Re: virus: Re: Rationality

David McFadzean (
Thu, 27 Feb 1997 09:33:17 -0700

At 10:03 AM 27/02/97 GMT, wrote:
>I suppose it all really depends on what the final decision (like there's going
>to be one!) on whether rationality, as a process, is a meme-complex or not.
>If it is, then your "self" is made up of memes, operated upon by a far
>superior and complicated meme-complex. Therefore, *all* your mechanisms
>of thought and reason are memes. This means that whatever you do, a meme
>has been the factor which prompts the action. Hence you have been controlled
>by memes.

I disagree with every syllogism in your argument:

#1. You say if rationality is a meme, then the self is operated on by a
superior meme-complex. Not necessarily, what about people who aren't
infected by rationality?

#2. If #1 is true, then (paraphrasing) "all mechanisms of thought and reason
are memes". No, what about hormones, genetic neural structures, and innate
behaviours like the sex drive?

#3. If #2 is true, then (paraphrasing again) "a meme is the factor which
prompts whatever you do". A meme may be a factor, but it certainly isn't the
only one.

Most systems that we talk about controlling or influencing are complex dynamic
systems (e.g. people, animals, cultures, computers), and, ipso facto, their
respective behaviours are the result of a complex interaction between endogenous
structures and exogenous effects. Basically it is almost impossible to discriminate
exactly which factors are "in control" of the system. Take a relatively simple
example: the computer. What is controlling my computer right now? Superficially,
the main program running right now is Eudora Pro, an e-mail client (which I highly
recommend, BTW). But control of the CPU is being usurped by Window NT Server 4.0
at regular intervals to run background processes. In fact, if I look at the
Task Manager, it turns out that over 90% of the CPU cycles are being used for
the "System Idle Process".

But let's ignore that for now. Say that Eudora is the only process running, does
it control the computer? Not really, its behaviour is being largely controlled
by signals coming from a serial peripheral commonly known as a keyboard, which is
at this very moment being controlled by a type of animal I like to refer to as the
"story-telling ape". And *its* behaviour is incredibly complex due to vast number
of influences including many thousands of apes of the same type, many of them dead
for centuries!

So even my simple example is too complex to analyze because throwing just one of
these animals into the loop brings a good portion of their entire culture. Who is
controlling my computer? Certainly no one factor. But what is influencing its
behaviour? Literally we all are. Weird.

David McFadzean       
Memetic Engineer      
Church of Virus