Re: virus: Rationality

Alex Williams (
Sun, 2 Mar 1997 11:46:49 -0500 (EST)

> Is your objection here that even with reproduction there is some
> movement of matter, even though it's just a single cell?

Its actually a bit more than that; in the reproductive metaphor, what
is the organism that's reproducing? The meme? The meme-complex? The
memesphere, in whole or in part? The /culture/? An argument, and a
strong one, can be made for every one of the aforementioned views.
The biological perspective raises as many questions as it puts to
rest, even metaphorically, but drags in a whole host of other
considerations that aren't really applicable.

> >Looking at it from the biological reproduction perspective removes
> >consideration of the signal, and thus, the source of the mutation.
> >Sort of like looking at biological organisms without knowing what DNA
> >is; a step back.
> But we *do* know what that DNA is. For biological reproduction, which is

[Oh goody, another case of the memes spawned from my interpreted
signal being wildly out of line with my intent.]

> complex than its biological equivalent anyway, as the encoding methods
> used do seem to vary hugely from individual to individual. So it's not
> so much a step back as a step behind. Aside from all that, imperfect as
> it may be I find the biological metaphor useful (as someone mentioned
> recently). Perhaps it's simply my own mental structures trying to map
> something unknown onto something familiar the better to deal with it.

My point was that to discuss the propogation of communication without
consideration that there is an `in between,' that there is a signal
that is created from memes on one side and interpreted (rather
loosely) by protocol-memes on the other side, to simply talk about the
process as `meme X is transmitted to Y' loses a /lot/ of the
understanding of How Things Cock Up. Its acceptible in a purely
theoretical discussion, but not from an engineering perspective.

My model is the Meme As Agent; memes, in my mind, are something like
semi-autonomous organisms existing within the compubiotic soup of the
memesphere. Memetic /breeding/, in the organic/reproductive sense,
occurs only within the soup. Part of enculturization is dedicated to
causing, through various environmental factors/inputs and some shared
code all memeagents share due to millions of years of development,
meme structures of cooperative agents to arise which contain
`bootstrapping protocol code,' enough of language and human
gesture/body language understanding to give a gritty, unclear but
connected signal interpretation core structure of memes. These agents
watch the shared i/o of the memesphere and spawn new agents whenever
they see patterns in the input that loosely match patterns in the
input stream. These new agents are then /immediately/ subjected to
various combinations of other memes attempting to combine with or
attack them. From time to time enough agents, or one very pushy one,
will get the protocol handling agents to emit i/o through the port and
affect the outside world.

In the above model, all things in the mind are agents except
`awarenesses,' or direct input from the senses (which may,
nevertheless, immediately spawn an agent, 'Damn, this iron is hot!'
but only after the finger is already away). The pseudo-biological
aspects of memes only occur between meme and meme in the same
memesphere; between memespheres, there is no adjoining, so it feels
unnatural to me to use biological terminology to describe the

I suppose I really feel `every man is an island,' and that we're all
lobbing badly worded messages in fragile bottles into the sea, hoping
our knowledge of a language we just learned, the fragility of the
paper, and the motion of nearby currents will take the message to the
people we want and that they'll be lucky enough to read it as we
intended. Perhaps a bit depressing, but I read Lovecraft as a
child. :)