RE: Why memeoids?

From: Lawrence DeBivort (
Date: Fri Jan 18 2002 - 22:24:53 GMT

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    Subject: RE: Why memeoids?
    Date: Fri, 18 Jan 2002 17:24:53 -0500
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    I must confess that I am grateful that the US government -- or ANY
    government for that matter -- knows much about memetics.

    I believe we can build the requisite models, and do believe that there is
    much we can do -- even now -- to improve significantly US relations with
    other peoples.

    The Cold War may serve as an example: the governments (US and USSR) were
    locked into a relationship based on military might and political
    brinkmanship. American citizens, acting privately, took it upon themselves
    to reach out to Soviet citizens; their rationale was that these contacts
    were the only means to defuse the mutual suspicions that the governments had
    engendered in each other. Memes to this effect were created and launched.
    The US government was deeply opposed to such contacts, but eventually were
    unable to stop them. Gradually the strategy worked, and Gorbachev, sensing
    that the end was near for centralized communist rule, was able to defuse the
    Cold War, the private citizen exchanges (then called citizen diplomacy) had
    enabled the Soviet people to ease their fears that the US would exploit
    their weaknesses. [In the interest of full disclosure, I was deeply
    skeptical that these citizen initiatives might have any effect, and I was

    It may be that we now need an equivalent of citizen diplomacy, in which
    Americans and others of good will, reach out to those who have become
    convinced by our government's actions that they are targeted by it. We have
    a second problem to address: besides the US government, the move toward
    corporate globalism is viewed by many as a threat. It is not quite clear to
    me how to mitigate this. The anti-globalization demonstrations don't seem
    promising, but I may be wrong about the impact of these, too. Memes may be
    the answer. And a model that explained the 'why's of anti-American sentiment
    might be an important tool in helping our government policy-makers
    understand some of the impacts of what they consider.

    Re. your smallpox question: I can't imagine such a scenario, and would feel
    terrible if anyone were to recommend this.


    > -----Original Message-----
    > From: []On Behalf
    > Of Keith Henson
    > Sent: Friday, January 18, 2002 4:43 PM
    > To:
    > Subject: RE: Why memeoids?
    > At 02:46 PM 18/01/02 -0500, "Lawrence DeBivort" <>
    > wrote:
    > >Agreed. As I've said before, the only way to 'prevent' or
    > minimize terrorism
    > >from foreign sources is to have an effective policy for and practice of
    > >interacting with the world's peoples. The US is a long way from
    > >understanding this and achieving it, because we haven't felt it
    > necessary.
    > The problem is *much* worse than you make it out to be.
    > As an analogy, consider how poor public health debate and decisions would
    > be if people had no idea of what causes disease. Heck they are not all
    > that good even when the causes of disease are known. And there
    > are severe
    > limits on how much our own society will let the US government do, without
    > being violently attacked, the US population would not have
    > supported going
    > into Afghanistan even if million of people were starving (which
    > they were).
    > But the main problem is that memetics and evolutionary psychology is not
    > even a topic at high levels of the government. There are no models built
    > on these foundations to predict the outcomes of different
    > policies. It may
    > be that there are no good solutions available. What would you say if
    > models showed the best results for the world in ten years would be to
    > spread smallpox?
    > Keith Henson
    > >We have felt insulated from accountability to other peoples. If
    > there is any
    > >one thing to learn from Sept. 11, it is that this is not so. We
    > have a lot
    > >of catching up to do. American political scientists have failed
    > to explicate
    > >this to our policy-makers; perhaps we will do a better job now.
    > >
    > >Lawrence
    > >
    > >
    > > is to > As an engineer, I can state that there so many routes
    > to killing
    > >people
    > > > and/or damaging infrastructure the officials can't consider all of
    > > > them. It is impossible (at present) to entirely prevent
    > attacks without
    > > > intrusion and cost that would wreck our society. I am not sure that
    > > > fully understanding the biological roots of the problem will lead to
    > > > solutions either, but it does seem like the best long range approach
    > > > available.
    > > >
    > > > Keith Henson

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