The importance of science and technology for the well being of mankind

The importance of science and technology for the well being of mankind

Show Video

Chapter 1: The Technology of Behavior In attempting to solve the appalling problems that confront us in the present world, we naturally do what we do best. We apply what we are strong in; and our strength is science and technology. To curb the population explosion, we seek the best methods of birth control. Seeing the threat of nuclear war, we create nuclear deterrence and missile defense systems. We try to prevent the global threat of hunger through new agricultural crops and more efficient methods of cultivation.

Improved sanitation and medicine, we hope, will conquer diseases; improved housing and transportation will solve the problems of the ghettoes, and new methods of waste minimization and disposal will halt environmental pollution. We can even point to considerable accomplishments in all these areas, and it is not surprising that we should strive for further advances. However, the situation becomes worse and worse, and it is disheartening to find that the very technologies we employ are increasingly responsible.

Sanitation and medicine have made the problems of population growth more acute, war has become more terrible with the invention of nuclear weapons, and the consumer drive for well-being is largely responsible for environmental pollution. As Darlington said, "Every new source of power from which man has drawn on the earth has been used in such a way that prospects for the next generation have been diminished. All his progress has been made at the expense of damage to the environment which he cannot repair and has not been able to foresee." Whether or not the damage could have been foreseen, man must repair it or lose everything. And he can do so only if he understands the nature of the problem.

The application of physical and biological sciences will not solve our problems because the solutions lie in quite a different realm. The best contraceptives will curb population growth only if people use them. New weapons systems will overcome new defenses and vice versa, but the nuclear catastrophe will be prevented only when conditions under which states wage war are abolished. New agricultural and medical methods will not help if they are not put into practice, and the housing problem is not just a matter of construction and city planning but of people's way of life. Overcrowding will be eliminated only by encouraging people not to live crowded together, and the environment will deteriorate until people cease activities that pollute it. In short, we must make enormous changes in human behavior, and we cannot do this by physics or biology alone, no matter how hard we try.

(There are other problems, of course, such as the crisis in our educational system and the discontent and rebellion of youth, to which physical and biological technologies obviously have no relevance and have never been tried.) It is not enough to "use technologies with a deeper understanding of human problems" or "put technology in the service of human spiritual needs" or "urge technologists to address the problems of humanity." From such expressions, it follows that where human behavior begins, technology ends, and there we must continue as it has been done before, relying on what we know from personal experience, or on the repository of human experience known as history, or on the concentrates of human experience that can be found in folk wisdom and empirical rules. All this has been available for many centuries, and all that can be shown as a result is the current state of affairs in the world. What we lack is the technology of behavior. We could solve our problems very quickly if we could regulate the world's population growth with the same precision as we adjust the orbit of a spacecraft, or improve the state of agriculture and industry with at least a fraction of the confidence with which we accelerate elementary particles to high energies, or move towards world peace with something resembling the steady progress with which we approach absolute zero temperature (although both goals, it seems, will remain elusive).

However, we do not have the technology to control behavior that is as powerful and precise as the technology of physics and biology; moreover, those who do not consider the very possibility of this technology ridiculous are more horrified than encouraged by it. This is how far we are still from "understanding human problems" in the sense that physics and biology understand problems in their own sphere, and how far we are from the ability to prevent the catastrophe towards which the world seems inexorably moving. It can be said that two and a half thousand years ago, humans understood themselves to the same extent as any part of the surrounding world. Today, they are capable of understanding themselves worse than anything else. Physics and biology have made great progress, but there has been no comparable development in something like the science of human behavior.

Ancient Greek physics and biology are now of only historical interest (no modern physicist or biologist would turn to Aristotle for help), but Plato's dialogues are still taught to students and quoted as if they shed light on human behavior. Aristotle would not be able to understand a single page of today's physics or biology textbook, but Socrates and his friends would have only minimal difficulty understanding the latest scholarly discussions on humanitarian issues. And as for technology, we have made tremendous strides in managing physical and biological processes, but the progress of our practical activities in the areas of government, education, and most of the economy, even though adapted to the most diverse conditions, is not particularly great. We can hardly explain this by saying that the ancient Greeks knew everything there was to know about human behavior. Of course, they knew more about it than they knew about the physical world, but it was truly meager knowledge. Moreover, their way of thinking about human behavior was obviously fatally flawed.

While ancient Greek physics and biology, despite all their primitiveness, ultimately led to modern science, ancient Greek theories of human behavior led us nowhere. And if they still dominate us today, it's not because they contained some eternal truth, but because they didn't contain the seeds of anything better. Of course, anyone can claim that human behavior is a particularly complex "matter."

It is indeed so, and we tend to think so precisely because we are so incompetent in it. However, modern physics and biology successfully deal with subjects that are no less challenging than many aspects of human behavior. The difference is that the tools and methods they use are commensurate with the complexity of the tasks at hand. But the fact that tools and methods of equivalent power are not available in the study of human behavior is not the complete explanation, but only a part of it. Is it really easier to accomplish a human's flight to the Moon than to improve the quality of education in our schools? Or to build better housing, worthy of human beings, for everyone? Or to provide everyone with useful, well-paying jobs and, as a result, give them a higher standard of living? The question here is not about choosing priorities because no one would dare say that reaching the Moon is more important than all of that.

No, the thrilling essence of the Moon landing is that it became achievable. Science and technology reached a level where this could be done with a giant leap forward. But when it comes to problems related to human behavior, there is no such enthusiasm at all. We still have a long way to go to solve them.

It is easy to conclude that there must be something in human behavior that renders scientific analysis and, therefore, effective technology impossible. But we have by no means exhausted the possibilities for it. On the contrary, there is even a suspicion that scientific methods have hardly been applied in the study of human behavior. Yes, scientific tools were used; calculations, measurements, and comparisons were made. However, something important for scientific practice is conspicuously absent in almost all modern discussions of human behavior.

This directly relates to our understanding of the causes of behavior. (The term "cause" is now rarely used in serious scientific works, but it can be used here.) Human beings' first acquaintance with causes probably comes from their own experience of behavior: objects move when they are pushed. If other objects move, it is because someone is moving them, and if the mover is not visible, it is because they are invisible. Ancient Greek gods served as causes for physical phenomena in this role.

They were usually outside the objects they moved, but sometimes they could inhabit them, making them "possessed." Physics and biology soon abandoned explanations of this kind and turned to more useful types of causes, but this step was never taken in relation to human behavior. Reasonable people no longer believe that there is "possession" by demons (although exorcism is sometimes practiced, and references to the demonic have reappeared in the works of psychotherapists), but human behavior is still usually attributed to some kind of "active principle" residing within them.

For example, it is said that a juvenile delinquent suffers from personality defects. This would only make sense if "personality" was something distinct from the body that happened to be at stake. This distinction becomes clear when discussing how one body supposedly contains multiple personalities that control it differently at different times. Psychoanalysts postulated three such personalities - "I - Ego", "Super-Ego", and "Id" - and claim that the interactions between them are responsible for human behavior, in which they supposedly "reside." Although physics later ceased to personify objects in this way, it continued for a long time, asserting that objects seemed to have will, impulses, feelings, intentions, and other private attributes of the "mover" residing in them.

According to Butterfield, Aristotle claimed that a falling body accelerates because it increasingly delights, coming closer and closer to its goal, while later scholastic authorities believed that a "impetus" moves the core, which was sometimes called "impetuosity." In the end, all of this was eventually abandoned, and rightly so. However, behavioral sciences still explain it with similar internal "essences." It comes as no surprise when it is said that a person delivering good news walks faster because they feel delight, or acts recklessly due to their impulsiveness, or persistently sticks to the same course of action due to their willpower. Careless teleological statements about "purposes" can still be found in physics and biology, but the standard practice has moved away from them.

Conversely, nearly all human behavior is ascribed to intentions, plans, goals, and tasks. If there is still a question of whether a machine can have a goal of activity, that question implies (and it must be emphasized): can it be similar to a human in this regard? Physics and biology have moved away from personified causes when they began attributing the behavior of things to entities (beginnings), qualities, or their nature. For a medieval alchemist, for example, some properties of matter could be associated with a "mercurial" (mercury-like) essence, and substances were compared according to what could be called "Chemistry of Individual Differences." Newton complained about his contemporaries' habit: "When we are told that every species of things is endowed with a secret specific quality by which it acts and produces manifest effects, we are to understand nothing."

(Secret qualities are an example of hypotheses that Newton rejected, stating, "I do not fabricate hypotheses.") Biology continued to refer to the "nature" of living beings for a long time and did not fully abandon the concept of "vital force" until the 20th century. However, behavior is still attributed to "human nature," and there is a verbose "Psychology of Individual Differences," in which people are compared and described in terms of character traits, abilities, and skills. Almost everyone dealing with human affairs - political scientists, philosophers, writers, economists, psychologists, linguists, sociologists, theologians, anthropologists, educators, and psychotherapists - continues to speak about human behavior in this pre-scientific way. Every issue of daily newspapers, magazines, professional journals, and any book related to human behavior will provide us with an abundance of examples. We are told that to control the world's population, we must change our attitude towards children, overcome the pride of having a large family or sexual potency, develop a certain sense of responsibility towards offspring, and reduce the role that large families play in overcoming the concerns of old age.

Supposedly, while striving for the cause of peace, we deal with the will to power or the paranoid delusions of rulers, and allegedly, we must remember that wars begin in people's minds, that there is something suicidal in human nature - perhaps, an instinct for death that leads to wars, and that humans are inherently aggressive. To solve the problems of the poor, we supposedly must instill self-respect in them, encourage initiative, and reduce a sense of hopelessness. To overcome the discontent of the youth, we must give them a sense of purpose in life and reduce their feelings of alienation or despair. Understanding that we have no effective means to achieve any of this, we ourselves may experience a crisis of faith or lose faith in ourselves, which supposedly can only be restored by returning to faith in inner strength of character.

All of this is being fed to us daily, and almost no one questions it. However, there is nothing of the sort in modern physics or most of biology, and this fact can well explain why the science and technology of behavior have lagged so far behind. Usually, it is assumed that "behaviorist" objections to ideas, emotions, character traits, will, and so on, relate to the material they are supposedly made of. Some cursed questions about the "nature of consciousness," of course, have been debated for over two and a half thousand years and remain unanswered to this day. For example, how can consciousness move the body? This continues to the present day; in 1965, Karl Popper could pose the question as follows: "We want to understand how such immaterial things as goals, reflections, plans, decisions, theories, doubts, and values can play their role in bringing about material changes in the material world."

And of course, we also want to know where these immaterial things come from. The ancient Greeks had a simple answer to this question: from the gods. As Dodd noted, the ancient Greeks believed that if a person behaved foolishly, it was because a hostile god had instilled άτη (passion) in his heart.

And a friendly god could give a warrior an extra measure of μένος, with which he would fight brilliantly. Aristotle believed that there was something divine in thought, and Zeno believed that reason itself was God. We cannot continue in the same spirit today, so the most common alternative is to refer to preceding material phenomena. Universal qualities, this product of the evolution of humankind, as they claim, explain part of the workings of its consciousness, while the rest is the story of its personal experience. For example, due to (material) competition during evolution, humans now possess a (immaterial) sense of aggressiveness that leads to (material) acts of hostility.

Or (physical) punishment that a young child receives when caught engaging in sexual play produces a (non-physical) sense of fear that inhibits their (physical) sexual behavior in adulthood. This immaterial, non-physical stage obviously extends over long periods of time: aggression has roots that go back millions of years in evolutionary history, and fear experienced in childhood continues to weigh on individuals even into old age. The problem of transitioning from one type of phenomenon to another could be avoided if all of them were either mental or physical, and both possibilities had their proponents. Some philosophers tried to stay in the realm of the soul, claiming that only immediate experience is real, and experimental psychology began as an attempt to discover the mental laws that regulate the interactions between mental phenomena.

Modern "intrapsychic" theories of psychotherapy speculate on how one feeling leads to another (such as how disappointment breeds aggression), how emotions interact, and how repressed feelings find their way back into consciousness. The opposing position, asserting that the mental stage is actually physical, was taken by Freud, who believed that physiology would ultimately explain the workings of the psyche. In a similar vein, many physiologist-psychologists continue to speculate freely about states of consciousness, emotions, and so on, hoping that it's only a matter of time until we understand their physical nature. The dimensions of the world of consciousness and the transitions from one realm to another cannot fail to pose daunting problems, but they are usually ignored, and this seems to be a successful strategy because the most significant objection to mentalism (cognitivism) is of an entirely different nature. (For mentalists), the world of consciousness overshadows everything else.

(Real) behavior is not recognized as a subject of independent study. In psychotherapy, for example, abnormalities that a person does or says are almost always considered mere symptoms, and compared to the captivating dramas supposedly unfolding in the depths of the psyche, behavior itself appears to be nothing more than a superficial phenomenon. In linguistics and literary studies, what a person says is almost always regarded as an expression of ideas and emotions. In political science, theology, and economics, behavior is typically viewed as material from which conclusions are drawn about relationships, intentions, needs, and so on.

For over two and a half millennia, the life of the "soul" has received the most intense attention, but only recently have attempts been made to investigate human behavior as something more than just a byproduct. The conditions on which behavior depends are also neglected. The mental (cognitive) explanation cuts off any curiosity. We see this effect in everyday conversation. If we ask someone, "Why did you go to the theater?" and they answer, "Because I felt like it," we tend to accept such an answer as a kind of explanation.

It would be much more accurate to find out what was happening when they went to the theater in the past, or what they heard or read about the play they went to see, or what other phenomena in their past or present life might prompt them to go to the theater (instead of doing something else), but we settle for this "Because I felt like it" as a kind of summary of all that, and we're not inclined to inquire further. Professional psychologists often stop at the same point. Many years ago, William James corrected the common misconception about the connection between feelings and actions, stating, for example, that we don't run away because we're afraid, but rather we're afraid because we run away. In other words, what we feel when we feel fear is our behavior, the same behavior that according to the traditional point of view expresses and is explained by that feeling. But how many people who have considered James's argument have noticed that there is actually no preceding event indicated? Nor is the "because" to be taken seriously at all.

And it doesn't explain why we run and feel fear. If we believe that we explain feelings or say that feelings are the cause of behavior, then we pay too little attention to preceding circumstances. A psychotherapist learns about a patient's early years of life almost exclusively from their memories, which, as we know, are not trustworthy, and they may even claim that what matters is not what actually happened, but what the patient remembers. In psychoanalytic literature, perhaps for every case of an actual punishment that can be traced back to the feeling of fear, there are at least a hundred mentions of cases where fear was merely felt. They even seem to prefer reporting on such past episodes that are now clearly irrelevant.

Currently, there is a tremendous interest, for example, in speculations about what supposedly must have happened during the evolution of the human species to explain people's current behavior, and this is said with special confidence only because we can only guess what actually happened. Unable to understand how and why the person we see behaves in one way and not another, we attribute their behavior to a "personality" we do not see and whose behavior we also cannot explain, but about which we are not inclined to ask questions. We have probably internalized this strategy not so much out of lack of interest or persistence, but because of the long-standing belief that there are no corresponding episodes in the past for most human behavior. The function of the "inner man" ("soul") is to provide explanations that in turn do not require explanation. All explanations stop at it.

Therefore, it is not a mediator between past experiences and current behavior, but the center from which behavior originates. It is the initiator who begins and creates, and in doing so, it remains as it was for the ancient Greeks - divine. We are told that it is autonomous, and from the perspective of the science of behavior, this means that it is a miracle, a mystery.

This position is certainly vulnerable. The autonomous "soul" serves only to explain phenomena that we are not yet able to explain in other ways. Its existence depends on our ignorance, and it naturally loses its status when we manage to learn more about behavior. The task of scientific analysis is to explain how human behavior as a physical system is related to the conditions in which the evolution of the human species took place and the conditions in which the individual lives.

Excluding the possibility of some supernatural or creative intervention, these events must be interconnected, and no intervention is needed. The circumstances of species survival, responsible for the genetic inheritance of humans, will generate a tendency to act aggressively, not aggressive feelings. Punishment of sexual behavior changes the behavior itself, and any feelings that may arise as a result are at best a side effect. Our age is not plagued by fear, but by terrifying events, crimes, wars, and other dangerous and painful things to which people are often subjected.

Youth drops out of school, refuses to work, and only socializes with peers not because they feel alienated, but due to the socially pathological environment at home, school, in the workplace, and everywhere else. It's time for us to embark on the path taken by physics and biology and turn directly to the relationship between behavior and the environment, disregarding hypothetical intermediation of states of consciousness. Physics did not progress by contemplating the jubilation of a falling body, and biology did not contemplate the nature of vital spirits, and we do not need revelations about the true nature of personality, states of mind, feelings, character traits, plans, goals, intentions, or other attributes of the autonomous human ("soul") in order to conduct a scientific analysis of behavior. Of course, there are reasons why it took us so long to come to this point. Objects studied by physics and biology do not behave like humans, and in the end, it is quite comical to speak of the jubilation of a falling body or the striving of an atomic nucleus. But humans behave like humans, and the external person whose behavior needs to be explained can very well resemble the "inner person" whose behavior is supposedly explained by the external person.

The inner person ("soul") was created in the image and likeness of the external person. A more important reason is that sometimes it seems that the inner person can be observed directly. We must imagine the jubilation of a falling body, but don't we feel our own jubilation? We actually feel what is happening under our own skin, but we don't feel the things that were invented to explain behavior. An obsessed person does not feel the demon that has possessed them and most likely denies its existence. A juvenile delinquent does not feel their defective personality. An intelligent person does not feel their intelligence, and an unsociable person does not feel their introversion.

(And indeed, we are told that these parameters of consciousness or character can only be observed through complex statistical methods.) A speaking person does not feel the grammatical rules that, as we are told, they apply when forming sentences, and people spoke "grammatically correctly" thousands of years before someone discovered the existence of such rules. A respondent filling out a questionnaire does not feel any relationships or opinions that supposedly prompt them to mark the boxes in a certain way. We feel certain states of our bodies associated with behavior, but as Freud pointed out, we behave in the same way when we do not feel them; they are side effects and should not be mistakenly considered causes of behavior.

But there is an even more important reason why we hesitated to reject mentalist (cognitive) explanations: it was difficult to find an alternative. Suppose we should look for them in the external world, but the role of the environment is still far from clear. The history of evolutionary theories illustrates this problem.

Until the nineteenth century, the environment was simply conceived as a passive stage on which many different species of organisms originated, reproduced, and went extinct. No one suspected that it was the environment itself that was responsible for the existence of multiple species (this fact, it should be emphasized, was attributed to the "design of the creator"). The trouble is that the environment acts in an imperceptible way: it doesn't push or pull, it selects. Throughout the millennia of human thought, the process of natural selection remained unnoticed despite its tremendous importance.

When it was eventually discovered, it became a key aspect of evolutionary theory. The influence of the environment on behavior remained even more elusive. It's easy to see how organisms interact with the world around them, how they take what they need from it and avoid existing dangers, but it's much harder to see how the world influences them.

Descartes was the first to suggest that the environment could play an active role in determining behavior, and he seemingly could do so only because he received a clear hint. He knew that in the Royal Gardens of France, there were several automatons operated by hidden hydraulic valves. Descartes wrote that people entering the gardens "inevitably step on certain tiles of paved paths that are arranged in such a way that when they approach the bathing Diana, they cause her to hide behind the rose bushes, and if they try to follow her, they cause Neptune to emerge with his trident threatening them."

These statues were amusing precisely because they behaved like humans, and thus it turned out that something very similar to human behavior could be explained purely mechanically. Descartes understood this hint as follows: living organisms can be moved by similar causes. (He excluded the human organism, apparently to avoid conflicts with religion.) The action of the environment initiating behavior was called a "stimulus" - from the Latin word for "whip," the organism's action a "response," and their combination was called a "reflex." Reflexes were first demonstrated in small decapitated animals such as salamanders, and it is important that this principle was fiercely opposed throughout the nineteenth century because it seemed to deny the existence of some autonomous acting entity - the so-called "spinal cord soul" - which was attributed responsibility for the movements of a decapitated animal body.

When Pavlov demonstrated how new reflexes could be developed through conditioning, an entire psychology of stimulus-response was born, in which all behavior was explained as reactions to stimuli. One writer put it this way: "Throughout our lives, we are pushed or whipped forward." The stimulus-response model was never very convincing, and it did not solve the fundamental problem because it had to invent something like an "inner man" to transform stimuli into responses. The theory of information encountered the same problem when it had to invent an internal "processor" for transforming input into output.

But the action of a discriminative stimulus is relatively easy to observe, which is why Descartes' hypothesis held a dominant position in the theory of behavior for a long time. However, this was a false path from which the scientific analysis of behavior is only now recovering. The environment not only pushes or drives, it selects behavior. Its role is analogous to its role in natural selection, albeit on a completely different timescale, and it went unnoticed for the same reason. Now it has become clear that we must take into account not only what the environment does to the organism before it reacts but also what it does afterward.

Behavioral acts are formed and maintained by the consequences they produce. Once this fact was realized, we were able to formulate the interaction between the organism and the environment in a much more comprehensive way. As a result, we arrive at two important conclusions.

One of them pertains to fundamental analysis. Behavior that affects the surrounding world and produces consequences (operant behavior) can be studied by constructing an environment in which specific consequences depend on it. The studied consequential relationships became increasingly complex, and gradually it became evident that they explain all the functions that were previously attributed to personality, states of consciousness, emotions, character traits, goals, and intentions.

The second conclusion has practical significance: the environment can be used to manipulate behavior. While the genetic heredity of a person can only be changed very slowly, changes in the surrounding world can have rapid and dramatic consequences on personality. Operant behavior technology, as we will see, is already quite well-developed, and it may be up to the task of solving our current problems. However, this possibility gives rise to another problem that must be addressed if we want to make use of our advantages.

We have taken a progressive step by debunking the notion of an "autonomous personality," but it has not disappeared from the world. It engages in a sort of rearguard battle for which, unfortunately, it has gained the strongest support. It remains an important figure in politics, jurisprudence, religion, economics, anthropology, sociology, psychotherapy, philosophy, ethics, history, education, child-rearing, linguistics, architecture, urban planning, and family life. These fields have their specialists, and each specialist has their own theory, and in almost every theory, the autonomy of personality is considered unquestionable. The "inner self" ("soul") is not afraid of data obtained through random observations or investigations of behavior structure, and many of these fields deal only with groups of people, where statistical or survey data have limited impact on the individual. The result is a significant imbalance of traditional "knowledge," which needs to be corrected or replaced with the results of scientific analysis.

Two characteristics of autonomous personality are particularly dangerous. From a traditional point of view, a person is free. They are autonomous in the sense that their behavior has no (external) causes. Therefore, they are responsible for what they do, and it is fair to punish them for their wrongdoings. This perspective, along with all its associated practical consequences, needs to be reconsidered after scientific analysis revealed unexpected control relationships between behavior and the environment. Of course, a certain degree of external control was allowed.

Theologians acknowledged the fact that humans must be predetermined to do what an all-knowing God knows they will do, and ancient Greek playwrights often explored the theme of an inescapable fate. Prophets and astrologers frequently claimed that they could predict what people would do, and their services were always in demand. Biographers and historians sought "influences" in the lives of individuals and nations. Folk wisdom and insights from essayists like Montaigne and Bacon point to a certain predictability of human behavior, which is also supported by statistical and survey data from sociological studies. The (fiction of) autonomous personality survives despite all this because it is a happy exception.

Theologians reconciled predestination with free will, and ancient Greek spectators, moved by the depiction of an inevitable fate, left the theater as free individuals. The course of history changes with the death of a leader or a storm at sea, and the path of life is altered by the influence of a teacher or love, but such things happen to very few individuals and do not affect everyone in the same way. Some historians have turned the unpredictability of history into a virtue. Statistical data is easy to ignore; we read that hundreds of people will be killed in traffic accidents over a holiday weekend and still embark on our journey as if it doesn't personally concern us. The science of behavior makes too little effort to resurrect the "ghost of predictable man." On the contrary, many anthropologists, sociologists, and psychologists use their specialized knowledge to argue that humans are free, purposeful, and responsible.

Freud was a determinist - based on faith rather than factual data - but many Freudians assure their patients without hesitation that they can freely choose between various courses of action and are the creators of their own destiny in the long run. This escape route gradually closes as new evidence of the predictability of human behavior is discovered; personal freedom from complete determinism evaporates as scientific analysis progresses, especially in explaining individual behavior. Joseph Wood Krutch acknowledges statistical facts while still insisting on personal freedom: "We can predict with great accuracy how many people will come to the seaside when the temperature reaches a certain point, and even how many people will jump off a bridge... although neither you nor I see any need to do either." But he can hardly deny that those who go to the beach have a compelling reason to do so, just as the circumstances of a suicide have a certain influence on their decision to jump off a bridge. The distinction he makes seems reasonable only insofar as words like "necessity" hint at a particularly overt coercion in behavior management.

And scientific analysis naturally moves in the direction of elucidating all kinds of relationships governing behavior. By questioning the control of behavior supposedly carried out by an autonomous individual and demonstrating the control exerted by the environment, behavioral science seems to call into question human dignity and honor. The individual is responsible for their behavior, not only in the sense that they can be justly accused or punished if they behave poorly, but also in the sense that their achievements require recognition and admiration.

And scientific analysis shifts both merits and blame onto the environment, rendering the traditional attitude towards them unjustified. These are radical changes, and those devoted to traditional theories and practices naturally resist them. There is also a third source of trouble.

When the cause is attributed to the environment, the individual seems to be exposed to an entirely new danger. Who should control behavior through the environment, and for what purpose? An autonomous individual seems to self-govern according to an internal set of values; they only do what they consider good. But what will this hypothetical manipulator of others' behavior deem good, and will it be good for those they control? Answers to such questions, as they say, clearly involve value judgments.

Freedom, dignity, and values are crucial themes, and unfortunately, they acquire increasingly critical significance as the power of behavioral technology becomes commensurate with the problems it must solve. The very change that brought us some hope for a solution is responsible for the growing opposition to the proposed method of resolution. This conflict itself is a problem of human behavior, and the approach (to its resolution) can only be appropriate. Behavioral science is by no means as well-developed as physics or biology, but its advantage lies in its ability to shed light on its own difficulties.

Science is human behavior, just as opposition to science is. What has transpired in the struggle for human freedom and dignity, and what problems arise when scientific knowledge begins to play a role in this struggle? Answers to these questions can help clear the path for the behavioral technology we so desperately need. Furthermore (in the book), these questions are discussed "from a scientific point of view," but that does not mean the reader needs to know the details of scientific behavior analysis. A simplified interpretation is sufficient for them. However, the essence of such an interpretation is easily understood.

We often talk about how we cannot observe or measure with the precision required for scientific analysis, and yet it is very useful to use terms and principles that have been developed under more precise conditions. The sea shimmers with a strange light at twilight, frost on the windowpane creates unusual patterns, and soup does not solidify on the kitchen stove, and specialists explain to us why. Of course, we can argue with them that they have no "facts" and that what they say cannot be "proven," but they are most likely right, not those who lack an experimental knowledge base, and therefore, only they can tell us how to proceed with further detailed research if it seems necessary.

Experimental analysis of behavior offers similar advantages. When we observe behavioral processes in controlled (laboratory) conditions, we can easily identify them in everyday life. We can identify significant features of behavior and the environment and, therefore, can disregard insignificant details, no matter how fascinating they may be. We can reject traditional explanations if they have been proven false by experimental analysis and then move forward in our research with unstoppable curiosity. The examples of behavior presented here are not imposed as "proof" of our interpretation. The actual evidence can be found in fundamental analysis.

But the principles used to interpret the examples possess a validity that principles derived from random observations lack. The language in which the book is written may often seem inconsistent. English, like all other languages, is full of pre-scientific words that are commonly used in everyday speech. No one would mock an astronomer for saying that the sun rises or that stars appear at night because it would be ridiculous to demand that they always say the sun appears as a result of the Earth's rotation, previously hidden behind the horizon, or that stars become visible at night while they are not visible during the day due to the scattering of sunlight by the atmosphere. If necessary, they can provide a more precise formulation.

The English language contains many more everyday expressions related to human behavior than to other phenomena of reality, and specialized terminology is unfamiliar to the general public. Therefore, the use of colloquial expressions is highly debatable. It may seem illogical if I ask the reader to "keep a point in mind" while I write that consciousness is a scholastic fiction, or to "consider the idea of freedom" even though the idea is merely an imaginary predecessor to the act of behavior, or if I write to "reassure those who fear a science of behavior" while I only mean to change their behavior towards this science.

The book could have been written for a specialist reader without such expressions, but all these questions are important for non-specialists, and therefore, they must be presented in ordinary, non-technical language. Undoubtedly, many of the mentalist (cognitive) expressions deeply rooted in the English language cannot be translated as clearly into scientific language as the expression "sunrise." However, sufficiently acceptable translations are entirely possible. Almost all of our major problems are related to human behavior and cannot be solved solely through physical and biological technology. What we need is a technology of behavior, but the development of a science that could generate such a technology has been painfully slow. One of the difficulties is that nearly everything considered as behavioral science continues to adhere to a tradition that reasons not about behavior but about states of consciousness, feelings, personality traits, human nature, and so on.

Physics and biology once engaged in similar scholasticism and only advanced when they rejected it. Behavioral sciences have been slow in this regard partly because it often appears that scholastic abstractions can be directly observed, and partly because alternative explanations were hard to find. The environment undoubtedly played an important role, but its function remained unclear. It does not "push or pull," but it selects, and this function was difficult to detect and analyze. The role of natural selection in evolution was formulated just over a hundred years ago, and the selective role of the environment in shaping and maintaining individual behavior is only beginning to gain recognition and be studied.

However, as the understanding of interactions between organisms and the environment grew, the dependence of functions previously attributed to states of consciousness, feelings, and personality traits on parameters (experimental) conditions became apparent, and thus the path to a technology of behavior was opened. However, it will not solve our problems until it replaces the entrenched prescientific views. Freedom and dignity illustrate this difficulty.

They are attributes of the autonomous person in traditional theory and have significant importance for practice, where individuals are held responsible for their actions and achievements require recognition. Scientific analysis transfers both responsibility and credit to the environment. It also raises questions about "values." Furthermore, who will use this technology and for what purposes? Until these questions are answered, the technology of behavior will continue to be rejected, and along with it, possibly, the only means of solving our problems. Chapter 2: Freedom. Almost all living creatures actively act to free themselves from the influence of something harmful.

Some freedom is achieved through relatively simple forms of behavior called reflexes. A person sneezes, thereby freeing their respiratory passages from something irritating. By vomiting, they free their stomach from indigestible or poisonous food. They jerk their hand backward to remove it from contact with a sharp or hot object. But even more complex forms of behavior act in the same way. If someone tries to bind a person, they will struggle "desperately" and try to break free.

When faced with danger, people flee or attack its source. This behavior seems to have evolved due to its survival value; it is as much an obligatory part of what we call the genetic heritage of the human species as breathing, sweating, and digestion. Through conditioning, such behavior can be developed towards entirely new objects that did not play any role in evolution. These are, of course, only insignificant specific instances of the struggle for freedom, but they hold great significance. We cannot attribute them to some imaginary "love of freedom"; they are simply forms of behavior that have proven useful in reducing various dangers for individuals and, consequently, for the entire biological species during the process of evolution.

Much more important is the behavior that mitigates harmful stimuli in a completely different way. It is acquired not as conditional reflexes but as a product of another process called operant conditioning. If a behavior has a positive consequence, the probability of that behavior occurring again increases.

The consequence that has this effect on behavior is called reinforcement. For example, food is reinforcement for a hungry organism; any specific action performed by the organism that is accompanied by food is likely to be repeated again and again as long as the organism is hungry. Some (of the operant) stimuli are referred to as negative reinforcement; any behavior that reduces the intensity of such a stimulus (or completely stops its effect) is likely to be performed upon the repetition of that stimulus.

For instance, if a person finds themselves under scorching sun, they seek shade, and it is likely that they will seek shade again if they find themselves under the blazing sun. The reduction in temperature reinforces the behavior it is "conditioned" upon, that is, the behavior that results from it. Operant conditioning is also observed when a person simply avoids the scorching sun, i.e., when they, roughly speaking, avoid the threat of the blazing sun.

Negative reinforcers are also called "aversive" in the sense that they are "repulsive" to the organism. This term refers to spatial distancing, whether it be by repelling or fleeing from the reinforcer, but the temporal relationship is crucial here. In the standard apparatus used to study this process in the laboratory, a voluntarily selected behavior weakens the aversive stimulus or terminates it.

Most of material culture (technology) is the result of this peculiar struggle for liberation. Throughout the centuries, people have created a world in which they have become relatively free from many types of dangers and harmful influences - extreme temperatures, sources of infection, hard labor, hazards, and even those minor negative reinforcers called discomfort. Flight and avoidance play a much more significant role in the struggle for freedom when the harmful influences are caused by other people. Other people can be repulsive, so to speak, unintentionally: they can be rude, aggressive, annoying, or simply sources of infection, and individuals flee from them or simply avoid them accordingly.

But they can also be deliberately repulsive, that is, they can disgustingly treat other people because of the consequences of such an attitude. For example, an overseer forces a slave to work by whipping him when he interrupts his work; resuming work, the slave avoids the flogging (and, by the way, positively reinforces the overseer's behavior - coercing work with a whip). Parents scold a child until he fulfills what they demand; having fulfilled the requirements, the child avoids further scolding (thus reinforcing the parents' nagging). A blackmailer threatens exposure if the victim does not pay him; by paying, the victim gets rid of the blackmail threat (and thus reinforces the practice of blackmail). A teacher threatens physical punishment and unsatisfactory grades until the students show respectful attention; the students' respectful attention allows them to avoid the threat of punishment (and reinforces the teacher's threatening behavior). In one form or another, behavior management through intentional negative reinforcement is the essence of most social relationships - in ethics, religion, government, economy, education, psychotherapy, and family life.

A person avoids or eliminates punishing behavior towards oneself by acting in a way that provides (positive) reinforcement to those who pursue punishment until they achieve what they desire. But there are other ways to avoid this. For example, a person can simply run away and become inaccessible. They can escape from slavery, emigrate, or hide from government officials, desert the army, become an apostate, a truant, leave home, or step out of the bounds of normality - like a wanderer, a hermit, or a hippie.

Such behavior is as predictable a result of punitive behavior as the behavior that was intended to be achieved through punishment. The latter can then only be achieved through stricter requirements or the use of more potent aversive stimuli. Another anomalous way to avoid negative stimuli is to fight against those who create a situation of negative reinforcement in order to weaken or destroy them. We can fight those who oppress or annoy us as we fight weeds in a garden, and again, the struggle for freedom is primarily directed against those who deliberately manipulate others - against those who use negative reinforcement against others to make them behave in a certain way. For example, a child may rebel against parents, citizens may overthrow the government, a heretic may reform religion, a student may attack a teacher or engage in vandalism at school, and antisocial elements may engage in the destruction of social norms.

It is quite possible that this type of struggle for freedom is genetically embedded in humans: subjected to the action of negative reinforcers, people tend to act aggressively and receive positive reinforcement when they see harm caused by their aggression. Both tendencies obviously provided evolutionary advantages, and this can be easily demonstrated through experimentation. If two organisms that coexist peacefully are given painful electric shocks, they immediately engage in characteristic aggressive actions towards each other. Aggressive behavior does not necessarily have to be directed at the actual source of negative stimuli; it can be "transferred" to any other suitable object or person. Vandalism and rebellion often represent forms of aggression that are not directed or misdirected. An organism that experiences pain will also, if possible, act to gain access to another organism on which it can aggress.

The extent to which human aggression is a manifestation of innate tendencies is unclear, and many of the ways in which people attack intentional manipulators to weaken or eliminate their influence are clearly the result of learning. What can be called the "literature of freedom" is written to encourage people to fight against those who try to control them using negative reinforcers in order to get rid of them. The content of this literature is the philosophy of freedom, but "philosophy" is one of those internal "causes" that must be critically analyzed. We say that a person behaves in a certain way because they have such a philosophy, but we make guesses about this philosophy based on their behavior, and therefore we should not use it as a satisfactory explanation, at least until it is explained itself. But on the other hand, the literature of freedom has a simple objective. It consists of books, brochures, proclamations, speeches, and other literary works aimed at motivating people to act in order to free themselves from various forms of coercion.

It does not teach the philosophy of freedom, but rather urges people to take action. This literature often points out the repulsive conditions of coercion in which people live, possibly contrasting them with conditions in a freer world. Thus, it makes existing conditions more unbearable, "multiplies the suffering" of those it seeks to save. It also identifies those from whom one must flee and whose power must be weakened through resistance. Typical villains in this literature include dictators, priests, generals, capitalists, sadistic teachers, and authoritarian parents.

This literature also prescribes a course of action. It pays little attention to escape, perhaps because such advice is unnecessary; instead, it focuses on how to weaken or destroy oppressive power. Dictators must be overthrown, expelled, or killed. The legitimacy of the government is called into question.

The ability of churches and sects to serve as intermediaries with supernatural forces is contested. Strikes and boycotts must be organized to weaken the economic power of capitalists, which supports an order based on oppression. The argument is reinforced by calling people to action, describing possible outcomes, and providing successful examples - following the pattern of testimonies in advertisements, and so on. Oppressors, of course, do not remain inactive. Governments make escape impossible by prohibiting travel abroad or punishing or even imprisoning fugitives.

They prevent weapons and other instruments of power from falling into the hands of revolutionaries. They destroy literature of freedom in written form and imprison or kill those who disseminate it orally. To be successful, the struggle for freedom must intensify. There is little doubt about the importance of the literature of freedom.

Without its help or support, people resign themselves to conditions of negative reinforcement in the most incredible ways. This is true even in cases where such conditions are partly caused by natural circumstances. Darwin, for example, found that the Fuegians apparently made no effort to protect themselves from the cold. Their clothing was very minimal, and they hardly used it to shield themselves from inclement weather. And the most striking fact about the struggle for freedom from coercion is how often it was absent altogether. Many people over the centuries have submitted to the most obvious religious, political, and economic oppression, and outbreaks of the fight for freedom, if they occurred at all, were only episodic.

The literature of freedom has made a significant contribution to the elimination of many practices in society based on negative reinforcement - in politics, religion, education, family life, and also in commodity production. However, the contribution of the literature of freedom is usually not discussed from this perspective. While it can be said about some traditional theories that they define freedom as the absence of control through negative reinforcers, the emphasis has always been on how people experience this state.

Other traditional theories arguably define freedom as a state in which one's actions are governed only by "non-coercive" (i.e., positive) reinforcement, but the focus is on the state of consciousness associated with doing what one desires. As John Stuart Mill put it, "Freedom consists in doing what one desires." The literature of freedom has played an important role in changing social practice (it changed practice whenever it had any influence), but it has always defined its task as changing states of consciousness and feelings.

Freedom is supposedly about "ownership." A person escapes or removes the power of the oppressor in order to feel free, and once they feel free and can do what they want, no further action is recommended, and the literature of freedom prescribes nothing more except, perhaps, constant vigilance; otherwise, oppression will be resumed. This sense of freedom becomes an unreliable guide to action when oppressors resort to non-coercive measures, which they are likely to do to avoid problems that arise when the victim escapes or attacks them.

Non-coercive measures are not as obvious as coercive ones, and their effects may be slower, but they have obvious advantages that facilitate their application. For example, productive labor was once the result of punishment: a slave worked to avoid the consequences - punishment for not working. But wages are an example of a completely different principle: a person is paid when they behave as required, so they continue to behave that way. Although it has long been recognized that rewards have beneficial effects (for the rewarding party), systems of wage labor developed slowly.

In the 19th century, it was believed that industry needed a hungry workforce and that wages would be effective only when a hungry worker could use them to buy (minimally necessary) food. But by making work less repugnant - for example, by reducing the working day and improving working conditions - it became possible to motivate people to work for less compensation. Until very recently, education was almost entirely based on negative reinforcement: a student studied to avoid punishment as a consequence of idleness, but even here non-coercive methods were gradually discovered and put into practice. Skilled parents learned to reward children for good behavior instead of punishing them for bad behavior. Religious institutions replaced the threat of hellfire with sermons about "divine love," and governments replaced a series of coercive sanctions with various forms of rewards, which we will return to later in the book.

What laypeople call rewards is actually positive reinforcement, the effects of which have been exhaustively studied in the experimental analysis of operant behavior. The action of "reward" is not as easily recognizable as the action of negative (punishing) consequences because it tends to have a delayed effect, and therefore its implementation has been slower. However, equally powerful methods, similar to the old methods of negative reinforcement (punishment), have become available for it now.

Defenders of freedom face challenges when behavior caused by positive reinforcement has delayed negative consequences. This is especially likely when the process (positive reinforcement) is used for deliberate manipulation, where the manipulator's benefit usually means a loss for the manipulated. So-called conditioned positive reinforcers often have delayed negative outcomes (for the manipulated). Take money, for example. It acts as a reinforcer only after it is used to pay for a reinforcing commodity, but it can still be used as a reinforcer even when it cannot be used to pay for the co

2023-06-23 22:18

Show Video

Other news