Re: virus: Rationality

Andy Cheyne Service-LL (
Fri, 28 Feb 97 15:27:39 -0000

I haven't contributed for oh, too long, so I thought I'd chip in with a
few comments of doubtful worth.

Tony wrote:
>> It lets me see that rationality is a special
>> kind of meme (or meme-complex, I see the two as the same).

to which drakir replied:
>Similar, but not identicle. A meme is singular, whilst a meme-complex
>is many interacting memes.

I don't think I can come up with anything that can be termed a "meme"
that isn't itself composed of the interaction of memes. I cannot conceive
an "elemental" meme that is indivisible and complete within itself. Every
meme that I can identify can be broken down into constituent,
interrelating ideas, and external influences. Any meme is a
"meme-complex" when you compare it to the memes which come together to
make the meme in queston, and those that form the environment which
shapes it.

Alexander Williams wrote:

>I hold to the idea that no two memes in different memespheres are
>identical; they may be similarly derived, and as we develop more and
>more useful protocols the memes that are interpreted in others' heads
>become more and more like the ones we want to create their (they more
>closely mimic our model), but the fuzziness in that interpretation is
>/important/ to me in my thinking about memes.

I agree. I'll go a little further - I don't think you can have two
identical memes in the _same_ memesphere: try holding two identical memes
in your mind! I think your statement reinforces what I said above - the
influence of the memetic environment is an inportant and intrinsic part
of anything that we try to identify as a "meme", and therefore it is
impossible to isolate an "elemental" meme. But it's this slipperiness
that makes memetics non-trivial.

Dave Pape wrote:

>We haven;t agreed on a
>definition of "rational" yet. I don't think we're objectively rational,
>I have to bow to the concept of observer-defined subjective rationality.

I don't think it's too difficult to define rationality. Perhaps "a
conscious decision-making process, wherby an individual assesses the
potential benefits and detriments of courses of action, and acts
according to that analysis". Or something - I haven't spent very long
thinking that up, and you can probably shoot holes in it. (I think it's
probably important that the definition doesn't imply that the results of
a rational process are necessarily the best possible decisions. An
individual may not have access to all the information, or the analytical
process itself may be flawed. It's quite possible to be rational and
wrong.) The real difficulty is, how do we detect rationality in others.
This problem is very much like the central problem of Artificial
Intelligence, the Turing Test and all that.

Eva-Lise Carlstrom wrote:

>What makes the Gaia Hypothesis a
>hypothesis? As far as I know, it's not a disprovable statement, but
>rather a way of looking at the world, and a useful metaphor, much like

I think you've hit upon an important dynamic of the CoV here. I suspect
that, broadly speaking, we can divide the membership into "soft"
memeticists (who, as you say, view memes as a usful metaphor, when it
works) and "hard" memeticists (who see in memetics the beginnings of a
description of an actual mechanism). Now, is my analysis of this division
of the CoV merely a useful metaphor, or is it an actual mechanism? 8^)

Andy Cheyne {}
Principal Information Technologist, Client Services Division

Madge Europe
Direct: +44 1628 858560