RE: virus: The Virus Homepage stuff

Dave Pape (
Thu, 6 Feb 1997 21:04:31 GMT

At 08:28 06/02/97 -0800, Richard wrote:

>Dave Pape wrote:
>>Because always having to think about which ideas you should propagate
>>discuss in order to benefit your social organisation puts an instant
>>heavyweight selection pressure on the memes which will flourish in that
>>organisation's group memetic processing resource, meaning that the
>>opportunities for novel DESCRIPTIVE ideas are curtailed for the purpose
>>promoting a lower bandwidth set of PRESCRIPTIVE ideas.
>That would be true if there were some finite number of possible memes.

Well, presumably there's some (huge) number of possible ways for all the
neurons in all the brains in the world to be arranged each quantum time
unit, and presumably there are fewer of these ways which code for religious
artistic endeavour rather than all possible artistic endeavour. So I
actually think it IS true.

>But throughout history religious pressures have SPURRED art, music, and
>so on, not curtailed it.

They've spurred /religious/ art. What if I paint a memetic picture which
goes against the church? If I felt that my output had to conform with Church
doctrine, I would tend to limit my investigations. I don't just want to
paint pictures of St Peter and the Keys all my life, I also want to
experiment with suspending dissected sheep in formalin, y'know?

>>>>If religions didn't have some element of benefit to the human race, why
>>>>would they persist as memes for so long?
>>>Because viruses of the mind exist for their own benefit.

>>Sorry, but no... Dennett and Dawkins and Speel all agree that one of
>>major selection pressures on memes is whether or not they confer a
>>benefit on their host organism.

>Whoa bucko! Brodie definitely does NOT agree, and thinks that this
>egocentric view of memes will be SMASHED when further research is done.

"Smash" is a heavyweight meme which attacks my memetic ecology more fiercely
than memes like "counter-evidenced". Studies have shown that witnesses to a
car crash will estimate the impact velocity of a car striking a wall if an
interviewer asks "how fast was the car going when it SMASHED into the wall?"
than if they ask "how fast was the car going when it rolled into the wall?"
Watch it.

>This "major pressure" is a faint echo of a time when the ancestral memes
>conferred an ancestral genetic advantage on their host. Meme evolution
>happens so much faster than gene evolution that these pressures no
>longer have much bearing on genetics. I make this point many times in

Hmm. I see what you're getting at- that, when technology makes subsistence
living easy, the linkage between meme-fitness and host-gene-fitness becomes

But no, I still can't buy the argument that memes please themselves. They'll
still (as long as their hosts are competing for things like status, comfort,
money etc) be very much selected for on the basis of what level of
competitive advantage they confer on their hosts.

On a personal level, whenever I get into an argument situation, I always
feel that my ideas get statistically less wacky. They don't just go their
own sweet way. The ideas that I project are suddenly the ones which stand
the best chance of damaging my opponent's memetic ecology.

That's what I mean by a selection pressure, though I'm back-pedalling like a
good-'un on the issue of genetic influences.

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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