Re: virus: Observations on Virus

Tyson Vaughan (
Wed, 25 Oct 1995 14:09:29 +0000

>/Virus is too dogmatic.
>/Yet the memes in this meme-complex have been written down. That is dogma.
>What do you want? Memes do not flow magically from mind to mind. They
>must be spoken, or written. "What is Virus?" An answer is on the web
>page. How can it exist without being written down? This is Virus,
>not Zen.

I am merely pointing out that this is an inherent problem in ANY religion,
and Virus is no exception despite its aspirations to become completely

>Scientific facts are written down as well. Are they dogma?



Just to clarify, this is shorthand for: the meaning of (an individual's)
life is the sum effect of that person's memes. This is what I understand
Virus to postulate.

>/for as long as possible. Its purpose generally appears to be accurate
>/replication of fixed memes. Ritual seems to be inherently anti-Virus.
>Virus is to be the replication of memes changing to fit their
>environment, so they may or may not be fixed. No, I guess "stable" is a
>better word than "fixed" for this concept.

Good point.

>/Extropianism. While I strongly agree with some Extropian principles, I
>/loathe others. The two which which really disturb me are: 1) the
>/unquestioning faith in technology; 2) the belief that evolution is a
>/progressive process. Also there seems to be a general affirmation of our
>Unquestioning? I think lots of Extropians would recognize that tech
>can be dangerous.

I'm sure many Extropians do recognize technology for the double-edged sword
which it is. And in fact, the principle of "Intelligent Technology" states
that technology CAN be beneficial if used wisely. However, from what I've
seen, some prominent Extropians seem more extreme in their views. I am
thinking in particular of Romana Machado

{An aside here -- Romana, by the way, also seems to think that death is a
very, very bad thing, something to be avoided at all costs. I see no
problem with longevity or even immortality, but I don't see anything wrong
with death, either. It's natural, after all. Seeing her talking about
eliminating disease and pain makes me exceedingly uneasy. This more than
anything reminds me of Huxley. She is the Mustapha Mond of the 90s.}

> But the quest to become more efficient and capable,
>what's wrong with that?

I have absolutely no problem with giving evolution a technological nudge,
with "transcending natural limitations," as the Extropians would say. I
see that as desirable and, perhaps, necessary. Where Extropian opponents
would say that such evolution will make us less and less human, I would say
that it makes us less what human used to be and more what it will be -- and
neither one is better than the other.

>And most [Extropians] would know that biological evolution
>is not progressive in the way people used to think it is. Of course
>biological evolution doesn't have the Lamarckian characteristics of
>memetic lifeforms.

The Extropian Principles (2.5) state:
Beginning as mindless matter, parts of nature developed in a slow
evolutionary ascendence, leading to progressively more powerful brains.

That carries a strong implication of a direction in evolution. Perhaps I am
getting hung up on language here. However, I think this is a CRITICAL
distinction which should be made clear: the difference between an evolution
driven by historical contingency and one which follows some sort of
progressive, ascending path. Perhaps I should write to Max More and suggest
he clarify this in the Principles.

For an excellent discourse on evolution and historical contingency, I
strongly recommend Stephen Jay Gould's book WONDERFUL LIFE.

>/right, of humanity's right, to expand, to dominate, to control. All of
>/this looks to me like hybris against the universe. I won't go into details
>Hubris. And I guess I have it, because "hubris against the universe"
>isnt' an active concept in my mind. Hubris invited retribution from the
>gods, entitites lacking in the Extropian and Virian theospheres. But in
>many ways, life is hubristic, whether or not it is intelligent.
>"Boundless expansion" and "Self transformation" are just explicit
>statements of what life does.

I suppose I am putting the universe in the place of the Classical gods.
Perhaps I have some pantheistic tendencies that way, but in general I don't
see humans as any better than any other species in the universe. I don't
like species-centricity at all. And while I am sure that many Extropians
are not species-centric, I keep getting that old-time species-centric vibe
from the Extropian movement.

By the way, hubris can be spelled either way.

Let me point out, as I hope I mentioned earlier, that I do think the
Extropians are RIGHT ON with a lot of things. I don't mean to categorically
criticise them at all.

Tyson Vaughan
Memetic engineer

"What you need," the Savage went on, "is something WITH tears for a change.
Nothing costs enough here."