virus: Discoveries and Inventions

Reed Konsler (
Tue, 4 Feb 1997 18:05:51 -0500

>From: Dave Pape <>
>Date: Tue, 4 Feb 1997 00:21:49 GMT
>Subject: Re: virus: Discoveries and Inventions
>>Place a verb in this sentence:
>>The internet was _emerging from the interactions of memes hosted_ by people.
>>Invent, create, discover, assemble... To the extent you hold one of these
>>to be true, or another false, you are falling into the same arguments over
>>definition that we've been falling into here again and again.
>I don't want to insert any of those words. "Assemble" isn't /too/ far off
>the mark, but the others? Oooo, no thanks. Part of the reason I started
>posting to this list was because I want to define cognitive processes in
>/memetic/ terms. So I decline your entrapping offer of sentence fillage...

Accepted. But you seem to totally miss the point. The (...) after
"assemble" above was meant to include any verb you deemed appropriate. The
point is that you organize your vocuabulary a certian arbitrary way. The
interesting part is not WHAT you put in the blank but WHY. I wasn't trying
to entrap you...I just didn't include a more diverse list of explicit

>I believe that new ideas are novel combinations of existing memes
>(culturally stored ideas) and a mix of either other memes... or patterns of
>perceptual stimulation. So, a new idea is either two existing ideas
>interacting in your head, or one existing meme interacting with some aspect
>of your perception of the world.

Now, see, THAT was the interesting part. There was enough there that I can
begin to get some idea of what you are thinking. I admit that trying to
think like someone else creates the risk that you might spontaneously adopt
their concepts. One of the reasons I criticized Richard originally is that
he presented his ideas about memes in such aggressive and adversarial
terms. Memes are like genes, they're the only game in town. Dying sucks
but, so far, mortality is a fact of the human condition. Well, being
mistaken also's kind of like dying by percentages (if you are
into statisitcal interpretations of natural selection). So far, however,
error is a fact of the human condition. Every memetic danger (real and
imagined) we have been discussing is just a different kind of being in

In direct response I have the following questions:

Is memetics the best way to explain all facets of human conciousness?

Are memes substantive things (like atoms or molecules), or is memetics an
empirical model?

What are the disadvantages of thinking about things in memetic terms? Does
the paradigm have any blind spots?

>>I agree with Richard. An unreflective faith in consistency is as
>>memetically sterile as an unreflective faith in God. Both may have their
>>uses; neither is universal.
>But, more urgently than this: I don't understand why you wrote that last
>paragraph either. I literally don't understand your point.

My point is, if we continue to argue about definitions we will never get
anywhere. What I mean when I say "discover" and what you mean by the same
word are different. Hell, I mean the word differently in different
contexts. It is the context around the defininition which is significant,
not whose definition of the word we accept. Having a conversation requires
a certian amount of inconsistency, you have to ask yourself: what does
that other person mean?


Reed Konsler