virus: Memes and Genes
Thu, 23 Jan 1997 10:07:38 -0600 (CST)

On Wed, 22 Jan 1997, Dave Pape wrote:

> At 13:19 21/01/97 -0600, Ken Boyd wrote:
> >On Wed, 15 Jan 1997, Dave Pape wrote:
> >
> >> I have a genetic life, involving my genetic profile and how the being which
> >> that specifies interacts with other genetic organisms. I also have a memetic
> >> life, in that I'm a memetic entity, and the memes which give rise to me
> >> interact with other (people's) memes, changing me, changing them...
> >>
> >> Question: Are there many memes which don't help their hosts genetically,
> >> which still thrive in the meme pool?
> >
> >If the selection effect against is not measurable, the memes will
> >thrive--whether ideas or genes. Naming instances is harder.
> Yeah, I know. I agree with the point about selection pressure being (after a
> fashion) inversely related to the freedom-from-genes of successful memes...
> so what do you think?
> 1 Do modern (cultural, technological) developments really mean that a
> lot of selection pressures have been lifted from human genes?

Clearly--and a lot have been introduced.

> 2 Does this mean that there are more daft memes (daft meaning
> non-genetically-helpful) out there than there were before? Is this what it
> means when a society becomes decadent?

>From a medieval point of view...probably. But the current environment
isn't medieval. [I'm half-sarcastic; *all* years are "modern". Medieval
is a label we use to distance ourselves from Chaucer and Shakespeare.]

This relates to a possible misuse [sic] of the results of the Human Genome
Project. In the absence of sufficiently advanced genetic engineering
[itself a bane of much ethical analysis]: Consider the basic methods of
reducing the birth-defect rate in one's descendants.

The two that occur to me are [Totalitarian governments only, please]:
[Actually, I worked this out in 10th grade, back in 1987 or so. It's
easy to reinvent.]

1) Deliberately arrange marriages/parentage of children to avoid
reinforcing these. [It is plausible that recessive alleles that result
in 100% fatality before birth, or before puberty, are reasonable targets.]

2) Deliberately arrange marriages/parentage of children to increase the
immediate risk [controllably, of course; we want a sufficient population
growth/decline rate.]

Option #1 dominates Option #2, initially. However, Option #2 doesn't
create a technological dependency when applied over centuries. [Perhaps
the advanced genetic engineering will cut in before these comments apply....]

Option #1 not only creates a technological dependency; if continued long
enough, it is inherently self-defeating. Natural selection on the
"nonfunctioning allele load" is deferred until the graph-theoretic
problem [how to match everyone up to avoid devastating concentrations of
lethal/sublethal alleles] becomes practically unsolvable in "real-time".
The population [humans!] is then decimated, by mathematics implemented in
the genetic code.

/ Towards the conversion of data into information....
/ Kenneth Boyd