Thoughts and Perceptions

From: Richard Brodie (
Date: Wed Apr 10 2002 - 02:40:17 BST

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    Subject: Thoughts and Perceptions
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    Scott wrote:

    <<Is visual observation pure seeing? Is there any processing before
    makes it to the status of an observation as filtered through limited sensory
    channels each replete with tuning biases and possibly processed along
    further steps up the hierarchy towards conceptualization and its categorical

    >From _Virus of the Mind_:

    The universe is full of stuff. However, anything we say about that stuff is
    purely a concept—a set of memes—invented by human beings. All concepts are
    composed of memes. For instance, the United States are only States because
    we have invented 50 distinctions—memes—carving out that territory. Alabama
    isn’t a reality, it’s just there because we say so, because we are
    programmed with a meme for Alabama. If we didn’t have an Alabama meme, that
    land would just be more dirt.
    Likewise, the earth is simply a distinction—a meme—we invented because it
    was convenient to put edges around the place we live in order to distinguish
    it from the rest of the universe. To the universe, it’s all just stuff. You
    may say, “But there really are edges! There’s where the dirt ends and the
    atmosphere begins, or where the atmosphere gives way to outer space!”
    Really? Dirt, atmosphere, outer space—they’re all memes. If you think dirt
    is really dirt, not a meme we invented for our convenience, then all you’ll
    ever have is dirt. If you see it’s a meme, and not the Truth, you open up
    the possibility of other memes to talk about the same thing: elements,
    crystals, subatomic particles. Remember, viewed through an electron
    microscope, it’s all mostly empty space!

    How about this one: you are simply a distinction—a meme—we invented because
    it was convenient to talk about the parts of the universe that feel pain
    when hit with a hammer. To the universe, there’s no you, or human beings, or
    giraffes, or solar systems, or galaxies. All those are human-invented
    distinctions. They are all memes.

    Now one more point: everything I just said, about the distinction between
    objective reality and concepts, is a concept. It’s a meme. To the universe,
    there’s no such thing as a concept. I just drew this distinction because it
    was convenient to use when we’re talking about memetics.
    Distinctions are one kind of meme. They are ways of carving up the world by
    categorizing or labeling things.

    When you create a distinction, you gain access to some things and lose
    access to others. It’s useful to be conscious of what distinction-memes you’
    re programmed with, and to know that all the distinctions you draw are
    human-invented and not reality.

    Distinctions, as I just mentioned, are one kind of meme that contributes to
    your programming. Someone educated (programmed) in the memes of French will
    behave differently in France from someone who has no knowledge of the
    language—his mind will recognize meaning where others will hear only noise.
    Someone programmed with the distinction Coca-Cola will be more likely to buy
    Coke than the store brand of cola. Her mind will recognize the familiar red
    can with the white swish; the store brand will not register because she has
    no distinction-meme for it.
    The Coca-Cola company knows this, by the way, which is why their logo has
    grown bigger and bigger over the years until today the entire front panel of
    a seven-foot-tall Coke machine bears the distinctive red-and-white

    Advertisers, politicians, and anyone else who wants your money or support
    are very interested in programming you with certain distinctions over
    others, and understanding the distinctions you see the world through so they
    can take advantage of them. What are you more likely to buy for breakfast: a
    slice of chocolate cake or a “chocolate-chip muffin”? Calling a round piece
    of high-fat chocolate cake a “muffin” takes advantage of the distinctions
    you have around breakfast food and increases sales. My local cafe has just
    come out with scone-shaped brownies! Of course, no one would eat brownies
    for breakfast, but scones—!


    You may also be interested in a communication model posted at

    Richard Brodie

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