Re: Memetic engineering challenge

Nick Rose (
Wed, 7 Jul 1999 12:01:21 -0400 (EDT)

From: Nick Rose <>
To: JOM-EMIT Discussion List <>
Subject: Re: Memetic engineering challenge
Date: Wed, 7 Jul 1999 12:01:21 -0400 (EDT)

Aaron Agassi wrote:
>> I did not speak of such a powerful meme. I spoke of the
>> preexisting personality. Would you agree that any person
>> can be a better host or vector for some memes than >>

Lawrence de Bivort wrote:
> This poses two questions, I think. First, is there a type
> of personality that is more vulnerable to memes? I think
> there must be, but I am so sceptical of personality >
'typing' models that I shy away from trying to specify >
what it might be. I do believe that no one is impervious >
to memes. To the extent that there is a personality type >
that is more impervious, then the meme would simply have >
to be better designed. War, between the 'aggressive' meme >
and the 'defenses' of the individual or culture explosed >
to the meme.

Or a war between one set of memes which already make up
something of a person's system of beliefs (Dennett's
filters) and another set of memes 'trying' to get
incorporated within that system. I would think
'personality' would have very little effect on meme
selection. Does anyone still believe in personality traits
any more? Let alone (presumably an infinite number of)
'impervious-to-certain-aspects-of-culture' personality

> The second question is whether, everything else being
> equal, a person might more resistent to one meme than to
> another. Yes, I think this is clearly the case: the
> readiness of a person to accept a meme will depend in
> part on how they generally 'take in' new information, and
> then in how well the meme fits in with their existing >

When you say 'a person might be more resistant to one meme
than to another' - what is it about that person which is
offering resistance - would you say? I would agree with
the latter part of your statement which is similar to
Dennett's suggestion of filters. However, I would disagree
that 'personality' (whatever that is) is doing the
resisting. If it is 'personality' or 'free will' then how
is it doing the selection?

> (This does not refer as much to the content of
> the meme as its architecture and its phraseology or
> symbology.) Again, the better the design of the meme, the
> better it will be 'noticed' by the person (or culture) >
and accepted.

What is it about the 'person' that is doing the selecting?
Without answering *that* then how could you know what it
was about the 'design' of the meme which bestows selective

> I'll offer a provocation: no one is beyond the reach of
> _any_ meme, if it is designed well enough.

Without knowing what it is about a 'person' which selects
memes you could never create such a _design_. The idea that
there is some ultimate designer 'killer' meme out there to
which no one will have resistance is ridiculous. Even 'star
wars' memes (the most pervasive I have seen to date) have
been resisted by a large number of people ;) (though no
one I know has so far resisted - and its not even out here
yet). Surely a better model for such patterns of 'selection
and resistance' is one of an 'arms race', for example.

IMO the idea that we can produce designer memes
invalidates the Darwinian mechanism which we propose as the
process by which culture evolves. If memes are the units in
an evolutionary model of culture - then whatever it is you
are designing would be better off not being called a meme -
to avoid confusion.



Nick Rose
"University of the West of England"

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