Re: Maybe make a brew for this one #2

From: Chris Taylor (
Date: Mon 23 Jan 2006 - 12:56:01 GMT

  • Next message: Dace: "Re: Religion and narcissism"

    Part the second:

    >> As for the 'loss' of the process; as they say one is never too old to
    >> learn (barring neurodegeneration, but even Alzheimer's patients have
    >> demonstrated some learning ability)
    > When you observe the degeneration of Alzheimer's patients it does make
    > you realise just how much of what we do on a daily basis is learned. How
    > many of the things that we don't even think about, they're so basic to
    > our daily living, are actually cultural. It reminds you that how and
    > when we wash, dress, eat, use the toilet, interact socially, etc. are
    > all learned as babies/toddlers. Memetic, not genetic. On a separate
    > subject, I think this reinforces my claim that religious memes are far
    > from unique in their stickiness.

    I think the patterns of loss are interesting also (similar to spongiform encephalopathies etc.); there is a model that predicts that in wildlife refugia, keeping 10% of the area maintains 50% of the diversity (i.e. the rate of species loss rapidly accelerates while the area avaliable to support it diminishes linearly). There is also the 'one tiger to a mountain' casting of the same idea that states that half a mountain is no good as half a tiger (which is what it could in principle support) isn't a valid proposition...

    >> 1) Empathy: Seeing as models of others will be made of the same
    >> meme-stuff as your'self' then effects manifesting in the model can
    >> 'bleed' across from the model -- you can _quite literally_ feel others
    >> pain once you have internalised them, so being nice is not altruism,
    >> it is selfishness, cos their pain _is_ your pain as their joy _is_
    >> your joy. I'd argue that a core part of the meme-machine is a
    >> biological link that ties forebrain-based mind stuff to emotional
    >> midbrain centres and that that mechanism is at work here (this link
    >> must exist -- I've been so 'gutted' by events at times in my life it
    >> has made me nauseous for example -- but god knows what the physical
    >> mechanism is -- some sort of pattern resonance -- I can't be pulled up
    >> on this though as we don't even know why pain hurts!!!):
    >> Self-meme-mind patterns can clearly fire the emotional centres (pain,
    >> pleasure etc.), so given that the models are so similar to the 'main
    >> event' (i.e you) I'd argue that _they_ can actually trigger those same
    >> centres through the exact same effect. That's the nub of it. And as I
    >> say when people 'assume' others are like them what is happening is
    >> that the models really are (as I mentioned above) just recycled bits
    >> of you plus whatever you may have observed and captured from others,
    >> so in the naive it is obvious why the 'assumption' of 'like me' occurs
    >> and why it is so unpleasant when the model turns out to be misleading
    >> as a result. We do not like our models to fail (that's axiomatic -- as
    >> fundamental as physical pain -- an a priori part of the meme machine
    >> along with a handful of other things).
    > Hmmm. I'm not quite convinced by this model of empathy. Perhaps that's
    > because I'm not at all convinced by the Dennettian memeplex model of the
    > mind. But it's more than this. You're no doubt familiar with Simon
    > Baron-Cohen's views on autism/empathy: that there is a spectrum from
    > empathising to synthesising, with most female minds being stronger on
    > empathising and most male minds stronger on synthesising (he does not
    > claim that *all* men/women are like this - indeed he speculates that in
    > many ways his own mind is more 'female' in these terms). Hence his
    > theory that autism is an extreme version of the male mind: very strong
    > on synthesising (finding patterns; understanding and building systems)
    > and very weak on empathising. I find his view very persuasive (see for
    > example "The Essential Difference, Penguin, 2004) and it implies that
    > our (lack of) ability to empathise is largely innate. Genetic rather
    > than memetic.

    It's a leap I'll admit, but it makes a lot of sense (for example it provides imho by far the most compact and satisfying explanation of the transition from abused to abuser as per that previous monster post of mine); I haven't actually heard any other convincing explanation of this (especially the age triggers), and it is just one example of how the memes-only
    (plus the kind of stuff I've discussed above about the 'mental environment' and emotional ties to memes) model works well. Good models always explain a lot for very little effort, and do usually feel self-consistent (even if not appealing). Of course it is no proof or disproof (as the orchestra swells for the reprise).

    On the (stereotypical) maleness thing; I think it will take some pretty blinding statistics to ever separate what is learnt from what is a result of some predisposition in the machinery, but I have seen some evidence that where males profess to 'feel more female' there are some minor brain structures that appear to be intermediate between make and female states (I forget the detail
    -- it was a [BBC] Horizon or something). The linear-circular/Mars-Venus/action-chat/kill-hug thing is there to an extent; again invoking a biological (keith-esque but as I say at the much lower level) argument feels right here. I don't buy the 'super-male' view of autists though as this is too simplistic imho; that there are some aspects of some Asperger's individuals that correlate with some of what is taken to signify maleness is misleading. While males (oversimplifying for the sake of argument) may think more linearly about the future and less about others, and females more about tangential consequences and feelings, this is likely the result of some minor deliberate tweaking of network properties that has an analogous counterpart in Asperger's but is not the same. Basically it isn't exaggerated maleness although it shares some features with 'maleness'. Hair split? Anyway there is a difference between a car having a speed limiter fitted and having a faulty throttle -- how male is that example :)

    > Perhaps this doesn't necessarily contradict what you've said about
    > empathy, come to think of it. I guess I'm just not sure that what goes
    > on when we feel someone else's pain is that we've built an internal
    > model of their *memes*. Some quite small chilren (not most, but some)
    > can display remarkable degrees of empathy, before they've accumulated
    > many memes of their own, never mind other people's. And we can feel
    > empathy with people who, in the normal run of things, we'd say we have
    > hardly any memes in common with. And conversely we can share many memes
    > with someone yet not feel much empathy with them.

    Okay we have a problem here -- cf. the alzheimers point above where _everything_ practically is learned. My youngest (a girl) is emotionally very savvy now (a stage the older boy went through also); both could read others aged one and less, and knew how to get people to laugh. I just think that an awful lot of learning (~memes -- a much broader definition than the backards baseball caps) is going on really early. But to some extent what goes in is not displayed on the surface; language appears in fits and starts but goes in as a fairly regular stream which to me says that memes are being stored up all the time from dot, but that what we see of them is not proportional to rate of input. I think that even in very young kids memes can be learned; the joy of copying and being copied starts in my experience at six months or less...

    Anyway; I think the manner in which we see pain and somehow then feel pain is so direct that it has to bypass the conscious level. Therefore whether one buys into the
    'all-there-is-is-~memes' thing or not, the association between our own sense of pain and the experiences associated with it must be lighting up in resonance with the internalised version of the meme correlating to seeing/imagining that experience in someone else (especially for the imagining one where the strongly-felt empathy on the assumption of pain in the other may not even hold true under examination). Again this is quite simple so I like it as an explanation...

    > I'm feeling like I haven't quite got to grips with your analysis of
    > empathy. Perhaps, as I say, it's because I'm not convinced by the
    > mind-as-memes-alone model that it seems to be based on.

    Yeah the whole thing is contingent to an extent on buying into that model. Some of the effects could apply in a model intermediate between this and the mind virus model that leaves the internal stuff to the psychologists. But it's just that the more I confront this model with the facts, the stronger it seems to get -- belief huh ;D

    Where there might be some proof to be had is through the route of practical memetics (i.e. in the clinic); mostly it ends up being someting akin to cognitive (behavioural) therapy (which iirc is the only flavour that really has a track record of helping funnily enough).

    Cheers, Chris.


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