virus: Re: virus-digest V1 #119

Chris Martin (
Thu, 26 Dec 1996 03:24:55 -0500

> From: "XYZ Customer Support" <>
> >From: brandon stewart <>
> >>Prove that by infecting me with a meme that will be to your
> >>benefit. Use one of the several principles that are pointed out
> >>in articles about meme propagation and see if any of them can
> >>ever possibly apply to me.
> >Assume an attitude X, which is antagonistic to Y. Any replicators Yr,
> >which fare well in Y, will probably not fare well in X. This is
> >because
> >X uses any exposure to Y, including Yr, to redefine X against being
> >susceptable to these exposures. The more X is exposed to Yr, then,
> >the more Xr will be better equipped at remaining X, which is defined >
>to be ~Y.
> Here is a perfect example of what it means to think logically but not
> scientifically. While the logic of this paragraph is impeccable, the
> precepts are terrible. Just look at all the things that are implied
> in this paragraph:
> 1. Memes have evolved to be antagonistic to other memes, implying
> that memes can be "aware" of other memes (instead of just being plain
> ol' detrimental or beneficial to each other).

That memes are antagonistic to each other assumes no more than the
ability to think antagonistically. A meme need do no more than attach
itself to a label, a syntax. Take for instance how much people make
syntax matter. Imagine i went in a high school and said, "I am going to
redefine 'fuck' to mean 'love'. I fuck everyone. Can't we all just fuck
one another. Do you fuck me?...". I would be treated no different than
if i had used those terms in an expression of anger.

Also, i saw someone post something about the difference between
"heathen" and "atheist". If you use the word atheist, people often take
offense, because they see the word as confrontational. If you use the
word heathen, then its almost funny, since heathen is sometimes used to
convey humor.

As a further example, people often define "God" to be something very
abstract, to the point that saying "God exists" says nothing different
of the universe than that "God doesn't exist". Such views include
pantheism, and seeing God as the beauty of the universe.

In short, we see very strong connotations from syntax. This would
suggest that the two are closely interrelated.

A meme, then, would seem to only need to attach itself to a certain
phrase. The syntax being decided upon, then, it would be the job of the
"infected host" to determine exactly how the syntax will be met. The
meme doesn't know. The meme doesn't care. The meme's existence need be
dependent on no more than that it will bring about its own propagation
in a suitable environment.

This is similar to the common virus. It need not possess, _in_ itself,
the functionality of a cell to attain, _for_ itself, the functionality
of a cell.

But i look up, and see that i am defending something i never even
argued. I said, assume an _attitude_ X...etc. My definition of
"attitude" was quite distinct from that of "meme", if i recall
correctly. An attitude is no more than a mind state. I may have even
compared it to being an environment of its own, in which memes thrive.

> 2. Memes that are antagonistic to each other, can *only* serve to
> enforce the other memes rather than weaken them. Hmmmmm! Kinda takes
> away any meaning that "antagonistic" might really have.

Rivalries often have the effect of making themselves stronger. A few
minor disagreements can escalate into a long-lasting mutual hatred.

The paragraph that you were replying to did not imply that Y will
continue, just that X will. This is weak, but it seemed a suitable
assumption to make being that you seemed suitably equipped to save
yourself from gullability.

> 3. This paragraph assumes that there are people who exist in this
> email list that have absolutely no memes in common with anyone else's
> in this email list. This is contrary to all the overwhelming evidence
> that exists in the world about archetypes, commonality in symbols and
> myths, and commonality in religions. Take for example the Mother
> Archetype. Everyone in this list has it. Sure there are personal
> differences to the archetype but there are some generic (hence
> common) qualities to Her as well.

Antagonism need be only of specific attributes. Take color of skin, for
instance (i do not think this needs elaboration).

As anecdotal evidence against your archetype, i present myself. Coming
from an exremely dysfunctional family, being a "mother" entails no more
than deciding whose womb developed who. (Please do not revert to a
self-sealing argument in response to this. If you can't take someone on
their word, then they might as well not be thinking at all. Its not that
i particularly expect that _you_ will, just that i have seen the
technique applied too often in such areas.).

If you are talking about the idea of what a mother "should" be, then
still no cigar. This person is amoral. If you are talking about what i
think most people mean by "mother figure", then its gone to the point
that the original point is no longer supported. A person antagonistic to
a view can be very clear and accurate as to what people holding that
view believe. He or she need do no more than give the view a negative

This is not to say that no universal meme exists, just that the
particular example was bad.

> Since I am bound to have at least one meme in common with all of you
> in this list, why don't we perform an experiment to see if anyone can
> infect me with a meme that will be to their benefit. Let's see if any
> of the principles we all believe about the propagation of memes will
> work to any degree here or not.

You're quite sure that it won't happen. So am i. The change could
_conceivably_ happen, but not likely in a half-hour, or even over
several months. The time scale would likely be in years, and i doubt any
here are willing to take it that far. The process would likely involve
seduction or submission of some sort. It would likely take an effort of
such magnitude that the government would step in.

> >Perhaps this is why Christians insist on letting people "make their
> >own" choice when choosing their faith.
> You must be thinking of some other religion. It was the Christians
> who first invented the high-pressure sales tactics in order to win
> (read: force) converts. They called it evangelism and it was so
> successful that it resulted in Christianity being called an official
> religion of an empire in less than 300 years after it's inception.

Perhaps. I was even a bit unsure of my Christianity analogy. But what i
had in mind was the type of idea that is conspiracy laden. That alien
abductions happen is almost not even questioned in many circles.
Attempts to disprove something that fail actually do nothing to the
truth of the item, but it does make people more comfortable with the
belief (this perhaps has a lineage in common with falsificationism).
Self sealing beliefs, then, become stronger. One could almost view
Christianity as such a belief (reality is out to trick you--the devil
tempts you from the truth, etc.).