubt that many will assert flatly that what you assert is false.

Well, I'm willing to flatly assert that Oded's statement is false. It turns
out that what thousands of people are doing in the "cognitive neurosciences"
is, indeed, nonsense and useless. It is nonsense because behavior cannot
possibly work the way these models say it works -- at least, not in a real,
distrubance prone environment. It is useless because it is not aimed at
understanding what should be the central question of the "cognitive
neurosciences" which is: what perceptual variables do cognitive systems
control, how do they control them and why?

PCT shows that living systems are organized around the control of their own
perceptual experience. Any science of living systems (such as cognitive
neuroscience) that ignores this fact is simply missing the basic
organizing priciple of life; it's like basing a science of vision on the idea
that visual rays emanate from the eyes while ignoring the laws of optics
which show that light is reflected into the eyes.

I know it's hard to believe that all the work of "thousands of people" --
very smart people -- could all be nonsense and useless. But if you
understand the basics of PCT, then this is the only possible conclusion.
That doesn't make these people any less smart. They may be the smartest,
people in the world. But they are people who are making the wrong assumptions
about the organization of behavior -- so we know that their research and
modelling is "nonesense and useless", even if it is very smart and clever.

As long as people believe tha what thousands of cognitive neuroscientists
have done and are doing couldn't possibly be nonsense and useless, they
will never take the step that is absolutly necessary in order to start doing
PCT. The step that is necessary is to turn one's back on cognitive
neuroscience and start the study of cognitive systems all over again, from
step one, based on the understanding that organisms exist in a negative
feedback relationship with their environment. Unfortunately (but,
understandably) very few people -- even people who "believe in" PCT -- have
been willing to do this. Many PCT afficianados still hold to the faith that
the work done by "thousands" of psychologists, psychophysicists, cognitive
neuroscientists, and biologists could not be useless nonesense. But it is.
Not because the "thousands of people" are dumb; simply because they refuse to
believe that the complex edifice of their discipline could possibly be built
on a faulty foundation. But it is built on a faulty foundation; in fact,
one that is completely and utterly wrong.

There is, of course, a great deal of science that forms the basis of PCT,
most of it being physics, chemistry, neurology, physiology, etc. The
sciences that we can turn our backs on are those that have tried to deal with
closed loop systems as though they were open loop: this means that a great
deal of pre-PCT biology and virtually all pre-PCT social and behavior science
can be safely, profitably (and necessarily) ignored. In fact, if it is not
ignored - - if people don't just start doing PCT science, which means
replicating and extending the published PCT research -- then PCT (as I've
said before) just won't get off the ground.

This post can be considered another plea to researchers: please turn away
from the past and turn, turn, turn to PCT; I swear it's not too late;-)



In a private post, Bruce Buchanan notes a typo on my part. I said "the coin
game" is described on "p 325 of B:CP". It is actually on p 235 of B:CP.