Re: CRASH CONTAGION
From: Keith Henson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Mon Jan 07 2002 - 02:51:54 GMT
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Date: Sun, 06 Jan 2002 21:51:54 -0500
From: Keith Henson <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: CRASH CONTAGION
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At 08:18 PM 06/01/02 -0500, you wrote:
In a message dated 1/6/2002 7:56:33
AM Central Standard Time, Paul Marsden
ABC news here in the USA reported this evening (1/6/2002) that the boy
left a 4 paragraph note applauding the September 11 attacks and
support for Osama Bin Laden. The target building was also a financial
tower. The evidence strongly indicates that the idea of flying a plane
building had propagated as a result of previous ideologically-motivated
crashes, and not as a result of some prior accidental crash or a prior
whose cause remains unknown. I don't think anyone would suggest that this
Florida crash would have happened without the prior ideologically-based
crashes of September 11, and without the immense publicity that those
gave to the ideologies involved and to the idea of deliberately crashing
planes into buildings for ideological reasons.
I agree with Aaron, this is a clear case of contagion, and his post is a
good explanation what happened and how the idea was
My focus of interest in the realm of memetics has moved on to the
"why" question. Why do humans have the psychological
tendencies to do something so clearly counter survival?
goal of research in evolutionary psychology is to discover and understand
the design of the human mind. Evolutionary psychology is an
approach to psychology, in which knowledge and principles from
evolutionary biology are put to use in research on the structure of the
human mind. It is not an area of study, like vision, reasoning, or social
behavior. It is a way of thinking about psychology that can be
applied to any topic within it.
this view, the mind is a set of information-processing machines that were
designed by natural selection to solve adaptive problems faced by our
hunter-gatherer ancestors. This way of thinking about the brain, mind,
and behavior is changing how scientists approach old topics, and opening
up new ones. This chapter is a primer on the concepts and arguments that
"designed by natural selection to solve adaptive problems faced by
our hunter-gatherer ancestors" is the key statement.
A clear example of psychological traits natural selection left us with is
the Stockholm Syndrome, exemplified by the Patty Hearst kidnapping and
spouse abuse. This capture-bonding or social reorientation when
captured from one waring tribe to another was an essential survival tool
for a million years or more. Those who reoriented often became our
ancestors. Those who did not became breakfast.
This is easy to understand, but what could people have done in the tribal
days that translates today into strapping on explosives as they do in
Israel or crashing airplanes into buildings? You have to grok
William Hamilton's concepts about inclusive fitness for this to make
sense. Bees kill themselves defending a hive because shared genes
to do so become more common in their relatives when they do so
The same is true of humans. Hamilton once figured out that genes
for saving more than two brothers or more than 8 cousins at the cost of
death should spread in an environment where such choices happened.
We presume such was the situation for a million years or more.
Of course, leading a charge into a group men armed with sticks and rocks
was not the sure thing of crashing into a building, but you can see where
the willingness to die would come from. And it may well be that the
genes of the suicide hijackers and similar cases are doing well
through enhanced reproductive opportunities for their
The other factor is that some degree of social status was (and still is)
an essential condition for reproductive success. In male Yanamano
Indians social status comes with being a killer. Killers in that
culture have several times as many children as non killers.
Social status clear back to the chimpanzees is measured by the level of
attention an individual gets. There is no doubt that Ben Ladin has
had one hell of a lot of attention put on him in recent months.
Sorting out positive attention from negative is something that a lot of
people (many on the net) never get right.
A 15 year old in a tribe 100k years ago would have led an attack on a
party from another tribe and (if he didn't get killed) chances are he
would have gotten lots of attention and maybe laid that night as a
reward. Crashing a light plane into a building just gets him dead,
but you can see where the behavior comes from in response to exposure to
these memes showing how to get attention.
I have an article in draft that goes into this in more depth. It is
about ten pages if that is not too long for this list.
(practical memetics at)
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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