Re: Absolutist memes

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Fri 29 Oct 2004 - 13:37:50 GMT

  • Next message: Paul: "RE: Absolutist memes"

    At 08:59 AM 29/10/04 +0100, Alan wrote:
    > > The new idea I have been examining is that the kind of memes that spreads
    > > well depends on the condition, particularly the psychological condition,
    > > the population that is host to the meme.
    >This is what I would assume would be the case........the environment affects
    >the receptivity to various meme types.
    >Hmmmm....I wonder if it works like a feedback loop?

    Of course.

    Like all animals, humans have the ability to fill the environment to capacity and then some. Since the human line had no significant predators
    (since we started chipping rocks) when population exceeded the ecological limit, we had to be our own predators.

    Since we are deeply social primates, that meant we did it groups, i.e., war. Our relatives the chimps do something rather similar, carrying out genocide against neighboring groups. Our equally close relatives the bonobos have not been observed organizing killing parties. It is not clear how bonobo numbers are controlled. But for us, looming privation --> high circulation of xenophobic memes --> war --> reduced population --> better prospects --> rational (non war) memes prevail --> buildup in population
    -->> looming privation.


    Someone want to set this to music? (_Where Have All The Flowers Gone?_)

    Now, for reasons that are *not* clearly understood the women in at least some human populations/cultures strongly limit the number of children they have,--given enough wealth and the technology to do so. This is not predictable since such humans are living far out of their EEA. But as EO Wilson put it, we are extremely lucky.

    In some parts of the world (particularly Europe and now Asia) the low birth rate and a faster-than-the-birth-rate increase in wealth due to high technology has kept us out of wars between groups in contact for several decades. This doesn't entirely prevent wars because a population can be switched into war mode by being attacked.

    Unfortunately, this knowledge does not lead to easy solutions (though you can understand why Northern Ireland backed out of their mess--some 30 years ago the birth rate fell by about half).

    Take Iraq. You could get the population out of war mode if you were able to massively improved the economic situation there. I think those in warrior mode have an instinctive feel for what they are doing and they are making the economic situation bad on purpose since it leads to more support.

    The situation there will go on for a generation or more without some radical cure such as disease wiping out a substantial fraction of the population. Eventually things will have been so bad so long that war mode will decay and switch off on some minor up tick. Once the economy has been down long enough for any improvement to look good, it will go into positive feedback. (Like Lebonon.)

    The alternative would be to swap out the Iraq population for westerners. Taken out of Iraq to places where they can get jobs, the electricity is on all day and they don't have to worry about car bombs, xenophobic memes would rapidly decay in the vast majority of them.

    It's not an impossible task. Large as it is, the population of Iraq could be absorbed into western countries, particularly the US. There is nothing wrong with the country, a western population would make it one of the richest places in the world in short order. Offer them 5 years of no taxes, and I bet you could get more volunteers going there then you needed. There is plenty of excess airliner capacity to do the job in 6 months to a year.

    The idea is crazy. The only question is: Is it crazy *enough*?

    Keith Henson

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