Re: virus: Re: virus-digest V2 #32

Dave Pape (
Sun, 9 Feb 1997 21:20:16 GMT

At 12:26 07/02/97 -0500, Reed wrote:

>>From: Dave Pape <>
>>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.
>In the 1970's biologists were having the same debate about genes. Richard
>Dawkins' book "The Selfish Gene" was an advocation of viewpoint which was,
>at the time, considered a little wacky: That evolution worked on genes and
>not on "hosts" or organisms. Everbody in this debate isn't dead yet so
>there is still a little controversy...but bets are on Dawkins model being
>accepted as cannon.
>Richard makes strong meme-gene analogies. If you accept Dawkins argument
>about genes then you have to accept the existence of at least one set of
>replicators that operate for their own benifit and not that of their hosts,
>is it hard to imagine another?

OK, so instead of "advantage they confer on their hosts", I'll say
"advantage they confer on their hosts' genes." Because I accept that
evolution proceeds at the level of genes.

>A meme's ability to propoage is not unrealted to it's benifit to the host,
>but benifit is not a prerequisite for propogation.

No... but I don't want to be seen as having proposed an absolute here, by
any means. Part of the reason I back-tracked in the face of Richard B's post
was that... I'd been brought up for saying "genes control memes" which is an
(proportoinally infinite) overstatement. Genes don't control memes 100%.
Otherwise there'd be 0% suicide per capita, instead of... 1%? 0.2%?

I'm quite impressed, though, by what proportion of people "decide to" have
children... how many "decide to" look after their physical well being, etc.
I think there's a strong influence of genetic interest on memetic fitness,
let's say. And I was concerned when Richard /seemed/ to be arguing /against/
that influence. Perhaps if we weren't suffering from over-logical habits
("This is right therefore you are 100% wrong") we wouldn't have had such an
apparent disagreement.

>In how many situations
>have you noted promotion based on interpersonal politics instead of
>demonstrated ability or potential?

If human beings gain a large proportion of their benefit from operating in
tightly-knit groups... Maybe there's a case for promoting people who agree
with you (ie with whom you can form a tightly-knit group) over people who
are clever, but who DISagree with you? Because basically, the people who are
clever but who disagree with you are likely to DEPOSE you, aren't they?
Whereas, if they're of middling ability AND agree with you, you can get more
benefit from them, can't you?

I've not got a conceptual problem with promotion through personal
preference. Or indeed a political one, as long as it favours me.

Dave Pape
If you mapped memespace onto a 2D plane, then made a 3-D graph with
Activation Level as the vertical axis, and animated shots of the graph over
time, it'd look like the progress of some crazy Hokusai ocean.

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