RE: virus: Re: virus-digest V1 #120

Schneider John (
Wed, 25 Dec 1996 03:51:36 -0500

Ken Pantheists wrote:
> John Schneider wrote:
> By "better resembling hard science", I merely mean that I would
> like for it really 'do' something. Put a man on the moon, so to
> speak.
> ****************************************************************
> I agree. And I see that memetics is already doing something. It
> isaffecting the way media are perceived by people who know about
> memetics.
> This is changing the way people use media.
> I am applying memetics to theatre and teaching a workshop for
> my students at a theatre arts centre and a college where I work.
> In fact, I would venture to say ( without trying to sound self
> important) that the poeople best equipped to use memetics are
> those involved in creating content for media-- those that write
> cultural texts and make it their life's work to be aware of how
> those texts interact and influence individuals and cultures.

I have a feeling that XYZ would dismiss that by categorizing it
under some already-known branch of knowledge... but it directs
me to wonder the following:

I've yet to see an argument directed at XYZ (so I'm hoping s/he
reads this) which simply states that: memetics is a useful paradigm.
It is a way of looking at culture "from the idea's (or meme's) point
of view". Memetics is a language that was devised in order to help
us more easily discuss our ideas, our own memes, when we're utiliz-
ing this paradigm.

> John:
> <snip> people are trying to 'make stuff happen' there. It may be
> sensationalist, but if it could actually yield results.... I am
> always interested in results, and even the possibility of results.
> ******************************************************************
> What's sensationalist?

I suppose: pretending like the theory is more powerful than it
really is. For instance, Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash" was
discussed a bit at the time, and we all said, "Great book!",
even though the book sensationalizes NLP by suggesting that we
might be able to program people by just flashing the right image
in front of their eyes. In a certain sense, all of science fiction
is sensationalist.

> There is a sensationalist body of baroque art that relies upon
> 'soft porn' images to portray the visions of St. Teresa and the
> rapturous beauty of heaven.
> There is a long history in western culture of denying the
> information of the body and the "senses" and mistrusting it as
> fleeting, mercurial and inconstant. It is a sad inheritance from
> Calvin and Cromwell. (Probably others too)

By 'sensationalist' I don't mean "based on sensual appeal" or even
"based on sense" but merely, "making something out to be more power-
ful than it really is".

> My hackles got up when I read posts that (literally) said that
> work such as mine is worthless unless it meets the approval of one
> person's value system-- and a value system that is poorly defined
> to boot. I am not a gullible sensationalist. If what I do is not
> scientific by your's or another person's definition then you have
> a right to express that opinion.
> But to assume that "nothing is being done" and to take the job
> away and get some "real men in here who can" is well, kind of hard
> to take. I spend a lot of my free time on this list and I come to
> it with a genuine interest. I don't want to have to leave it
> thinking that I have nothing to contribute because I am not a
> scientist. -- even though XYZ suggest I can become one.-- maybe
> I don't.

XYZ desires a 'more scientific' understanding of memetics, and I
am not opposed to getting a better understanding of it along those
lines either. Your statement above (about how teaching memetics
to art students may make them less gullible to advertising) could
be turned into a scientific study without too much difficulty.
So you are touching on science as it is, so it seems that you have
plenty to contribute. And even if you didn't, that simply means
you haven't been infected yet with memes that you can pass on to
us about it. It doesn't mean you're 'bad' or anything like that.
Not to me, anyway.

> John:
> But XYZ does raise a good question with, "Where are the results?"
> That's why I refrain from dubbing memetics 'science'.
> *****************************************************************
> Well, maybe it is a philosophy then. Existentialism has results.
> Post modern theory has results. Both have radically changed a
> technology we use every day-- language. Heck- we even think in
> language. Granted the technology is not as materialistic as "a
> better rocket engine" and as far as "putting someone on the moon
> goes"--- well that has to do with what you consider to be a sense
> of place. The moon is a place, surely, but are there not semantic
> "places" as well?

Agreed. The 'memetics as paradigm' idea again. Nice.

> John:
> <snip> so someone like XYZ has every right to come along and call
> it a fad; (of course, I think he went too far in his denunciation,
> but I've buried that hatchet already)
> *****************************************************************
> XYZ has every right to every word s/he has written. S/he also has
> every right to the flack it has garnered. The art of good arguement
> often requires one to see things from another person's perspective.
> If someone uses the tactic of blocking, absolutely, another
> perspective-- well, does one need to go further?

Agreed. Note my parenthetical above.

> John:
> Anyway, so my question should have gone more like: "Can we use
> memetics to make sound predictions governing any objective
> experimental situations?"
> ***************************************************************
> I am assuming that you can, and since there are people on this
> list who know how to put something like that together-- I would
> say "of course!"
> What experiment do you want to do?

Well, I'm a theorist, so I'll just suggest the experiment, and then
wait for the experimentalists to come back with the results (har).
Anyway, take your above discussion of where you're using memetics
for a class. That could be made scientific by having two large
groups of students, all Pepsi drinkers, all kept unaware of the
experiment; only one of which is taught about memetics in your
course. Bombard both groups with Coke advertisments at every
opportunity. Then see if their is any statistical difference in
consumption of Coke by students in either group. (A crude experi-
ment, to be sure, but I'm more of a physicist than a psychologist;
maybe someone else around here commonly runs this sort of experi-
ment, and can provide comment.)

> ME:.... but we would only be propogating the very behaviour we
> seek to analyse-- memetic engineering.
> JOHN:Isn't it kinda hard NOT to?
> *****************************************************************
> It is hard not to, but doing it from an unconsciously driven
> impulse such as "to gain the approval of an invisible community"
> is not a good practice if you want to understand how memes work.

It might be good practice in some particular instance where one
knows what memes some other is infected by.

> Me:
> > Example:"Let's make our discussion about round things more
> > appealing to billiards players" Well, You've just created a
> > list that discusses billiard balls.
> John:
> Bad analogy. If you discuss memetics by using billiard balls
> examples, then you are discussing memetics. If we discuss memetics
> aesthetically, then we are discussing memetics. If we discuss it
> scientifically, then it is still memetics.
> ****************************************************************
> I know. But language defines groups and the memes that infect the
> groups. Language is used to focus your audience in the media. When
> you write a concept and bible for a television series your primary
> concern is A) demographics B) sponsors c) style and content. All
> of them need to work together as a "shaped charge" (my favourite
> little expression--)
> If you "market yourself" without considering how you are doing it.
> you are making a meme faux pas.
> And if it to reduce stress on your ideas, to narrow your group to
> members that think mostly like you-- then it is just laziness, ;).

I claim guilty to the charge that I was too lazy to argue with XYZ
about whatever it is we were arguing about, which is why I dropped
it cold turkey.

> That is why I feel I cannot judge XYZ for his/her point of view,
> but I can judge him or her for the abrasiveness and the purposeful
> (I feel) obfuscation of the matters at hand.

Agreed wholeheartedly.

> John:
> They are just different fourier transforms of memetics. Darn!
> Now I've gone and brought fourier analysis into it...
> ***************************************************************
> Don't be a miser!;) what's fourier analysis?

Well, fourier analysis is used in applied math: one can build up
any sort of wave as a series of sin or cos functions, with the
right coefficients multiplied to each term. Anyway, we needn't
use sin or cos, but can use damn near any function; for instance
polynomials can approximate just about anything. So you can take
some function f(x), and write it as a large polynomial function,
a sum of sin and cos functions, or other stuff (Bessel functions,
etc...) So if memetics = f(x); we may represent memetics by
using billiard ball examples (polynomials), or scientifically,
(with sin and cos), aesthetically (Bessel functions), etc...

[clip stuff that was meant for XYZ]

> John:
> It was not intended as such. The post was, after all, directed at
> XYZ, in hopes of directing our discussion towards a constructive
> as opposed to destructive path, by appealing to and building upon
> the parts of his arguments that actually did appeal to me. You
> just rejected my attempt to do that, and now you are leading back
> towards the destrutive path.
> *****************************************************************
> Well, I'm sorry if I have done this. But to my perception, you
> were jumping through XYZ's hoop.
> I think one of the most destructive behaviours in any group is to
> introduce elitism. It is a divide-and-conquer tactic. Many people
> turned on Richard when he introduced "Level 3", thinking of it as
> an elitism. Those that agreed that they could "see" the three
> level model were accused of "calling themselves Level 3" and
> holding themselves up above the rest.

In a certain sense, memetics just labels 'scientific method' as
a meme-complex, and we might wonder: is XYZ chaffing at what s/he
sees as an elitist tactic? And now here you are chaffing back
when XYZ touts science in a way seeming almost elitist? Who's

Memetics: the scientific method is a meme-complex.
Science: memetics is an offshoot of social/behavioral science.

I think these are both true (and useful) statements; they are just
spoken in two different languages.

> I don't intend this to be a personal attack on you, it is just an
> explanation of my position.

No worries; (I really have a degree in physics and I really do like
science... so - next time I get excited about science on the board,
you'll know it's my level 3 nature, a reulst of my consciosness of
purpose - that purpose being "understand things scientifically
whenever possible". Oops! Now I'm sounding like a level 3
elitist... ;-) Ain't the 'elitist' meme grand?

> When someone comes into a group that discusses "the sky" and says
> things like
> "Well, it's not blue enough for me."
> "No, still not blue enough."
> "You are so naive for thinking it's blue. *I* know blue and
> that's not it!"
> And say, people start looking at each other saying "Hmm, well
> frank and shelia have always been a little colour blind----"
> That's not constructive. It's just bending to a negative use of
> charisma.

Agreed, but what if the sky is black (which it is, more or less),
and this person is actually right, and the people who oppose his
methods of argumentation also disagree with his sky-theory simply
based upon his brash discourse?

> "The opposite of a trivial truth is false;
> the opposite of a great truth is also true."
> -Niels Bohr

(great quote... Bohr was also heavily into zen)

- JPSchneider