Re: Environment for memes (lost sending again)

From: Chris Taylor (
Date: Sat 04 Feb 2006 - 00:43:11 GMT

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    Well I hate to bang on about it but the memes-only Dennettite ecology of the mind thing pertains. In that view your mind is an ecology and as with the real world those ecologies are in most cases resilient to major structural change in many senses, through the coadaptation of the species within them.

    New ideas come in, find an ecology completely incompatible with them and therefore find no succour. They cannot find a niche, pure and simple and either hang about like a spectre or disappear completely. (this may involve some form of mimicry [I use the term loosely] and masking to achieve denial -- I think once a meme gets past the skull it cannot not have some sort of effect however minor and so always leaves a trace of itself although that echo of a pattern may get 'absorbed' into the general hubbub.

    Then you have to think how 'we' rationalise that activity. We are arch rationalisers; we strain to make dreams linear and meaningful. How would we rationlise this denial behaviour (a simple process of rejection on the ~meme level with little that is complex) perhaps by actually (bear with me here) selecting for masking in some sense.

    Complete tangent: I think part of the role of consciousness is to accentuate and focus the process of quasi natural selection and evolution going on in your head as a matter of course, by making some ~memes artificially fit, in part in response to sensory stimuli, thereby making a spotlight on one set of ideas and producing a linear stream of consciousness; almost like the original homunculusy little guy in your head but not anywhere near that really, just a point of focus that is probably driven by sense and general fitness, where that would maybe be an analogue of the 'connectedness' as the origin to us 'having' ideas (in the sense of increased relevance to or resonance with other ~memes, or sense stimuli, maybe as a result of changing internal [constant process of rearrangement and change] or external circumstances), again encoded in this neural pattern form whatever the hell it is). Anyway.

    In some cases invaders do run rampant; there are fragile ecologies and dysfunctional ones -- consider crop monoculture and invading pests, or less severe, the impact _some_ (a small minority) have as 'alien' invaders (knotweed -- no proper interactors in the food web but an ability to make a living in the foreign environment -- rampant, mammals in Australasia blah blah).

    But even where invaders do do well, the background ecology rarely shifts much. You have to do a lot to really trouble such a mature structure. Like the many-layered structures of your identity.

    Another linked phenomenon is the ability of arbitrarily large or small stimuli to produce what I'd guess would be some sort of power law distributed spectrum of seismic shocks to presonality from unnoticeable to devastating, and the similar distribution of the resiliency of people's personality (i.e. the strength of the internal structure) to a large shock. This kind of relfection of other systems like this (I'm thinking rates of extinction basically) when you consider that we're also facing hoardes of tiny interacting (mental) beasties shouts at me that this is just the way nature makes things. Gene expression and cell biology are the same. In yeast a lot of the time when you knock out a key gene you find that another one springs into life to compensate; lots of little modular interactors making a complex system with redundancy of function. My fundamental argument is that there is nothing new under the sun (1) and that we need to think hard about where we come from all the way back to being a microbe with one end slightly more sensitive to light than the other.

    Hmm. That grew...

    Night, Chris.

    Kate Distin wrote:
    > Keith Henson wrote:
    >> At 10:53 PM 1/28/2006 -0500, I wrote:
    >> > Intercommunicating human minds are the environment for memes.
    >> On another list (Shock Level 4) a participant posted a pointer that
    >> lead here:
    >> This study--about how human minds work--has direct application to
    >> memetics. I have made an EP based case in my paper on EP war and
    >> memes that the ability to reason is suppressed in people operating in
    >> "war mode," and the gain of xenophobic memes is turned up.
    >> According to what these researchers found, it looks like the process
    >> is much more general, or perhaps "politics is just a continuation of
    >> war by other means." :-) I love the image of twirling the cognitive
    >> kaleidoscope.
    >> Keith Henson
    > This stuff is fascinating. Its emphasis seems to be on the fact that
    > partisans will find a way to maintain their affiliation in the teeth of
    > negative evidence - which of course we all do, all the time, with people
    > we love, and that's no bad thing (e.g. maintaining your affection even
    > when its object is going through a growly or bitchy time for whatever
    > reason). But it says a lot about the pointlessness of arguments between
    > people of seriously entrenched views, in whatever field. Let's not get
    > dragged into another debate about religion - people can become attached
    > to philosophical theories with the same degree of passion as others do
    > to religions or political parties - but whatever the subject it does
    > seem that there's a degree of attachment to a viewpoint, beyond which it
    > is impossible to hear what the other side is saying. I wonder what
    > memes have to do to become so securely entrenched and get this level of
    > mental/emotional protection?
    > Kate
    > ===============================================================
    > This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    > Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    > For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
    > see:

    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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