RE: Memetic engineering challenge

Lawrence H. de Bivort (
Wed, 7 Jul 1999 13:34:36 -0400 (EDT)

Date: Wed, 7 Jul 1999 13:34:36 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Lawrence H. de Bivort" <>
Subject: RE: Memetic engineering challenge
In-Reply-To: <000501bec89b$4d8c9ee0$9cd7fea9@agassi>

On Wed, 7 Jul 1999, Aaron Agassi wrote:

>> >> Agassi:
>> >> >Shall I offer a meme design challenge?
>> de Bivort:
>> >> Excellent, please do.
>> >> (Reservation: if the response calls for discussion that is
>> best not done
>> >> publicly, I'll avoid doing so.)
>> >I will be nothing less than thrilled to get anywhere near a point where
>> >secrecy is either warranted or desired!
>> We've been concerned about the public discussion of memes from day one,
>> but that may be because our immediate interest was in their practical
>> applications. I worry enormously about several aspects:
>> 1. That the 'bad guys' will end up possessing memetic engineering
>> capbilities
>I fear that you are too late.

Hmmmm. This is not my impression, to judge by the results. But maybe we
are assuming different meanings to 'bad guys'? Can you say more about
being 'too late'?

>> 2. That poorly designed or destructive memes will end up being released
>> though not with ill intention
>I fear that you are too late.

Yes, agreed. But we could see worse, and on a larger scale, and my more

I know that ultimately there is no keeping this bottled up, but perhaps we
can slow it down. Best yet are the creation and release of some meta-memes
-- memes about memes -- that have some protective value.

>> 3. That so many memes will be released that the memes _we_ release will
>> have a tougher time disseminating themselves.
>Good point.
>> (snip)
>> >enablers. Resistance to evil, however, networks ineffectually.
>> The proposed
>> >set of meme must be an organizational principle to resist, expose,
>> >undermine, and denounce malice and domination, from the petty to the
>> >flagrant. It should also be an organizational principle for constructive
>> >play, that includes resistance to jealous sabotage.
>> OK, this seems clear enough. We may end up with two memes, acting in
>> partnership.
>Or even a system of associated memes.


>> Now, by what measure would you want to have the success of these memes
>> evaluated?
>God question. Are there observational and Sociological criteria that can be

We are quite focused on getting specific results (taking into the kinds of
considerations probed, below) and have not looked a general criteria or
ones coming out of academia. So the question is by what measure YOU would
want to know the meme(s) succeeded or failed.

>> Also, some additional questions for you to answer:
>> - What is your target population?
>Perhaps a test group will be targeted. A group badly riddled with vicious

A test population is fine, so please specify it. (It seems that you are
thinking of a real situation. If so and if there are elements of it that I
should know but are private, please communicate with me by direct email.)

>We are The Clique Busters TM.

CliqueClasters <grin>

>> - Who do you want NOT to 'get' the meme?
>Good question. I welcome positive improvement in anybody's behavior. So, is
>there anyone who should not be infected? Even people who have manners, and
>react against underhanded crap, might welcome these memes into their tool

So this means, in principle, that no one would be able to disseminate
malicious gossip?

I do not anticipate that a meme is 'given' to others to go into their
toolkits (unless we have taken them on as clients and that is the goal) to
be used at their discretion. Rather the meme becomes integrated into their
sense of reality, seamlessly. Right?

>> - Might there be any down-side to accomplishing the goal of the meme?
>> Would anything of value be lost?
>I actually don't think so. There are perceived values however, in the
>preexisting meme complexes I seek to undermine. That domination equals
>protection, for example. That sexual interest is threatening, when in fact
>it is jealous rage and persecution ensuing, that condition the fear. Etc.

Now this goes beyond the boundaries of the meme, no? Beyond the issue of
malicious gossip?

>> - Might the meme, defined as you have done so and nothing more, create any
>> secondary or tertiary impacts that would be undesirable?
>I see none. But, in case I am mistaken, your vigilance will be appreciated.

Let me argue this a bit, more to test your clarity about the outcome you
want than anything else. Supposing an organization only has the spreading
of malicious gossip as a way of getting 'undesirable' employees to resign,
or to 'control' undesirable behavior. Suppose further that the
organization will not know how to find alternative ways of doing this if
the meme is implanted. Or suppose that it does find ways, but that these
are even more 'destructive' than the malicious gossip way. Is it really
desirable simply to take away the malicious gossip behavior?

>> - Is the goal of the meme sufficiently worthy to justify the effort needed
>> to develop, release and monitor it?
>Hell, yes!

Lawrence de Bivort
The Memetics Group

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