rationality online (was RE: virus: C of V: Another Religion)

Vicki Rosenzweig (rosenzweig@hq.acm.org)
Mon, 03 Feb 97 13:35:00 PST


What you've offered are reasons why cyberspace
might be conducive to rationality. If we already knew that it
_was_ conducive to rationality, it would be interesting to know
why, so we could maintain the useful influences and maybe
replicate them in the rest of the world. However, why all these
assertions are pleasant, none of them constitute data.

Some useful factual questions, if you wanted to pursue
this, would be Do people react differently to proof by blatant assertion
if it's online than they do in other media? Are people more/less likely
to make outrageous claims online just to get a reaction? Are people
online more or less likely to be racist than the population as a whole?
Is there any difference in their reaction to astrology?

From: owner-virus
To: Church of Virus
Subject: RE: virus: C of V: Another Religion
Date: Saturday, February 01, 1997 4:55PM

This post addresses these topics:
1. Why cyberspace, more than any other medium, promotes rational ideas.
2. How the coining of a new term-'meme'-has created confusion or 'cognitive
3. Objectivism-what it is and what it is not.
Here are some reasons why I think that cyberspace is a forum where good
outcompete bad ones.
When people interact in cyberspace, they are usually alone, thinking
independently, without the influence of a collective group.
They are interacting by communicating back and forth as equals, as
to a lecture scenario in which one or more people are dictating to others
to think.
Ideas themselves are the main focus, as opposed to say, pleasing an
authority, getting a degree, keeping a job, joining the club, being
People would be in a more rational state if they are neither exalted nor
intimidated by their 'status', unlike various institutions where some people
"undisputed experts" and others are "ignorant proletariat".
Ideas are more open to challenge and can be looked at from a wide
Ideas can be edited, modified and developed much more easily than, say,
courtroom or political debate where people who sound best when they are put
the spot' can "win".
While there are several reasons why cyberspace is more conducive to good
ideas than other mediums, this does not mean it is not open to various scams
such as the "Good Times" computer virus, chain letters, etc.

Richard Dawkins coins a new term: the 'meme'-to denote a unit of
that gets passed around and copied throughout society. Then, people see that
there are many different categories of memes, like those for food, sex,
population control, etc. And, suddenly, there is a new field of knowledge,
memetics, which can integrate with other fields of knowledge and might even
practical money-making applications. Memes, which were not noticed before
when the term was coined, is suddenly a point of focus for many people.
This situation, in which a word is coined and defined, and then people
things they didn't notice before, can imply that the act of creating and
defining words leads to creating and defining reality. This would make
seem like a very subjective phenomena. Furthermore, this new term in
question-the meme-happens to be a unit that influences notions about reality
has no regard for objective reality.
Consequently, many people in the growing memetics community have
embraced a
school of thought which holds the idea that one's view of "external
merely a result of one's language and that reality is a subjective
experience.This school of thought, popular in the 1920's and known as
positivism', calls all of our beliefs 'linguistic conventions'. This
is self-refuting since, it too would be just a linguistic convention and not
worth serious consideration. So, how do we clarify a confusing situation
it appears that language can change reality? With the philosophy of

Objectivism rests on 3 axioms-existence, consciousness, and identity.
axioms are implicit in all knowledge and require no proof or explanation.
mathematical axioms, these philosophical axioms have no alternative since an
alternative would imply a contradiction such as 'existence does not exist'
refute one's own statement, such as "I am not conscious".
Existence implies only one reality-objective reality. Consciousness is
to perceive existence,and it perceives existence directly. Consciousness
not simply perceive a subjective definition of existence, but existence
(even though each person has a different point of view, has limited
different sense organs, biases, etc -a different experience, they are still
perceiving existence directly.) Since consciousness is valid, the senses
of consciousness)are valid. If the senses are valid, then concept formation,
which is a function of the mind integrating various sense perceptions, is
Forming concepts (like book, table or meme) involves a method of
identification or classification according to attributes that one observes.
These attributes can be anything, so many identifications and
are possible. Such concepts could be those that have existed for a long
such as 'book' or they could be original identifications-like when Dawkins
identified the 'meme'.
This is an example of how objectivism can clarify situations. However, as
Richard mentioned, no idea system including objectivism is the "be all end
and no one has the "ultimate truth". Objectivism does not make people
and many objectivists are not doing things that are creative or successful.
in a sense, objectivism is like an anti-virus program that can clean out
impurities in thinking.
Richard asked about what I thought of his chapter on "How We Got
Progammed". Basically, I agree with his observations about techniques of
programming, such as repetition, conditioning, Trojan horses, etc. But
seems to be an underlying behaviorist assumption with which I disagree.
How I got into objectivism-I might get into that later-But, like
it has to do with new identifications. -David