Re: emperors old clothes

From: Dace (
Date: Sun 23 Mar 2003 - 19:40:23 GMT

  • Next message: Van oost Kenneth: "Re: memetics-digest V1 #1320"

    > From: Keith Henson <>
    > > > Your original statement was that memes *can't* pervert their hosts.
    > > > some people are immune to certain infections or memes, but that does
    > > > mean that genes/memes in general can't make hosts sick or cause the
    > >to
    > > > waste their life on some stupid meme. (Pervert as a verb has the
    > > > of turning from an intended or original purpose. If at least one of
    > > > original purposes of humans is to reproduce, then the Heaven's Gate
    > > > that induced men to whack off their nuts and later suicide was
    certainly a
    > > > perversion!)
    > >
    > >And the perversion is human, not memetic.
    > Perhaps this is just semantic. I agree that the humans are perverted
    > (turned as above). Do you agree that the agent of that perversion is the
    > meme?

    No. We are responsible for our actions and beliefs.

    > Thus you could say something like "the perversion of humans by memes
    > is a serious problem."

    That humans allow themselves to be perverted by memes is a serious problem.

    > >The meme is just promoting itself
    > >and knows nothing of "perversion" or any other human concept.
    > Including the human concept of "promoting itself."

    Self-promotion is not simply a human concept. It's the essence of life.

    > If a meme causes
    > behavior which results in more copies of itself (in comparison to rival
    > memes), it can be thought of as "promoting itself" in the same sense that
    > gene that builds organisms that are better at reproducing (and making
    > copies of the gene) can be thought of as "selfish," because over time
    > genes becomes more common in the population, replacing rival genes.

    Yes, that's exactly how I mean it.

    > >It doesn't even know we exist. Until recently we had no inkling of it
    > >either.
    > Concepts similar to memes go back maybe 50 years or more. Not last week,
    > but certainly recently on a historical scale.

    By "recent" I mean the modern era. Even Darwin speculated that logic, math, and the scientific methodology emerged because people who thought this way survived and left progeny, while those who didn't think this way tended not to leave progeny. The social psychologist Donald Campbell called this view,
    "evolutionary epistemology." As far as I can tell, this is the origin of memetics.

    > >But that's true generally of the unconscious, not just memes.
    > "The unconscious" would need to be expanded for me to understand why you
    > bring it into a memetic discussion. Sorry.

    There's a great deal to our minds that we're not conscious of. It's in this subterranean realm that memes operate. We're certainly not aware of memes as such. We're aware of ideas and beliefs and behaviors but not their ability to propagate. We think of them as *our* ideas and beliefs, unaware of their autonomy.

    > > > I don't see why. Memes *are* ideas that spread beyond the person who
    > > > thought them up. Good idea, bad idea, or inaccurate idea, they are
    > > > memes if they are being communicated and spread to new people.
    > >
    > >Not if the very concept of "meme" is unnecessary because we can account
    > >the spread of ideas, behaviors, etc., without endowing them with any
    > You lose me. I thought you were advocating that above.

    Even if it spreads to many people, an idea is still not a meme if there's no such thing in the first place. The key element of memes is that they're
    "selfish" in the same sense as genes. If ideas are spread passively-- the conventional view-- then memes don't exist.

    > > > The reason we use "memes" instead of replicating idea or replicating
    > > > information pattern is that meme is *shorter.*
    > >
    > >If that's all it is, then memetics is a crock.
    > For the life of me I can't understand why you would make such a
    > statement. Meme, culturegen, replicating information pattern, element of
    > culture, what's the difference if you understand what is going on? Would
    > it have been better to use RIP as an acronym? Would culturegenetics or
    > RIPetics have been better than memetics?

    A meme is a self-replicating information pattern. It it replicates passively, it's not a meme. It's just an idea, belief, catch-phrase, etc. What you're doing is to promote the standard, pre-memetic view, and then calling it "memetics" because you like the word.

    > > > It conveys in a short word
    > > > the connotation that the idea being discussed "has a life of its own,"
    > > > sharing in the character (and descriptive mathematics) of replicators
    > > > general.
    > >
    > >Self-replicators. Remember, memes are alive. We're talking about life
    > >here. Without a firm understanding of living nature, memetics drifts off
    > >into self-negating abstractionism.
    > "Alive" and "living nature" are less than precise terms. We agree that a
    > cat or dog is alive. This has been extended to cells. But what happens
    > when you get down to a virus? Or a gene? A computer virus? Are they
    > "alive" or not? I think it is bootless to argue over definitions that are
    > muddy at this level when we can agree on a general term, replicator, that
    > is suited to the level.

    Anything that's self-promoting is alive. Cells are alive in the sense that they participate in a larger system which is self-promoting. A computer virus, however, is not alive because it operates according to a blind, mechanical process. While it may seem to be self-promoting, it merely followes mechanical imperatives and has no self-nature.


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