Re: virus: Re:sociological change

Alex Williams (
Sun, 29 Dec 1996 18:23:04 -0500 (EST)

> I won't go into the dramatics of saying how many of my friends have been
> lost to the disease. But I don't think you could pull it off. Since, at
> this stage in the game, you would have to die to give a convincing
> performance. My point was that your appropriation of that experience
> would be (eventually) seen as a complete sham. It would be damaging to
> you (since you wouldn't have any friends left after they see you
> callously using them) and also damaging to the people to whom that
> experience belongs.

Most certainly I could pull it off, and artfully well, without having
to die. There are long incubation times before AIDS comes to full
bloom, and the lifespans of those so infected lengthen every year.
I'm sure there are a /large number/ of `pseudo-AIDS sufferers'
garnering sympathy by associating with the AIDS movement, wringing
their hands a lot and in general pulling off a completely adequate
performance. In part because people /want/ to believe and in part
because they fully fulfil the expectations of a people who want to

No matter /what/ the outcome of my appropriation of that experience,
as you put it, the fact remains I could appropriate it to my heart's
content and be convincing, by taking advantage of memetic mimicry and
the fact that the conduit of communication is interpreted upon recipt,
not a clarifying lens through which memes are seen.

> Granted-- that is a particularily charged issue, but does the same
> principle not apply to other experiences to greater o lesser degrees?

Does it not apply to /all/ experiences? I have been defending the
thought that it does so apply, that any meme that can be conceived, I
can express the spoor of and its effectiveness, whether or not your
model of my memesphere incorporates that meme, is /primarily/ a
function of your interpretation of aforementioned spoor.

> "Too polished" is a generalization as well. If I am correct in assuming
> what you mean-- whenever I have encountered an actor whose work is too
> polished it is because he or she has replaced detail with convention. An
> actor can grow to rely on "tricks" or handy tools that are inherently
> theatrical and fall well within a "style" that is easily read as
> presentational. It is not a matter of too much polish, but actually a
> form of laziness.

Ever had someone completely willing to believe a lie you were a bit
spotty on but completely unwilling to entertain the truth which you
express with no hesitation? I have. Am I acting while telling the
truth? No. The interpreter-complexi on the listener's part was
expecting to have to fill in fragments of the memetic-complex it
picked out of the spoor through the conduit. When the amount of
restructuring it expected to do differed too much, it signaled that
there was a consistancy problem. It has nothing to do with acting,
everything to do with memetics.

> But our expectations of a proposed conflict have to do with our
> political prejudices. Why else would the little kid in Princess Bride
> say "No grandad, you got the story wrong..."

Because he expected a major difference in the direction the story
took. There was a memetic interpreter signal of `this doesn't

> In bygone decades we would have expected, absolutely to see a white
> person play an indian because we were involved in an active, aggressive
> campaign to block indian memes from our memepool. (Our= white european
> descent)

I'd disagree as to whether that was the case at all amongst the
majority of the population. Most of the Americans of yesteryear knew
nothing and had no interest in the behaviours, looks or social
practices of the Native Americans short of curiosity. Seeing a white
man playing an Indian and saying "how" a lot awoke no sense of
inconsistancy because they had nothing to compare it against. Since
then, we've been innundated from various sources about `how things
really are.'

I guarantee you, if you spend some time on the Cherokee Indian
Reservation in Cherokee, NC, you'll quickly begin to understand that
even your `enlightened' understanding of `how things really are' is
frighteningly, terribly wrong.

> But how is it extensible to animals?
> A pet lizard doesn't have to keep up to the environment. It has
> everything provided. It just sits on its branch and waits to be fed. It
> may be choreographing epic lizard operas, but *i* don't expect to see
> anything from that. And any attempt i would make at extracting an opera
> from a lizard (blood from a stone?) would be an exercise in me asserting
> my memes on the lizard and contaminating my observation of its behaviour
> with my expectations of the outcome.

Once you've raised a few million generations of lizards in your
recently purchased Terrarium State of Arizona, provided for their
survival and seen to it that their environment favours the development
of social groups for survival benefits, we'll talk.

Humans are remarkably quickly-enabled creatures; as far as we can
tell, as a species, we got extremely lucky, being in the right place
at the right time with the right latent mutations to capitalize on the
nascent social structures that were forming. Despite XYZ's
complaints, evolution is largely random; it has to be. No one, no
process, can literally tell the future. Evolution positions things as
widely dispersed on the environmental spectra as it can so that,
should one part become advantageous, there will be life there ready to
take advantage and flourish.

We still don't have prooff that our form and degree of intelligence is
ultimately productive for evolution, you know. Dinosaurs flourished
and almost stomped out every competing ecological niche, replacing it
with more of themselves, for 140 million years. Human cultures, as
opposed to species, have been around for, generously, 100,000 years.
That's a mere blink of the eye.

We're coming up with rope at an astounding rate. Plenty enough to
hang ourselves with.

> No that is just recognizing and reacting. That landscape of ideas does
> not have the dangerous fluidity of man made abstractions.

Describe how what you do every day is /not/ just `recognizing and
reacting'? We don't /know/ that the `landscape of canine ideas' is.
We don't even, fully, know what the landscape of each other's ideas
are. Even one to another we are black boxes, where recognitions go in
one side and reactions come out the other.

> Look at how fluid you are to me ( and me to you) in this *very* abstract
> medium. You have a picture in your head of me. You can here your version
> of my voice as you read this. It is this behaviour that is best
> described ina memetic model. Animals have no use for this.

Animals have wonderful uses for personality modeling; we've covered
most of them in the discussion of canine behaviours. No, its not as
deep and complex as yours or mine, but by that token I can call anyone
less intelligent or less cognizant than myself inhuman and do to them
anything I'd do to any animal without remorse.

> Memetics is both a science and a technology. It explains information and
> is *used on information*. They don't have memetics because they don't
> need it.

One does not have to have memetics to have memes just as one does not
have to have information to be amenable to information theoretic
analysis and one does not have to be mentally unstable for Jungian
analysis to be useful.

> Except that children, unlike an essay or a movie, think for themselves.
> They eventually grow up and despise you for thinking of them as mere
> vessels. In fact they hate you so much for never giving them any staus
> of their own beyond being the "lie that you created" that they put you
> in a filthy nursing home where you spend the last years of your life
> eating flour and water and sleeping on the floor.

Children, like everyone else, think no more for themselves than a dog
or cat does, or you or I do. Memetically, there is no `themselves' to
be thinking /for/, merely competing complexi of memes. Essays and
movies are conduits, they are not the memetic environments themselves,
they have no memes at all.

> I'll look that up, but I never meant to say that these systems fail to
> get the bucks.or that they don't teach us anything. It's just that they
> aren't real.

That sounds suspiciously like a religious rather than logical
argument. Are we going to back around and around until you end up
saying `I just don't feel that humans are natural animals' and the
discussion be effectively over? If so, say so now and save my
shoulder more harrangue.

> >From what I understand about Chinese philosophy and science-- the
> ancient chinese did not believe this because a small model of the
> universe did not have the same chi as the whole big version of the
> universe. In short it is missing the life force needed to make it work
> like the big version.

Now this /is/ religious thinking and, as such, has no place in logical

You'll notice that while the Chinese disdained their small models of
the universe and ended up with gunpowder rockets for celebrations,
Western science, with is small models, came in, killed and raped them
and ended up essentially possessing all their knowledge until, today,
China is barely a world power economically and militarily while
Western nations control the most powerful forces on earth. That's a
very telling memetic history of things.

> Can you write the three rules that go into being black in america?
> And if you could, how detailed would you expect the list to be?

Is `being black in America' a behaviour or is it a /state/? I'd say
the latter and, as such, asking for rules that describe it mixes
apples and oranges. `Flocking' is a behaviour and, as such, reducable
to certain impetuouses and reactions. Memetics is often about
describing those building-blocks of behaviour and may, when extended,
describe the elements of a state, but the former differ from the
latter by being active elements rather than environmental ones.

> Of course certain things behave the way you expect them to and you can
> create a model that explains a lot. But much of the memeverse doesn't.
> Otherwise you would not be surprised by things that familiar people do--
> you would not have a difference of opinion with a complete stranger. You
> would not find a surprise friendship in someone you might not have
> considered being friends with....

I'm /not/ often surprised by things familliar people do, if I were
they wouldn't be familliar. You needn't invoke flawed models to
account for that, incomplete information with which to fill the model
is an equal culprit in the thing. Much of the memeverse /depends/ on
`good enough' modeling; you can interpret my writing `good enough' to
model what I mean to impart, you can make a `good enough' model of
your friend's weekend to know whether you should call him and ask him
if he wants to see a movie, you can make a `good enough' model of your
room in the dark to find the door with only a barked shin not a broken

Perfection is unnecessary and largely undesired.

> Sex would be boring.

Sex, largely, /is/ boring these days. I'm not 18 any more.