Follow-up to Anticipation, Concert, Part 1
4. Is it possible to differentiate between the alternatives?
There are no alternatives, so differentiation is not a question. Again, there are indicators that this is vital for completely automating movements. I’ll give some examples in later blog entries.
5. Is there a slack time for updating the internal model and the response selection?
Yes, there is a slack time. It is not possible to determine it, but every musician uses advance information from the musical score, his neighbors and the conductor to update his inner model and chose the right response; in this case, choosing the right entry point.
6. Is an exit point for the circular process available?
There is always enough information to proceed to response selection.
7. Is there a stop criterion for the response selection?
This is highly simplified, but every musician has only one option, one possible movement. There is no need for a stop criterion.
8. Is the internal model valid during response execution?
This question sounds easier to answer then it actually is. There are certain passages in that piece, especially when the speed is increased, when every musician plays on his own, even though it looks like perfect causal connection. The continuously ongoing circular process of each musician is incorporating and processing information (see Anticipation, Part 1 Link) all the time. This works up to a certain speed limit. Passing a certain speed limit reduces the availability of information to a very low level. But here it doesn’t matter. There are no alternatives and so, the combination of a single piece of information about the actual status and the highly trained internal model of each musician allows for group synchronicity. This is one of the reasons for rehearsing the piece before the actual performance.
Perhaps an example can provide a clue. Imagine you are swimming and using a chosen style, like the breast-stroke, and are propelling yourself forward while keeping your head under water. You are trying to reach the other side of the lake and focusing on a certain landmark. Every time your head is beneath the water surface, the visual information about the landmark is lost. You continue, your swimming efforts moving you forward. But, you are basically blind. The next moment, your head is above the water level and you see the landmark again. This blindness equals the high speed in the foregoing paragraph. If you go off course while under water, you adjust it while above water. Thus, small temporal sequences of being completely blind and having all the needed information are alternating. Just a thought experiment: What would happen if the landmark changed its position? The landmark might move to the left or right. Imagine a truck that moves, even though you think it is standing still. This gives you three alternatives (moving to the left / right or staying on course). You spot the landmark a last time, plan your movement, dive beneath the water surface, emerge again and recognize that you might have mislead yourself. Maybe the landmark moved and your planned and executed movement led you in the wrong direction. As I have mentioned in the article Anticipation, Windshield Wiper, Part 2 (Link), the executed movement impinges on a wrong alternative and thus impairs your achievement of objectives.
9. Is the time for response execution sufficient?
The time for the response execution is sufficient. Musical compositions must be written in such a way. Otherwise, no one is able to play them. Certain compositions might be very challenging, but experts in this field are nonetheless able to cope.
The results of question 8 are one of the most important aspects of this analysis. The ongoing events temporarily decouple the musicians, even though it looks like a perfect causal connection. Maybe you were attending a live concert and the band was playing a certain well-known song. The audience starts singing along, and suddenly the band stops playing. The audience goes on singing the song without any band support. This is a fabricated alternative that may appear, but it is not taken into account by the audience, because “usually” a song is being played without interruption. Thus, they go on and their singing runs into an unknown alternative in the form of a sudden interruption. But, the important thing is that the band and the audience are decoupled. The image of perfect harmony is flawed. To a large extent, everyone is singing on their own.
The same effect is a standard in martial arts. Movements are rationalized as being causally connected at high speed. Meaning, an external viewer interprets that a partner or fighter “reacts” to certain given circumstances. In fact, the attack and defense may not be directly connected. At high speed, the same decoupling effect as mentioned in the band-audience example occurs. It depends on a lot of different factors, but not every fighter earns the “fame” of a successful looking defense. Sometimes, his chosen reaction runs into a previously unknown alternative that makes it look intentional, even though it is pure coincidence. This is one of the reasons why billiard players have to announce where they are going to play the ball.
This is an interesting aspect concerning martial arts experts. The years or decades of training push the limits for successful anticipation to higher levels. The internal model is “strong” enough to counter information shortages. For example, their pattern recognition or muscle activation is much improved. This allows them to counter urgent time-consuming problems in the anticipation process up to a certain limit. But, and this is important, this only works when the context allows for isolating the alternatives and finding suitable solutions; something that is far from trivial. Otherwise, the good looking movements are just window dressing. Furthermore, this only works up to a certain limit. Opponents with the same high performance level need other, more advanced, approaches since e.g. pattern recognition is subject to fixed maximum boundaries. You are forced to exploit the structure of anticipation itself if the different parts are used up to their maximum capacity and reach their boundaries.