Re: virus: Re: sociological change.

Alex Williams (
Mon, 23 Dec 1996 09:51:51 -0500 (EST)

> We create pack behaviour and so forth to explain them. What artifacts do
> dogs produce that infect us?

Have a dog?

`I'm pleased' (tail wagging, eyes wide), `I submit, alpha' (head down,
tail between legs), `let's play!' (bouncing around wildly, head
raised, ears raised).

If you accept that there are no entities, merely meme-complexi, then
you can take `behaviours' themselves as `artifacts,' they are
creations, just as language and pottery, that serve the complexi in
some physical sense; like scribbles on paper, behaviours are `meme

> I can see what you are getting at and I have to disagree. They are
> building blocks, sure, but you can't remove them from a culture, because
> it is the culture that gives them meaning. You can't remove them from a
> person's brain, because they only have meaning in the brain. It is this
> nexus of textual and contextual meanings that make a meme.

You have just removed the ability for people of /different/ cultures
to communicate.

> You are viewing memes as if they are real, absolute particles. That
> can't work. They don't exist that way. They are suspended between
> individual history and cultural influence. This is why we can only
> effectively look at human memes, because we can talk about these
> influences using language.

We can talk about pretty much /anything/, using language, thankfully.
Memes are real, absolute particles just as the cells in complex
cullular automata are real, absolute particles; ie., they're not, but
its the most useful way of viewing them and it does turn out results.

> Memetics is a meme we made up to explain human behaviour and human
> endeavors. Once you start applying it to animals--- well, I think it's
> like saying that you want to study Early Rennaissance honey bees, or
> Ming Dynasty cows.

Isn't that just what paleontologists do? I know animal husbandry
majors who have deeply studied the historical basis of agriculture and
could probably tell you a lot about Ming Dynasty cows.

We study the behaviour of humans and employ memes as an abstraction to
do so. We study the behaviour of animals. Why shouldn't the same
tool be of use in that study? Unless you suggest there's some
qualitative difference between human behaviour and animal behaviour,
and then I'm just going to look smug and refer you to a good
theologician rather than the CoV ML.

> Where do you perceive this? Can you name a meme that exists outside of
> cultural influence?

Sure. `I'm hungry.' You don't have to enjoy culturalization to
understand this is a meme that represents an outside, physical state.
What memes it triggers and what complexi are involved are
culture-dependent, but the meme itself is not.

> I would suggest that what animals have is Behaviour.

I would humbly suggest that all humans have is Behaviour. Its not the
act we're concerned with, its the mechanism.

> And (I think this was originally said by Reed Konsler in the Memetic/dog
> thread) behaviour explains dogs and animals adequately enough. Saying
> that the behaviour is a meme brings nothing new to light. It's just a
> fancy new name.

Actually, it does bring something to light: experimental
possibilities. Human cultures are large and unwieldy, hard to get a
handle on. If canine packs are mini-cultures in their own right,
imagine the fame of the memeticist that watched a pack for a year,
breaking down their behaviours and social changes in a memetic format
and then presented it.

You know, it just occured to me, if animals have no cultures, why do
anthropologists study gorillas in the wild? Once you accept that they
exhibit some kind of culture you've lost your footing and are headed
to the slippery slope of culture as spectrum not binary.

> Memetics, when applied to the behaviour of human animals, helps to
> explain how we behave through our technology, through our social
> contracts and personal ideologies, through our media....

Important snip, `helps to explain how we behave.' Everything else is
just mechanism, this is the important part. All animals behave, all
animals act. Memetics seems a fine tool for breaking down that system
to understandable interactions. Why not employ it?

> Maybe your dog has something to say to me? :)

Nah, he's too busy watching ...