Re: necessity of mental memes

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Thu Jan 24 2002 - 09:08:18 GMT

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    At 08:01 PM 22/01/02 -0800, "Joe Dees" <>

    > >Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2002 22:04:40 -0500
    > > Keith Henson <> Re: necessity of
    > mental memesReply-To:


    > >Susan is *technically* right on this point. It is the direct consequence
    > >of the fact that everything is either directly caused by something else or
    > >the result of a random event.


    >I consider it patently absurd to assert that every flickering thought and
    >every crystal pattern on every snowflake, every wind current and the
    >topography of every grain of sand was written in the fabric of the
    >universe one Planck instant after the Big Bang.

    So do I. But note that random is included.

    Joe, this is one of those cases where if you take another viewpoint, the
    problem might make more sense. Consider driving down a road. From your
    viewpoint, *anything* could happen, rabbits run across the road, an
    airplane land on the road ahead, etc. Now consider it from the viewpoint
    of a person far overhead making a film. Now consider it from the viewpoint
    of someone watching that film later. They will see the chain of events
    where too much head wind and not filling the tanks caused an aircraft to
    land on the road in front of your car. The problem is that unless you
    grant some "outside the universe" cause to human brains, then everything
    they do is either the result of a causal sequence or random effects. (I
    lump quantum effects in with random.)

    Now, what is the practical consequence of this?

    Let me give you another even stranger viewpoint to ponder, one I used to
    pull Hans Moravec's leg at that long ago A-life conference. Hans had a
    manuscript copy of *Mind Children" in his hand and was enthusiastically
    talking about the continuing development of computers and where we could
    eventually be able to have computers able to support a human scale

    I stopped him and asked him if he had considered how unlikely it was that
    this was the first time we had had this conversation? Hans looked utterly
    blank (because it had been a few years since the previous time we talked)
    until I explained that he should take the drop in cost of computer cycles
    much further, to the point a future version of the Society for Creative
    Anachronism would simulate the entire 20th century! Of course if they did
    it once, they would likely run it *many* times, so the chances were next to
    zero that this was the first time we had had this conversation. (Hans took
    my off the cuff story spinning seriously enough that I think it wound up in
    a subsequent book of his.)

    Now, what is the practical consequence of this?

    To answer both of these, nothing.

    In the first case, you just have to be ready to dodge planes or deal with
    rabbits or whatever come your way as you drive down the road. You just
    don't know enough about the rest of the system, nor can you learn enough to
    change your driving habits.

    In the second, if we are in a simulation, there is nothing we can do about
    it. We just have to do the best we can with the cards we are dealt.

    Now to show you that--even if you think like I do--the universe is wired up
    such that what we do is the result of either random or causal effects, you
    can (like I do) still work toward distant goals, knowing they may not
    happen or may be inevitable. Of course, one way to be sure they don't
    happen is to sit on your fanny!

    Far Edge Party: One of the main problems of exploring the stellar systems
    of the galaxy even for very advanced civilizations is that a serial journey
    even at the speed of light would take so long time that most of the stars
    would have died during the journey. One solution is to parallelize the
    problem: the explorer travels to a new system, creates a number of copies
    (xoxes) of himself and sends them to other systems, while he remains behind
    exploring the system (this is a variant of exploring the galaxy using von
    Neumann machines). After around 10 million years, when all of the galaxy
    has been explored, the explorers gather together at a prearranged place,
    and exchange or merge their memories ("The Far Edge Party"). This was
    proposed by Keith Henson as a possible method for a single individual to
    visit all of the galaxy within a reasonable time. See also excerpt from the
    Great Mambo Chicken by Ed Regis, which describes the party.

    [There are two typos in the above. Dedicated explores would explore,
    duplicate and leave. And assuming 0.5 c, it would only take about 1/4
    million years. I expect in excess of 50 trillion people to show up for the
    party. You are all invited. :-) Keith Henson]

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    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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