virus: FW: MEME 2.09

Richard Brodie (
Tue, 3 Sep 1996 13:55:45 -0700

Virions who are not yet subscribed to MEME may be interested in this

Richard Brodie +1.206.688.8600
CEO, Brodie Technology Group, Inc., Bellevue, WA, USA
Do you know what a "meme" is?

>From: David S. Bennahum[SMTP:davidsol@PANIX.COM]
>Sent: Thursday, August 22, 1996 8:39 AM
>To: Multiple recipients of list MEME
>Subject: MEME 2.09
>meme: (pron. 'meem') A contagious idea that replicates like a virus,
>on from mind to mind. Memes function the same way genes and viruses do,
>propagating through communication networks and face-to-face contact
>people. Root of the word "memetics," a field of study which postulates
>that the meme is the basic unit of cultural evolution. Examples of
>include melodies, icons, fashion statements and phrases.
>MEME 2.09
> "The steps between my original suggestion of the chess playing
>machine, Mr. Shannon's move to realize it in the metal, the use of
>computing machines to plan the necessities of war, and the colossal
>machine of Pere Dubarle, are in short clear and terrifying...
> The mechanical control of man cannot succeed unless we know
>built-in purposes, and why we want to control him."
> Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings,
>Norbert Wiener's popular legacy is the word "cybernetics", which he
>in his 1948 book "Cybernetics," subtitled "Control and Communication in
>Animal and Machine." Cybernetics, according to Wiener, described a new
>of looking at life. Where once scientists imagined the universe as a
>clockwork where everything was set according to a pattern, Wiener
>postulated that the universe was a massively disorganized unpatterned
>place. Whatever order existed, Wiener thought, came from the exchange
>information -- messages, coding, decoding -- between everything from
>smallest atomic particle to galactic clusters. Information created
>in a disorderly universe. The human brain was a message processor at
>Wiener, by analogy, postulated that the human brain and the mechanical
>brain of the newly invented digital computer were similar. For Wiener,
>modern computer was the closest thing to a mechanical brain ever
>When Wiener invoked this theory, in 1947, the Cold War had not yet
>unveiled itself. The Berlin Blockade of 1948, the Soviet detonation of
>nuclear weapon in 1949 -- these had yet to become history -- and little
>mention in "Cybernetics" appears concerning the potential dangers and
>temptations Wiener's cybernetics introduced.
>By 1950, when Wiener published a second book called "The Human Use of
>Beings", his work took an explicitly political and social tone. He
>the "Human of Use Human Beings" for non-mathematicians; unlike
>"Cybernetics" there were no mathematical equations covering the pages.
>Instead, Wiener emphasized a fear. If information is the currency of
>controlling the shape of things, then wasn't it possible, in theory, to
>send out messages which would effectively control the way people
>the world? Critics of Wiener's "Cybernetics" raised this issue,
>his work as the means to the creation of a theoretical machine, a
>to govern." Wiener felt such an idea wasn't ludicrous, writing in the
>first edition of "The Human Use of Human Beings" that such a machine
>quite possibly being planned by a secret military project for the
>of combat and domination." Then, mysteriously, that edition of "The
>Use of Human Beings" disappeared.
>All later editions of the book, after the first edition from which
>quotes come, use a vastly different text, so different that no two
>are alike. The later editions are much less concerned with secret
>to control human behavior. Instead, Wiener focuses on the theory of
>cybernetics in relation to Newtonian physics and game theory. The
>concerning the "machine to govern" loses its tone of imminent doom.
>[machine to govern] is not frightening because of any danger it may
>of autonomous control over humanity. It is far too crude and imperfect
>exhibit a one-thousandth part of the purposive independent behavior of
>human being." (From the ninth printing, 1967). Why Wiener so totally
>changed the thrust of his book is hard to say. Wiener died in 1964.
>Wiener's work and concerns, however, had a deep influence on several
>crucial computer scientists. Every Tuesday night throughout the 1950's
>Wiener held a kind of seminar-salon in his home, near MIT in Cambridge,
>Massachusets. In attendance at various points were a who's-who of
>science history, including junior MIT faculty who would go on and have
>tremendous impact on the future of computer science. One of these was
>young faculty member named J.C.R. Licklider. He studied the field of
>"psycho-acoustics" -- how sound travels -- funded in part by the US Air
>Force. Around 1957 Licklider used his first digital computer and got
>hooked, displaying the now-familiar symptoms of late nights hunched
>over a
>monitor in a dark room. He became so obsessed with computers that he
>effectively switched fields. In the then-nascent field of computer
>he wrote a seminal paper which has Wiener's concerns all over it, but
>Wiener sees no hope to the monolithic machine, other than the delay of
>time, Licklider finds an alternative -- "interactive computing".
>Titled "Man-Computer Symbiosis" (1960), Licklider postulates that the
>use of the computer is not as a cold calculating engine, but as an
>symbiotic partner in human activity. Licklider explicitly snubs the
>A.I. community, dismissing the obsession with creating machines to
>people. His alternative is now dominant, and he shifted computer
>towards the study of people interacting with computers as a partner.
>Licklider could have faded into obscurity were it not for the fact that
>October 1962 he became Director of the Pentagon's Information
>Techniques Office (IPTO). A division of ARPA (the Advanced Research
>Projects Agency), Licklider initiated the sequence of events which led
>the ARPANET, Internet's parent. Had he not done so, there's a fair
>the Internet we're using today wouldn't exist.
>Back then, when this computer network was still just an idea, Licklider
>called it his "Intergalactic Network", and sent memos to the
>receiving IPTO money titled "To the members of the Intergalactic
>But before he could open the financial sluice gates, he had to kill
>project. The Air Force, working hard on Wiener's theoretical "machine
>govern" had spent much of the fifties trying to use computers to
>human behavior. In practice this meant feeding a computer seemingly
>information -- on Thursdays Kruschev read Pravda, not Isvestia, and the
>night before the Soviet Air Force General drank a whiskey, not vodka --
>somehow all these observations would produce an accurate scenario of
>the Soviets were really up to. The computer would play Sherlock Holmes
>conclude that the Soviets were building a new missile, or whatever.
>Licklider yanked away his budget from these "asinine projects" as he
>them. It was Licklider who changed the name of the department from
>and Control Research to Information Processing Techniques.
>In the years that followed, an estimated 70% of all funding for
>science research in the United States came from ARPA, and much of it
>followed the path Licklider set in 1962. Licklider funded research
>to the creation of the first computer mouse, "windows" and "icons."
>control of the purse led to the funding of America's first graduate
>programs in computer science, along the philosophical lines he favored.
>And, on top of all this, Licklider explicitly funded California
>wanting to transplant his ethic to the West Coast. Two prime
>were Berkely and Stanford, and their students, steeped in visions of
>interactive computers, contributed to the creation of Silicon Valley,
>the ultimate manifestation of Licklider's intimate machine: the
>computer. But the crown jewel of Licklider's crusade was his
>initiation of
>the events leading to the Internet. Had Licklider not altered course,
>are that there would be no Internet and the seemingly silly musings of
>Wiener would, in hindsight, appear prescient.
>The contents of MEME are (c) by David S. Bennahum. Pass on the MEME
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