Re: virus: Re: sociological change

Alex Williams (
Mon, 23 Dec 1996 09:34:42 -0500 (EST)

> Eva is our conduit theory expert, but my take on it is that the theory
> doesn't allow for the meme to exist outside the head of the reader, say
> on paper or on a cave wall, but that it is created in the head of the
> person due to all of the influences mentioned in the previous post.

Exactly; you'll note that this was exactly the position I brought up
and defended. Eva brought literary references to previous thinkers of
the same position to the discussion, much to my relief. Its OK to be
a heretic as long as you're not the first one.

> Even if a dolphin could create an artifact, maybe it could be coaxed to
> dab paint on a canvas- that artifact will have little power to infect
> us. In fact, the exact opposite is happening. The dolphin, which has no
> business painting on canvas is being infected by us-- painting for fish
> and applause. We thrill to the display because of what paint and canvas
> means to *us*. It is a fetish of intelligence.

Unfortunately, you contradict yourself in the very course of this
argument. If the dolphin is `infected' my our meme-structures, and
since the very definition of memes makes them the building blocks of
culture, and since memes have to have already extant meme-complexi in
place to /interpret/ the `conduit,' then dolphins, by logical
demonstration, /must possess culture/, albeit alien and inaccessible,
for the most part, to us.

Further, to state, `[the painting] will have little power to infect
us' denies the human tendency to `mematize' almost every pattern that
falls our way; how much more meaning will we interpret from that
creation of a dolphin? Whether or not the meaning was /intended/,
we'll never know, until we find a conduit that translates more clearly
between their meme-complexi and ours, or one of the two begins to
learn the others' culture, and can simply ask.

Basically, I liken the statement that animals cannot have `culture' to
the attitude in the West in the Age of Exploration that foreigners
were godless heathen without culture of civilization. They had no
`culture' in common, their meme-complexi had very little socially in
common, and it took /years/ for any commonality to be gained. These
groups of the same species! How much more difficult must it be to
enculturate with a mind which has far, far less in common with yours
in terms of perceptions, life-actions, importances.

Again, I think its counter-productive to see `culture' as a binary
proposition; like intelligence if you approach it from the perspective
that grants there are degrees of culture you have a much more
`revealatory' view of the subject.