Tyuranny of the replicators

Dr I Price (PEWLEYFORT@compuserve.com)
Tue, 10 Jun 1997 05:14:01 -0400

Date: Tue, 10 Jun 1997 05:14:01 -0400
From: Dr I Price <PEWLEYFORT@compuserve.com>
Subject: Tyuranny of the replicators
To: "INTERNET:memetics@mmu.ac.uk" <memetics@mmu.ac.uk>

Replying to Nick

>IP Dr Price sums up the argument very well, but I feel makes the
classic Dawkins error in the next bit ...

>For me the power of the concept of meme is that it gives us for
>once a chance of choosing not to be victims of "the tyranny of
>the selfish replicator"

NR What chance? By our own argument 'we' are effectively 'slaves'
to our selfish memes and genes. Dawkins started this problem in
the Selfish Gene, where he suggests that we can somehow throw off
the yoke of the selfish replicators through understanding how
they act -- but what he perhaps neglected to mention was that it
was the tyranny of his selfish memes that prompted him to suggest
that. There is no 'us' to throw off the memes, yet many of like
to think that there is; Thus is the power of (what Dennett calls)
the benign user illusion. Even if memes were to entirely
overthrow the interests of the genes (and that is a debate in
itself), then we would still be 'victims of "the tyranny of the
selfish replicator"'; only this time its memes rather than genes
that are 'pulling the strings'.

Perhaps I've misunderstood what you meant?<

OK this touches on free will versus determinism, Lamarkism and other topi=
bouncing around on this list but let me try and amplify. I do feel oblige=
to grant individuals, and organisations, some ability to choose: to
question whether in taking a certain action, seeing an issue a certain wa=
or believing a certain position they are acting 'consciously' [and yes I =
dimly aware of the arguments the term raises]. We are all easily thrown b=
existing 'mental models' to perceive a certain situation a certain way.
Different results can be generated if/when we 'slow down' a little and
enquire into what assumptions are driving us to a particular conclusion.
There are many exponents of different disciplines of doing it working in
fields such as counselling/ therapy and the one I know better
organisational development. The ones which made the biggest impact on my
own development were Chris Argyris through his work on what he terms sing=
and double loop learning and Peter Senge and associates who popularised t=
meme of 'mental models' through their work on organisational learning.

At a collective level 'mental models' [known by various names] underpin t=
taken for granted unwritten codes and rules which exist in any form of
organisation. Organisations are discovering various ways of questioning a=
interrupting these, and discovering that to be a critical element for
survival in the selection process of the free market.

To give some examples anorexia, a memetically transmitted disease, can be=

cured as can a similar disease known as corporate anorexia [cost-cutting
and more cost cutting to the point of corporate extinction]. Richard
Pascall whose 1989 book 'Managing on the Edge' got close to the organic
view of an organisation refers to the work of management as 'making and
breaking paradigms' [in essence memetic engineering]. He goes on to asser=
that the problem is that 90% of management efforts are devoted to
"squeezing more out of the existing paradigm and its killing us". =

Whether this is'true free will' [whatever that means] or replacement of o=
set of memes by another is an interesting philosophical/ scientific/
academic point however in practice it seems to me that we posess much mor=
power to interfere in our memetic inheritance than in our genetic one, an=
certainly more than any other species. I find this an encouraging thought=
It may even mean that by understanding more about memetics we can avoid t=
worst side-effects of runaway memetic evolution.

If Price
Active Personal Learning, Guildford UK

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