Re: transmission

From: William Benzon (
Date: Thu 22 May 2003 - 01:29:46 GMT

  • Next message: William Benzon: "Bonus Points, poetic memes"

    on 5/21/03 8:02 PM, Keith Henson at wrote:

    > At 11:54 AM 21/05/03 -0400, you wrote:
    >> on 5/21/03 9:07 AM, Keith Henson at wrote:
    >> [snip]
    >>> Memes are in competition for a limited resource, human brains. This is the
    >>> main factor that makes memetics so interesting since memes can induce
    >>> behavior that affects how many are carrying them. "Convert or die,
    >> infidel!"
    >> This makes no sense. Sooner or later mentalist memetics gets around to
    >> talking about memes as though they were living beings flitting about from
    >> mind to mind.
    > To some very limited extent they are. A virus is just a hunk of DNA or
    > RNA. Is it a "living being?" If your cells are being converted to more
    > SARS viruses and you need a ventilator just to breath, such nit picking
    > questions are far from your concerns.

    I'm not talking about viruses, I'm talking about "memes."

    > Dawkins' major contribution was to popularize the "selfish gene"
    > paradigm. "Unthinking" genes and memes can be modeled as "striving"
    > entities because of the Darwinian effect.

    What, pray-tell, is the Darwinian effect? Praying to the East whenever Darwin's name is heard?

    >> People say do things like: "Convert or die, infidel!" Arguing
    >> that what's really going on is that memes are manipulating people for their
    >> own replicating ends is just silly. It was a bad idea when Dawkins advanced
    >> it, and it hasn't improved any for all the elaboration and repetition it has
    >> received by others.
    > It is a clever shorthand that lets you say in a single word like "striving"
    > the long winded logic of how evolution works to make some genes (or memes)
    > more or less common as time goes forward. It was a good way to put a
    > complicated explanation in a few words, but some people have a lot of
    > trouble groking it.

    It is possible to unpack the notion of a "selfish gene" into identifiable mechanisms that we can manipulate with some skill. But the notion of the
    "selfish meme" just lays their like a run-over dog. It's meaningless.

    It seems that your groking is way ahead of your understanding.

    William L. Benzon
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    "You won't get a wild heroic ride to heaven on pretty little
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