Re: virus: Reinventing the Justice meme
Fri, 12 Jul 1996 10:48:26 -0500

>Still, I'm not ready to give up on the concept altogether. It seems
>like the Justice meme provides the basis for social collaboration
>between parties who do happen to be infected by it. The reasoning
>goes something like this: I believe you have made a good decision
>by trusting me enough to enter a contract with me. Since I am infected
>by Justice, I will do my best to control matters to the extent I
>can so that the outcome of the decision is beneficial to you,
>because to do otherwise would be to allow an injustice.
>My question is: Does this line of argument derive morality from
>justice, or is it begging the question?

There seem to be two seperate issues here.

First, it seems likely that we are mentally wired (or have a very basic
meme) which causes a sort of mental pleasure (or happiness) when we observe
or experience a strategy we follow (or would follow in the appropriate
circumstances) used successfully. We feel a sort of mental pain (sadness,
depression, anxiety) in situations where the strategy does not work

This is a very basic way of making sure we follow more or less successful
strategies. Luckily for us, we are not blind Skinnerian organisms. We
have the ability to create mental models that indicate more directly and
quickly successful strategies. If the strategies indicated by the model
work the model is reinforced, if they do not it is made more and more

I hesitate to do this, since it could become a mess, but shouldn't we
define different categories of memes?  I suggest this with the
understanding that any system of categorization is simply a mental model
that makes is easier to generalize in some ways and more difficult in

Anyway, I include this digression because it seems to me there is a significant difference between a catchy tune, an abstract concept like justice, and a strategy for getting your computer to start again after it has crashed. Yet right now we describe all three as memes. Let me put forth a couple:

Strategy: A plan of action. A meme which, when followed, causes the user to act in specific or in specifically limited ways. A strategy may be general (providing instructions for all contingencies) or specific (providing instructions only in situations with the required preconditions). Strategies may be linked in complex hierarchies. It is possible, but not neccesary, that a strategy be based upon a paradigm. (Examples: Tit for Tat in the iterated Prisoner's Dillema, the Scientific Method, various ways of eating an Oreo cookie)

Paradigm: A mental map. A meme which represents part or all of reality. When successful, a paradigm accurately predicts the state of the system it models. Paradigms often imply strategies, which is one of their great uses. (Example: Quantum Mechanics, Astrology, Keynesian Economics, Plate Tectonics)

Obviously, in real mental systems these two are inseperable and the line between them hard to distinguish. Most succesful paradigms contain systems of feedback that cause them to change based upon how successful the strategies they imply are. In a functioning mind paradigms and strategies are dynamic.


A simple paradigm is: good strategies should lead to good results. Another, more useful one is: strategies succesful in the past will probably be successful again. These paradigms imply the general strategy: do what lead to a good result before. We are probably evolved to follow that strategy, in which case the paradigms are a rationalization.

It seems to me that this first point is not the core of the discussion, but I wanted to make it explicit. Now I have some questions:

Is Justice a social system? If so, is there such a thing as justice for the individual? How is Justice different from the programming I've described above?