RE: playing at suicide

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Sun Jan 13 2002 - 09:04:11 GMT

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    At 11:04 PM 12/01/02 -0800, "Grant Callaghan" <>
    >I don't see how you can separate the meme from the brain.

    Why not? You can certainly separate genes from cells, sequence them, put
    them on mag tape, print to paper, scan from paper back to mag tape, run the
    data through a sequencer and put the gene back in a cell.

    Likewise, a meme can be transmitted through speaking or sign language or in
    some cases just watching someone else or exaiming an artifact. You can
    write it on paper or mag tape, print it and a person can read it and make a
    copy in their brain. Not complicated at all if you consider the meme and
    the gene as abstract patterns of information.

    Why certain memes do well in spreading to many human brains--that's an
    evolutionary psychology question.

    >I tend to go along with E. O. Wilson that in order to understand, you have
    >to understand the environment as well as the organism at three
    >levels. The meme, the brain and society are all important to the
    >process. Without understanding all three, I don't think we'll really
    >understand any of them.

    If you really want to understand the brain, go here: Dr. Calvin probably has a better
    handle on how brains operate and what drove their expansion on the last few
    million years than anyone else on the planet. I recommend buying the books
    or getting them out of a library. I ordered the last one of Calvin's books
    and then was so impatient I read it off the screen before the book came.

    Gazzaniga, M.S. (1985). The Social Brain. New York: Basic Books is
    recommended as well as his more recent works such as
    Michael S. Gazzaniga, The Mind's Past. From a reivew:

    "Nothing could produce a more disheartening feeling than the idea that we
    are just puppets controlled by our brains - brains so smart that they could
    even produce the illusion that we control our own thoughts and actions.
    This is the leit-motiv of this book by one of the founders of cognitive
    neuroscience where a defense of this most outrageous thesis is presented.
    Gazzaniga's main endeavor in his new book is to present a thorough assault
    on the notion of "self" and to argue that such a notion can no longer
    survive the impact of contemporary brain science. In seven elegantly
    written chapters the author provides the educated layman with an overview
    of several themes addressed by the new and promising field of cognitive
    neuroscience. These range from a discussion of the nature of the "self",
    brain architecture, the relationship between information-processing
    structures of the brain and experience, to the nature of perception,
    action, memory and consciousness."

    Dr. Marvin Minsky's Society of Mind is an interesting read as well. Dr.
    Minski come at it from the direction of AI. He, Calvin and Gazzaniga are
    all in close agreement as to how brains came about and are
    constructed. From a review:

    The cornerstone of Minsky’s theory is the conception of minds as
    collections of enormous numbers of semi-autonomous, intricately connected
    agents that are themselves mindless. As Minsky puts it,

    This book tries to explain how minds work. How can intelligence emerge from
    nonintelligence? To answer that, we’ll show that you can build a mind from
    many little parts, each mindless by itself.

    I’ll call “Society of Mind” this scheme in which each mind is made of many
    smaller processes. These we’ll call agents. Each mental agent by itself can
    only do some simple thing that needs no mind or thought at all. Yet when we
    join these agents in societies—in certain very special ways—this leads to
    intelligence. (17)

    If you want to try to understand how human society came about, then you
    really need to dig into evolutionary psychology. I have already posted
    pointers into web pages on that subject. There are *many* books out on it,
    one of the more recent and very good is "Origin of Virtue" by Matt
    Riddley. "Red Queen" is by the same author and "Moral Animal" by Robert
    Wright are also good books. Frank J. Sulloway's Born to Rebel is worth
    reading too.

    We are a social primate and the vast majority of our evolution was in
    tribes and small villages. If you understand that environment, and the
    selection pressures that existed on genes for millions of years, many of
    the characteristics of society and why/how humans create a society make
    sense. In fact, the mystery of why humans do anything is fairly well
    accounted for in this area of study.

    Best wishes, see you back here in a several months. :-)

    Keith Henson

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