Virtual Reality, overdue replies.

[From Richard Thurman (940602.1300)]

I have been away on business for a few days (work takes me away
I have a few posts to respond to. My apologies for not responding

Tom Bourbon (940517.1657)

Referring to a Virtual Reality Conference I reported on:

Welcome back to virtual reality of the csg-l kind, Richard.

Thanks, I have come to prefer the CSG-L variety.

So, in yet another group of people whom you might think
would "get it," they don't get it.

The consistency of the presenters mind set was astounding. Even
those familiar with classical control theory had bought into the
'control of behavior' mind set. It seems that the two groups
(behavioral/social researchers and engineers/programmers) feed
off each other. The engineers/programmers look to the social
sciences to explain how people 'act' while the social scientists
look to the computer metaphor explain how people 'think.' They
are both asking each other to confirm their mind set.

This is really interesting news, Richard. The relationship you describe
looks a lot like the one between cognitive theorists on the one hand, and
(cognitive)neuroscientists on the other. People in each group look to those
in the other group to confirm and explain their own work. And of course,
thinly veiled beneath the surface are all of the lineal notions that place
behavior-as-actions at the end of a causal chain that runs:

      environment-->neuro-cognitive information processing-->actions

with hardly a hint of a variation on the time-worn theme. Many of those
people are so blind to the fact of control that they believe their ideas
can easily explain everything PCT explains -- and more. All they need to do
is say, "of course the relationship between organism and environment is
reciprocal," and that makes everything all right.

This is a very accurate statement. I can't get past this impasse with the
psychologists at my Lab. They point to information processing models
and say "See ... there's the loop" and the neo-Skinerians show me diagrams
of the "three term contingency" and say they already have it covered.

So now even the very hottest hot new area in computers and technology is
infected with the same old lineal notions about behavior.
Can you tell us anything else about the amazing and wonderful things you
saw, Richard?

Well, now that I have a chance to respond -- the conference is already three
weeks old. I saw lots of technical gizmos and fun hardware things. I was
particularly impressed with a company called BioControl. They were using
biofeedback stuff to trigger computers. Its got potential but just does not
work well yet. I should buy their stuff and hook up Rick's Mind Reading
program . . . . . .


from my office about two weeks out of every month) and I see that

Bill Powers (940518.0930 MDT)

Your conclusions about the Virtual Reality conference were most
interesting. It's frustrating, isn't it, to see these very smart and
accomplished people going about solving the problem backward. When I
was designing control mechanisms for people, I often went to the
literature to see if I could pick up any hints, but always gave up
and went back to my own simple-minded way.

It is increasingly frustrating because I do not have the background
(credentials) to add any authority to what I say. To the engineers
I am simply a "psycho" (the in term for referring to psychologists).
To the AI/Cog.Sci. folks I am a training/education type. So my
pronouncements carry very little weight. In addition, there is
simply not enough PCT literature available to show that PCT is
a legit science. No offense to anyone on CSG-L but I see a whole
lot of talk but very little results. So . . . I can generate very
little interest. I am neither an authority on autonomous agents
nor can I cite any literature the VR folks would trust.

This shouldn't be construed as too much of a complaint. The way
I see it, I'm just glad to know about PCT and feel a bit awed at
being in on the ground floor of what I believe to be a paradigm shift
within the social sciences. I just wish I could help it move a little

There are so many brilliant young people out
there who can program rings around a plodder like me, who can handle
complex mathematical analysis, and who are full of the fires of
spring. PCT is really going to leap forward when some little group
of young hackers and engineers gets turned on by PCT and takes off
with it with the same intensity they put into designing toys.

That fits the description of the VR community. A strange mixture
of mathematically adept, computer enamored hacker types who
want to make their creations live.

I'm toying with the idea of putting together a seminar/workshop for
a VR conference in December. I figure using about 4 or 5 hours to
go over your Byte articles. That's about all they (no, I) could handle.
I'll call it "Building Better 'Bots: How To Create Autonomous Virtual

Anyone on CSG-L interested in working this angle?

Incidentally, would you like Arm Version 2? It doesn't control quite
as well as Version 1 because the dynamics of the visual systems
aren't quite right for working with the dynamical model of the arm.
However, it not only turns its head to follow the target, but its
eyes track the target _individually_, so you get convergence of gaze
as well.

I just figured out how to FTP it from Bill Silverts site. I tried Gopher
but couldn't get it work. When I used FETCH (a Mac program) it worked
just fine. (Anybody know why?) Any way I got it (Arm 2) and will give
it a look.


Richard Thurman
Air Force Armstrong Lab
6001 S. Power Rd. BLDG. 558
Mesa AZ. 85206-0904

(602) 988-6561