RE: To Robin, Applied Memetics

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Tue 02 Aug 2005 - 23:22:19 GMT

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    At 01:40 PM 02/08/05 +0100, you wrote:
    ><You have to get into EP to understand why people living in tribal societies
    >evolved a "gain" adjustment for xenophobic memes and what "turns the knob."
    >If you do this, you can understand the origin of wars as diverse as the
    >American Civil war and the one that killed 95% of the population on Easter
    >The problem with this argument is that it assumes xenophobic war to be a
    >feature of "tribal societies".

    Not exactly. It assumes wars to be a feature of tribal societies. War is, of course, a feature of all (or virtually all) human societies. The build up of xenophobic memes is part of the process that results in wars.

    But I appreciate your objection to the word "xenophobic." Thinking about it, the term "dehumanizing memes" is probably a bit closer to the mark.

    >The Easter Island
    >Polynesians had developed / evolved an efficient nautical technology and
    >hence food surplus as had various other pacific islanders
    >pre the arrival of 'western' explorers. In Easter Island the cause of the
    >collapse was a resource crisis brought on by devotion to
    >replicating statue memes.

    I think that is not the most recent thinking about Easter Island. See
    _Collapse_ by Diamond and his extensive reference list. By the time the population collapsed, they had lost nautical technology almost entirely for lack of trees. In short environmental degradation as a result of too much population growth in a very limited area got them. The same is true for several other groups Diamond discusses.

    >Yellen (1990) Scientific American, April pp 96-105 cited by Hurst 1996
    >Crisis and Renewal Harvard Business School Press describes
    >the transition from hunter-gathering to foraging by the !Kang (Kalahahri
    >Busmen). The older society had a rich set of rituals for
    >exchange and an open line of site arrangement of dwellings which
    >incidentally mitigated against individual hording. This changed
    >with herding when hording became possible along with disease, over grazing
    >and xenophobia. The trigger was 'memetic' and not hard

    I think if you read up on the history of the older !Kang society you will find that something like 40% of the adults died from violence. This seems to be about the standard for tribal societies.

    The point to the paper I wrote (copy if you want) is that humans lost their predators. The top predator has to be its own predator. If something else doesn't get them, then when humans overtax the environment, they control the population by wars.

    The spreading of xenophobic or dehumanizing memes is a step along the way to war when humans detect that the population is out of balance with the ability of the environment to support them.

    This is the most depressing knowledge I have ever run into. If you can make a case that I am seriously wrong here, you will have a most receptive listener.

    Keith Henson

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