RE: Words and memes

From: Lawrence DeBivort (
Date: Tue Feb 12 2002 - 14:30:00 GMT

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    Subject: RE: Words and memes
    Date: Tue, 12 Feb 2002 09:30:00 -0500
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    IIRC, Hari Seldon was most concerned with the possibility that the
    predictions of psychohistory might actually influence what people did, and
    so defeat the prediction. So the information that Hari deemed would be
    necessary to future humans was only imparted to them, and in such a sway,
    that predicted and desirable responses would be made by the humans, thus
    keeping things on track (and making the accuracy of future predications

    Memes can be used to influence human decisions and behaviors, but are not
    much use in the purely 'predictive' sense of psychohistory, unless they too
    are enveloped in the limitations on their dissemination that Hari posits are
    necessary. I have tried to accomplish this by embedding the meme within a
    meta-meme that address the time and place matters of dissemination of the
    meme, and it seemed to work pretty well, but it had nowhere near the
    specificity and effectiveness of control that Hari's approach did --
    time-controlled releases of the meme.


    > -----Original Message-----
    > From: []On Behalf
    > Of Keith Henson
    > Sent: Monday, February 11, 2002 11:11 PM
    > To:
    > Subject: Re: Words and memes
    > At 10:59 AM 11/02/02 -0500, Wade wrote:
    > snip
    > >Another instance of the Hari Seldon psychohistory mystique.
    > Since you mention Hari . . . . You can see the rest of the
    > article by going
    > into google groups, use original in subject, and Keith Henson as
    > author. Keith
    > *******************8888
    > H. Keith Henson, Feb. 1997
    > AUGUST 1987
    > {Lead-in by Stanley Schmidt}
    > In his Foundation stories, Isaac Asimov proposed a future science
    > called "psychohistory," in which the collective behavior of human
    > populations could be predicted with high precision. In our time, the
    > social sciences are often viewed as sharply different from the
    > physical sciences because they cannot do much predicting. Is this an
    > inherent limitation on the social sciences, or might it be possible to
    > put them on a truly predictive basis by means that have not been
    > formulated yet? There are a number of lines of research suggesting
    > that it might. One of them is based on the "meme": a concept created
    > by analogy with the gene and describing an entity supposed to behave
    > in a somewhat similar way.
    > H. Keith Henson was one of the founders, and the first president
    > of the L5 Society, which has since become part of the National Space
    > Society. He describes himself as a carrier for several highly
    > infectious memes relating to space colonies, nanotechnolaay, personal
    > computers, and cult-watching.
    > *****************************
    > SCIENCE fiction writers do not always manage to stay ahead of
    > science. One significant concept showed up in the scientific
    > literature 13 years before Charles Sheffield and Arthur Clarke
    > simultaneously wrote stories that incorporated the "Skyhook" or
    > "Beanstalk." But in projecting a science of social prediction, SF
    > writers have been far ahead of the scientists. Isaac Asimov based the
    > entire Foundation series on "Psychohistory." Robert Heinlein
    > developed the theme of predicting social movement in his Future
    > History stories, especially in Revolt in 2100, Methuselah's Children,
    > and in the unwritten saga of Reverend Nehemiah Scudder.*
    > [ * "First Prophet," President of the United States, destroyer of
    > its Constitution, and founder of the Theocracy. If this makes you
    > vaguely uncomfortable, it is probably because you have been reading
    > about fundamentalist preacher/presidential candidate Pat Robertson.
    > As the Ayatollah Khomeini recently demonstrated, fundamentalist
    > religion and politics can make a nasty mix.]
    > Science fiction aside, we don't have a science of social
    > prediction. Until recently, we haven't even had much in the way of
    > theories. Our continual surprise at the development of cults,
    > religions, wars, fads, and other social movements is a notable
    > exception to the steady progress humans have made in building better
    > models of our environment. When you consider the suffering associated
    > with some social movements, our lack of good models must he considered
    > a major deficiency.
    > A successful theory of the development of social movements will
    > have to provide a unifying theory for events that make up much of the
    > evening news. It will have to discover common features that lie
    > behind the diverse trends causing problems in Nicaragua, South Africa,
    > Northern Ireland, and the Middle East. A good theory should be able
    > to evaluate the danger or lack of danger from the LaRouche
    > organization, whose accidental win in the Democratic primary forced
    > Adlai Stevenson III to run as an independent in the Illinois
    > governor's race. (This cult more recently made the news when the FBI
    > raided its offices in the wake of alleged massive credit card frauds.)
    > It should be able to produce a plausible model for the breakup of the
    > Rajneesh cult (whose Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh accumulated 93 Rolls
    > Royces before abandoning his Oregon community). The theory should be
    > able to predict the conditions under which Turkey will be subverted by
    > a fundamentalist version of Islam similar to that which led to so much
    > grief in Iran.
    > A tall order! But an emerging field of study, _memetics_, holds
    > just such promise. Sometimes thought of as "germ theory applied to
    > ideas," memetics is an outgrowth of evolutionary biology. It provides
    > models where social movements are seen as side effects of infectious
    > ideas that spread among people in a way mathematically identical to
    > the way epidemic disease spreads. It has been noticed, for example,
    > that use rates for various drugs, most recently "crack," have closely
    > followed epidemic-like curves that seem to be as oblivious to the
    > efforts of authorities as the Black Death was in 1348. At a deeper
    > level, research in neuroscience and artificial intelligence is
    > starting to develop an understanding of why we are susceptible to
    > "infectious information," both the benign and the deadly.
    > snip
    > ===============================================================
    > 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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