RE: Machiavellian Memes

Valla Pishva (
Thu, 25 Sep 1997 19:04:13 -0400 (EDT)

Date: Thu, 25 Sep 1997 19:04:13 -0400 (EDT)
From: Valla Pishva <>
Subject: RE: Machiavellian Memes
To: "''" <>

A few things:
In response to Richard Brodie's
>VIRUS OF THE MIND. I pointed out, as you do, that mind viruses though
>are, religions can and do program people for success and happiness. Of
>course, I believe one should be aware of this and choose one's own
>programming rather than be unaware and have no choice but to accept what
>you happen to be dealt, that seems "true."

This seems a bit illogical belief- if one takes the meme view to it's
logical concluion, then we are all just a collection of memes not of our
own "choosing." Maybe I'm making a philosophical faux pas, but genetic
basis and environmental exposure seems quite enough to not allow any room
for "choice' in the matter. In any case, this whole topic of choosing
one's memetic programing is very cyclical, and counterproductive if you
ask me (you can always refer to the meme that free-will is possible or not
possible as the source). Whatever one says, one can't get out of the
memetic system, so (as in the new mysterian argument that consciousness
is not explainable) you have two choices; (1) sit back and accept the fact
that no further progress can be made (or you have no control over your
memetic organization) or the much better (2) be Sisyfian and continue
attempting to push the limits of knowledge anyway.
But in moving away from religious memes, we move toward a memetic
"set" which is much more diverse- we can have different views on
contraception, abortion, and aliens without having all of these just be
handed down by the church. This active memeticism counteracts the
church's passive, authoritarian transmittal and defines a more
personalized moral compass. (It is interesting to note that, large as the
catholic church is, much smaller is the proportion of blind acceptors that
dont dispute or at least rationalize some of their "orders.") Many belief
variations do exist, because direct contradiction is harder to establish
than one might think. The exception is contradition with the word of god,
but in the presence of scientific inquiry and process demystification,
that meme is much harder to spread as recepients are located further from
the source (hence, localized centers called Churches).
Conceptually "further reaching" memes, like religious ones, might
be seen as Meta-Memes, because they have one of two properties: (1) they
serve as a foundation for the "society' in which they function- a sort of
least common denominator, and/or (2) they carry along with them other
memes that may not neccessarily be direct logical implications of the
meta-meme. The meta-meme of vampirism carries along with it the
bloodsucking, nocturnal, and garlic hating memes, which may only be
connectable loosely to the "set of what is scarry" meme. There are
obviously many different local and global levels for using meta-memes, so
I dont know how useful they may be.
As for morality as a genetic trait and sabatoge memes, I would be
hard pressed to believe that morality is genetically transferred; however,
the gene's eye desire to reproduce is genetic, and morality seems to be a
set of a memes that are grouped together not because of mathematical
neccessity, but because together (and separately to an extent) they allow
for the formation of a higher level genetic status quo. The difference is
that this upper level status quo seems to allow for the formation of the
extensive memetic pool that we call society. Without this "agreement
among genes" things would be much simpler.
At first, gene favorable memes were definitely the rule. But,
since genes cant express themselves directly, they must work through
phenotypes. This is fine, except that genes themselves have no "knowledge"
of other genes, and so can not predict the results of phenotypic
interactions. Kin selection came first, but eventually, the new "higher
level status quo" of morality was put into place. Now genes
were able to use memes, which are much more powerful and short acting; but
then again,so are the unforseen interactions they create. Morality is not
genetic, but just a natural emergence from genetic systems that propagate
a certain level of complex information processing some call consciousness.
It's not in the genes, though it is implied by them.
-val pishva

p.s. This is my first contribution to the list, so if anyone is wondering
as to my background, I did't my undergrad work here at Tufts with Prof.
Dennett and am currently taking some grad classes while looking for work .

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