Re: about 'memetic engineering'

Kastytis Beitas (
Fri, 27 Mar 1998 16:36:19 +0200

Message-Id: <>
Date: Fri, 27 Mar 1998 16:36:19 +0200
From: Kastytis Beitas <>
Subject: Re: about 'memetic engineering'
In-Reply-To: <v03102800b13e4e796ad8@[]>

At 08:18 1998.03.25 +0200, you wrote:
>Kastytis wrote:
>>What bad do you see in cloning?
>>Do you think that surgery, for example, must be forbidden, because the
>>is possible? Vivisection is evil, non-ethical thing, of course. In some
>>countries humans
>>sell their kidneys -- do we must to forbid all surgery and transplantology?
>>The cloning
>>of human beings as sets of spare parts for transplantology is evil. But the
>>cloning of
>>human embryonic tissues for use as transplantants is necessary and ethical
>>The cloning of individuals of rare animal species is useful in restoration
>>of some
>>ecosystems. The genetic-engineered microorganisms may be beneficial in
>>cleaning of
>>polluted waters.
>I agree that these are no simple matters, but in general there are a few
>nasty problems with our approach to them. Because of the inherent nature of
>the scientific enterprise, which in many ways resembles "unaided"
>consciousness (unaided by art, dreams and religion), we see only relatively
>short arcs of whole circuits and act accordingly. This is what Blake
>referred to when he wrote: "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread". As a
>civilization we're bent on shortcut solutions - invariably underestimating
>the long-term implications of our own actions, hence our increasing
>environmental problems. On the other hand our technology also emodies a lot
>of implicit wisdom, so it would be very unwise to just dump it and return
>to the "naivete" of the "primitive". We'd only be repeating ourselves. So
>instead of making grand moves forward or backward, we should move ahead
>very very carefully and preferrably not rely on our consciousness alone.
Mankind needs an instrument for foreseeing the future (social, industrial
and environmental future). The main way of foreseeing is individual acts of
foreseeing (by common sense, scientific prognosis). Usually products of
such foreseeing (ideas) propagate as memes (oh, these memes! :)). They can
uptake (occupy?) certain part of society if conditions are suitable or be
averaged with other 'foreseen' opinions about certain aspect of future.
More distant future may be foreseen by way of:
(a) Scientific hypotheses. But these hypothesis often are long-shots
without sound reasoning... and extrapolation is not too correct (in
comparison with interpolation). So such hypotheses are not to much
(b) Science fiction. Similar to scientific hypotheses. SF is kind of
literature (or other art) that studies (in mental experiments) and
describes relations of human and the Unknown. The mainstream literature
describes relations 'human and human', 'human and society' (it is
inaccurate definition (I do not have a reference now) of SF as literature
by Russian SF writer Dmitry Bilenkin).
(c) Visioneering (religious or profane, wholly intuitive).
All three ways are random by distribution of results' accuracy shooting to
The Unknown. 95% of such foreseeing is... the consequence of Theodore
Sturgeon Law (95% of SF is shit, but 95% of anything is shit).
I am afraid that memetics can not aid in this situation.

>One big problem is that on the whole we've lost religion (as a coherent
>social fabric), which anthropologically speaking is no small disaster,
>since such things are almost impossible to resore once lost.
I think that religion as phenomenon is difficult to weed out. The
personality structure of some humans is peculiar - they miss religion in
the atheistic or mainly secular society. In the circles of these people
religions rebirth, and traditional churches or new cults find devoted
[The structure of their mind is especially benevolent to emergency or
instantiation of religious memes.]
These people can invent new cults, but new cults do not preserve old
traits. They are not conservative, that is characteristic to old religions.
The conservatism sometimes is positive, and sometimes is negative.

>How does one
>go about "inventing" rituals and myths? The tragedy of modern myth-makers
>is that they end up producing fiction.
>Ton Maas

It is a problem to define what is myth. I like Neyelov's look to myth
(Yevgeny Neyelov (1986). "Fairy tales' roots of science fiction", in
Russian). He argues with views that SF is kind of myth. Neyelov states that
there are four forms of myth:
1. Ancient myth (real myth).
2. New myth (new historical forms of myth appearing and existing till today).
3. Figurative meaning of word 'myth' as synonym for 'fiction', 'nonsense',
'lie', 'untruth'.
4. Figurative meaning of word 'myth' for describing various psychological
states of personality, passive and active ones, directed somehow to
reorganize the processing of reality in consciousness of subject.

The _ancient myth_ exists only in deep faith that myth story (or stories'
system) truly describes reality. The myth carriers do not have even a trace
of doubt that myth can by false. Myths were sacral stories needed for
substantiation of existing world (natural and social) order.
Later the ancient myths stories began to be used as entertainment stories.
This was profanation, and parts of myth became fairy tales or etiological
tales or etc.
The use of myth elements in today's literature isn't rebirth of alive
ancient myth.

[The ancient myths were kind of transferable memocenoses - meme-seeds.
Memocenosis is internally adapted system of memes with some additional
features. Especially organized system of memes is person's mind. This meme
system may be named as meme-organism. But human meme-organism is the system
not only of memes. Memes are instantiated on the basis of memoids (and
earlier received memes).
Memoids are mental (informational) structures that emerge at beginning of
person's forming and later. Memoids are non-transferable, so they are not
kind of memes.
Meme-organism is active memocenosis in host's brain. Really 'meme-organism'
is synonym of mind with accent to memetic aspect of mind.]

Some groups of memes are organized to complexes especially adapted to
Myths were meme-seeds. The characteristic of myths memetic complex was the
dominance and the operativity of myths' memes. These 'mythical' memes were
active in mind of myths believers, they were important determinators of
human behavior.
Today ancient myths are not alive. No one sacrally believe in their reality
and no one organizes his life according myths as instructions and precepts.
So today ancient myth (ancient Greece's, for example) may sometimes be
dominant (writer uses it in his writings, theatrical criticist - in
analysis of modern performance of Sophocles's 'Oedipus Rex'), but not

[There are four possible gradations (my opinion) of memes' activity:
Operative meme - especially active dominant meme, greatly influencing
Dominant meme - meme in active memory that suppresses the rival memes in
the same memocenosis (may be does not admit rival meme inside this
memocenosis). Influences behavior of host.
Recessive meme - meme in active memory that was suppressed by incoming new
more potent meme (or can not enter memocenosis) and influences behavior
only slightly. .
Dormant meme - meme that was suppressed and ejected to passive memory.
Sometimes dormant memes resurrect and become recessive (or even dominant).
The influence of dormant meme is null (but may be it was dominant in past).].

_New myth_ is recently formed myth that is unique and does not repeat known
ancient myths. New myths are not related by genesis to ancient myths. But
they my be related by their structure or functions.
[Basis for it is shared memoids, characteristic for all humans. Shared
memoids and memes emerges from the similar biological/ neurophysiological
foundation. They are explanation of the Jungian collective unconscious,
containing archetypes, or universal primordial images and ideas.]
New alive myths require the same blind belief. Every myth presents itself
as an authoritative account on organization of world, no matter how much
the narrated events contradict nature laws or ordinary experience.
New alive myths contradict scientific method of world knowledge.
For example, some theoreticians of science fiction states that science
fiction is modern myth. Russian philosopher Yu. Kagarlitsky: 'Today the
boundary between science fiction and myth are almost erased.' This means
that Kagarlitsky think that SF readers believe in reality of imaginary
worlds of SF.
I do not have statistical data contra et pro, but I think it is
unconvincing. All time I was sure that this Kagarlitsky's statement is
rubbish. But 7 or 8 years ago in Lithuanicon (Lithuanian SF convention) I
have met a person, whose behavior illustrated the possibility of such
phenomenon. I had organized for RPG game-masters and players seminar 'Magic
technique'. The experienced game masters and players told about functions
of magic in role playing games, about spell systems in game etc. The
auditory was high schools and universities students. And there was one
women about 55-60 years old.
The player of my group (first year student) presented system of
gems-amulets and their defensive characteristics. One kind of gems was
characterized: 'This gem is amulet against beasts of white flame. It is
especially effective at Friday." The old woman raised one's hand and asked:
"Who they are these 'beasts of white flame'?"
'Amulets' specialist' had got confused and had blurted out: "I have not
devised yet". Women insisted that she wants to know about these beasts,
but 'specialist' insisted that he had not invented it yet. It was clear on
her face - she think that the specialist has concealed some information
about magical creatures (Is the information about white flame beasts too
After two hours of open chat about magic in RPG she could not understand
that this seminar was kind of game. She was oriented that there is magic in
world, her cognition was highly selective, she perceived only information
about magic and esoterics.
I would say she was believer of new myth that magic really works and there
are groups of magic adepts.

The modern new myths are systems of astrological knowledge etc. The
believers of these 'para-sciences' explain many worlds events and phenomena
on basis of their 'special knowledge' and correct their life according this
May be 'extrasensorism', ufology are new myths too? But some followers of
these tries to find some evidences for unbelievers. So they are not real
'new myhs'.

These complex memes - ancient and new myths - (memocenoses) are dominant in
many people and even operative in some.
The most obvious function of ancient and new myths is the explanation of
facts, whether natural or cultural.

The third form of myth (the figurative use of 'myth' as 'lie') is
superficial use of term based on criterion of 'falseness',
'incompatibility with real world'.
[In this case concept of 'myth' is meme mutant that replicates in minds of
some semi-educated people and dilettantes. The use of 'ecology' in place of
'environment protection' is the similar case.]

The fourth form of myth (the figurative use of 'myth' as 'reorganized
system of world perceiving') is a case of diffusion of scientific term,
when term changes its primary meaning. This phenomena is rather common in
science (metaphorical transfer of term from one scientific field to
another), but it is defective in point of view of integrative sciences. The
memetics is such science, I think.

After my diarrhea of words I want to ask now:
Ton, about makers of what kind of myth have you asked?


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