Re: memetic engineering and superstition

Arel Lucas (
Sun, 03 May 1998 10:54:34 -0700

Date: Sun, 03 May 1998 10:54:34 -0700
From: Arel Lucas <>
Subject: Re: memetic engineering and superstition

This is in answer to an old post, but I've kept it around for comment--

The stereotype of scientists as being narrow-minded and severely lacking
in foresight is sometimes borne out in specific human beings. And I
agree that many scientists, and many non-scientists, rely too heavily on
statistics for decision-making. However, any profession has its drones
and its royalty (with most as worker bees), and science is no exception.
For the royalty, for optimism well-mixed with realpolitique, I suggest
y'all take a look at

Eric Drexler and Christine Peterson saw many years ago (in the late '70s)
both the world-shaking potential for real progress toward universal
access to wealth and the earth-shattering possibilities for antisocial
and destructive processes of what Eric named "nanotechnology," which is
coming about through research now at many institutions. In an attempt to
"*ac*centuate the positive and *e*liminate the negative" as the song
goes, they founded the Foresight Institute in a continuing attempt to
make use of memetic engineering. Their awareness of the discipline
dates from Dawkins's publication of the word "meme" (predating my
invention of the word "memetic"). This couple and their associates, I
feel, represent what scientists can be in terms of attempting to foresee
and soften the impact of new technologies on human beings and the home
planet, and I recommend their Web site & books highly.

Arel Lucas
currently Library Assistant
San Francisco State University Archives/Special Collections
Ton Maas wrote:
>(snip) If "true ecology" is left to
> the technocrats, disaster is impending, as they have _no_ fundamental
> understanding of the deeper processes. I took a masters program in
> environmental studies once and one of those specialists explained to us
> students the nature of their approach. At the time (early eighties) they
> had discovered that corn can be employed to clean soil that has been
> polluted by immission from nearby highways (mainly lead), since this crop
> is capable of absorbing lead and storing it in the cobs. Someone then asked
> what was done with those cobs, since they were clearly not suitable for
> consumption. The answer was as simple as it was baffling: the polluted corn
> was mixed with unpolluted corn, until the average quantity of lead was well
> below accepted levels. True ecology is both a scientific _and_ a
> philosophical problem, since it reflects our complete physical and mental
> household. I would say that both politicians _and_ scientists (especially
> the technologically inclined) have been doing a _very_ poor job at it over
> the last thirty years.
> >Decision making based on innate appeal of memes is what we applied
> >memeticists wish to dismantle. The key is education on the structure of
> >consciousness. Education that is based on the relation between the
> >memetic structures at play. The memetic structure of education adapts to
> >the memetic structure of individuals's consciousnesses. This is a perfect
> >example of memetic engineering. By actually understanding people and
> >understanding institutions we improve them.
> I'd say the key to education is to understand ourselves as _biological_
> processes (both conscious and unconscious). If we fail to understand that
> consciousness is _not_ the crown of creation but a rather small part of the
> whole, we'll remain in the same deep shit that we're in now. Focusing
> exclusively on consciousness has propagated addiction in every conceiveable
> field - not only to alcohol but also to arms races, exploitive capitalism,
> stifling communism and so on - to pathological lifestyles in general.
> Ton

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