Re: virus: Discoveries and Inventions

Dave Pape (
Wed, 5 Feb 1997 13:26:32 GMT

At 18:05 04/02/97 -0500, Reed wrote:
>>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.

Thanks. I didn't want to put a verb like "create" or "invent" or "discover"
because I think that there is a basic memetic process which underlies all
three activities.

>I admit that trying to
>think like someone else creates the risk that you might spontaneously adopt
>their concepts.

I would say that "trying to think like someone else" is like memes which
they have transmitted to your memespace becoming active in YOUR memespace.
If they become sufficiently active to outcompete previously encumbent memes
("what you thought before") then you now think (more) like that other
person. ...Comments?

>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.

But those ideas/concepts (memes) have been VERY active in Richard's
memespace for a very long time. They have taken up a great deal of his
brain's processing resource (ie the amount required to research and write a
book, and travel around giving lectures etc). He's BOUND to come across as
quite zealous because the memetic definition of zeal is when a particular
set of memes has a massive dominance in a person's memespace.

Erm- now obviously, from my earlier posts, the "memes are a very potent
force" and "mortality just happens" memes are very active in MY memespace...
so... oops... (what's the smiley for "expects backlash"?)

>Well, being
>mistaken also's kind of like dying by percentages (if you are
>into statisitcal interpretations of natural selection).

I would rephrase, and then agree wholesale. When you "find out you are
mistaken and change your mind", I believe that then, the memetic structure
which constitutes your personality becomes disassembled to the extent
necessary to incorporate new, but contradictory memes (the ones "you now
think are right").

So any "change of mind" implies some disassembly of your personality.

A personality as a group of memes is an organised ecology of memes which has
emerged from countless evolutionary memetic interactions. The selection
pressure in these interactions is how much of a material benefit (in terms
of comfort and genetic fitness) those memes confer on their host in that
host's current physical and social context.

So, "changing your mind because you realise you're mistaken" IS like dying,
to an extent, because your personality comes apart somewhat, before
reassembling as a modified ecology of memes, incorporating new (to it) memes
which previously disagreed with it.

>In direct response I have the following questions:
>Is memetics the best way to explain all facets of human conciousness?

I think that it well may be, when it becomes sufficiently developed.
Remember, organised research into memetics is very thin on the ground.

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

I'm not sure that a molecule is substantive. A molecule is just an
arrangement of atoms; if you took all the atomic units that made up a
methane molecule and put them in a different arrangement, you'd have
different molecules/atoms (ie one carbon atom, two hydrogen molecules).
Memes are arrangements of submemes and perceptual patterns of neural
activity, just like molecules are arrangements of atoms. And I don't think
ATOMS are substantive either. And by the time you get down to bosons,
physicists have still got to settle the debate about whether /those/
particles are substantive.

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

As a memetic structure, thinking about ideas/thoughts/personalities/social
groups in memetic terms has enabled me to explain more phenomena better than
my previous belief systems (ie, previous memetic ecologies, previous
personalities). There's still plenty that I don't understand, but less than
I didn't understand before (To understand a thing is to have many memes in
association in your memespace with the meme that tags that thing.)


>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.

Memetically, you and I both have a meme "discover", but that meme is
associated with different memes in your memetic ecology than it is in /my/

>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?

In that all words are defined in terms of other words, all words are defined
in terms of their context. If there was only one word, it would have no
context (no other words) and it could not be defined (no other words).
Context is very close to definition. It all depends on how you define
"context". ;)

Dave Pape
The memetic equivalent of a G3 bullpup-design assault rifle blowing a full
clip at my opponent. (Alex Williams 1996)

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