[Neuroscience] Being, Behavior, and the Great Behaviorist Extermination

John H. j_hasenkam at yahoo.com.au
Wed Sep 6 21:21:28 EST 2006

19/07/2006 4:28PM

In the year 2335 scientists have finally reached the point where given
the accurate quantification of a plethora of variables it is possible
to anticipate the specific behaviors of any individual within a given
context and subject to various environmental contingencies (both the
internal and external environment). John, who discovered the secret of
longevity in the year 2015 and is the oldest person on the planet
because he refuses to share his knowledge with the world, is the first
person to undergo such an analysis. The bods figured that if they can
predict this person's behavior they can predict anyone's behavior. They
also hoped to find a way to coax the secret out of him.

The behavior can not only be predicted but analyzed in such a way to
attribute relative weights to variables and how these impact on
behavior. Any particular behavior can be understood and predicted with
astonishing precision. At this point in time however it is not possible
to create any over arching syntheses that provide an integrated
understanding of who John is "as a person". We simply know that given
variables A1 - An, we can know advance what his behavior will be. For
example, while we can anticipate John's behavior we cannot anticipate
how others perceive John nor can we have any real insight into John's
"inner world". This lack of insight has occurred because of the Great
Purge that began some three centuries beforehand.

The descendents of Kagan, Pinker, and Chomsky decided to follow through
on the dreams of their ancestors and set about attacking the
behaviorists at every available opportunity. The "Cognitive Police" was
created, a secret group who sought out those espousing behaviorist
ideas, particularly the ideas of those nasty radical behaviorists.
Throughout the globe every person espousing behaviorist ideas was
closely and constantly monitored, if there was any evidence that they
were persuading others to their perspective measures were put in place
to make sure that this activity was stopped forthwith.

Academics, psychologists, and other behaviorists began disappearing
without trace, much to the merriment of the Cog Sci. community. After
nearly a century of such activities by the Cognitive Police it was
assumed that all the behaviorists had been exterminated. With that task
complete, they then set about removing every historical record of
behaviorist ideas. Books were ripped out of libraries and burnt on
campus lawns as a warning to others, all forms of electronic
communication were monitored with a highly refined version of Echelon.
Where it was not possible to physically destroy electronic storage of
this data, malacious worms and viruses were launched against computer
facilities, often destroying the entire data storage of these
facilities. The Cognitive Police considered this to be a small price to
pay in order rid the world of the scourge of behaviorism.

Just as the Cognitive Police were asserting a complete success in their
objectives the first inter stellar colonisation enterprise begun.
Realising their fate long ago the remaining behaviorists had created
their own secret society to ensure that their teachings would not
disppear down the drain hole of history. The Cognitive Police had
monitored their activities for sometime but were unaware that one
descendent of a particularly outspoken radical behaviorist managed to
placed about the first colony ship aimed at the distant stars.

There he sat on that dim remote planet, the last living relative of one
Professor Glen Sizemore. This long deceased radical behaviorist was
closely watched early on by the Cognitive Police but being aware of
their presence attempted to keep his mouth but oh well, this was
Professor Glen Sizemore ... . Banned from teaching psychology he lived
out his remaining years teaching students the lofty ideals of The Last
Post Modernist Methodology. Unfortunately for the aged Professor one of
his former students, recently appointed as a executive of an
advertising firm, dropped in to pay him a visit. Hoping to impress his
former teacher he mentioned his new posting but the aged professor
misunderstood and blurted out, "If you see the Executive on the Brain,
kill him!" In a flash the Cognitve Police rushed into his office and
Sizemore, realising his error, stated, "You'll never take me alive!"
"Of course not!" replied the Sargeant at Arms, "we're going to give you
a lead transplant."

They dragged him outside and asked, "Any last requests?"
"Yes, I wish to be buried next to Burrhus."
"Impossible", replied the Sargeant, "we exhumed his body decades ago
and hurled it into the sun."
"Then I still wish to join him."
"You're not worth the trouble. We'll kill you and throw you body out
into the field to let the carrion feast upon it."
In a final act of defiance the professor howled, "Viva La Skinner! You
have no selves!" A moment later, in his case at least, that question
was settled forever more.

What the Cognitive Police did not realise is that Sizemore, despite
having his intelligence severely impacted by having to teach such
dribble in his latter years, managed to keep hidden the last remaining
copy of Walden Two. Furthermore he had hacked into the physics
department computers and managed to steal enough information to create
a thermonuclear device. He then invisibily superimposed this data into
the ragged copy of Walden Two, now in the possession of his last
remaining decendant hunkered down on that remote planet.

His descendant had memorised the entire text of Walden Two and also
knew of the superimposition. He felt a strange power because within his
hands he held the seeds for a new human civilisation and the technology
to destroy all pre existing human civilisations, though it would take
some time before he could launch said nuclear devices through the
Tippler Barrel towards Earth. That presented a problem because there
was always the possibility that it would take years to know if he had
successfully destroyed earth, so he decided that if he was going to
build a new society he must first ensure that the Old World could not
reach out and exterminate his Great Leap Forward. So he destroyed the
Tippler Barrel, took control of the colony, and all hell broke loose.
In a fit of rage and despair he cursed his decision to destroy the
Tippler Barrel for now he had no chance of destroying earth.
Editor's note: at this point the author ran out of Scotch, pot, speed,
ice, fantasy, ecstacy, gbh, NO, and mescaline. He was last seen sucking
on a petrol bowser. Prying his lips from the same, I managed to get
something sensible from him; probably for the very last time.

My understanding is that radical behaviorists would assert that one
cannot understand another person's behavior unless one has some insight
into that person's inner world of thoughts and imaginings. I doubt
that. (Hey, I read Asimov's Foundation series and the methodology
contained therein makes no reference to examining the inner world!)
After all, we can anticipate rat behavior and we hardly have access to
their inner worlds, with the possible exceptions of many politicians
but who would want to visit their inner worlds ... .

My problem is this: how many levels and types of analysis do we have to
undertake before we can confidently assert that we understand John? If
we can understand and anticipate his behavior, what else is there to
explain about John?


PS: this is a thought experiment, I do not believe it will ever be
possible to consistently and accurately predict an individual's
behavior. Not because people have free will(stupid useless concept,
offers not one iota of insight into human decision making so why even
bother invoking it?) but because there is stochastic aspect to behavior
and brain function. The best we will ever be able to do is make
statistical predictions about groups of individuals.

PS2: for those interested, at this site


you can learn something about Skinner and download "Science and Human
Behavior", registration required.

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