Re: virus: Rationality

Martz (
Mon, 3 Mar 1997 22:22:59 +0000

On Mon, 3 Mar 1997, Tony Hindle <> wrote:

>>[1] I've used the word 'converted' very deliberately here as recent
>>thoughts (see my question re: wildfire mutation rates in a closed
>>memetic environment on another thread) have led me to believe that there
>>is some sort of a feedback loop involved in this process such that just
>>as our mental structures create the symbols of expression (imperfectly),
>>so do the symbols we use affect the structures which created them. I'm
>>still fermenting this one so all ideas gratefully received.
> Dennett talks about this doesnt he?

Where? I'm woefully behind on my reading list at the moment, to the
point where I've had to start culling. A brief summary of his ideas?

>In fact it is one of the
>foundations of his theory of how consiousness evolved (and continues to
>do so.). I wish I'd seen your Wildfire mutation rates thread.

In short; take three women [1], tell one of them something, put them in
a room together for a few hours (preferably spread over a longer period,
a couple of days perhaps) and whatever you told them has mutated to the
point where *none* of them can remember the original, including the
person you told it to. It occurred to me afterwards that reminding them
can work sometimes but can just as easily get you lynched.

>>[3] Small errors at source can be magnified the further they travel in a
>>gemotric fashion. A flaw of +/- 1 degree will amount to +/- 18cm at a
>>distance of 1m (hasty calculation, correct me if necessary), I think the
>>same principle applies to communication. We can't map this yet because
>>we don't even have a measure of 'distance' which can be applied. This
>>would depend on media the signal was travelling through.
> Yes I see. Heres some distances.
> 1)Photocopier: Zero distance

Not true. Try a 40th generation photocopy and you'll see the difference.

> 2)spoken conversation between A & B: Big distance

And higher bandwidth. More signal. Even more if they're in eyesight.

> 3)Written conversation between A & B: smaller distance
>in 2) and 3) the effective distance decreases if the exchanges are

Agreed up to a point. It's a high-level abstraction and holds where all
other things are equal but examples 2 and 3 aren't that simple. Among
other things we need to calculate the distance from the raw meme in my
head through the physical medium of my brain to the speech center, on
through the parser that is my understanding of English [2] (and any
other protocol used), through the selected media and on to eventually
become a raw meme in your head (or not, as the case may be)

> The feedback process you talked about in the conversions helps
>reduce the distance as well.

I disagree strongly with this. I think it *increases* the distance. It's
like mapping a big chinese whispers chain onto two people. There's
better error correction but it's still not perfect and every time the
idea travels the loop it has greater potential for distortion.

> In written conversations two linguistic scholars reduce
>the distance between them by having perfect syntax (or is the correct
>word protocol?).

Protocol's good.

>Idealy there Syntactic distance can be zero.

In a perfect world. Although I may hear commas in different places to
where they were intended, thus although we are both perfect
syntacticians I have still misunderstood. 'Write it down' you say. But
who proof reads? How legible are you? Make many tpyos?

>distance only ever reaches zero on what we call "perfect agreement"

Even then, I'm agreeing to what I *think* you're saying and vice-versa.
I agree with Alex here in that I don't think it *ever* reaches zero.
Well, perhaps by accident sometimes. We can try to minimise the error
rates though.

> Perfect logic is a zero distance comunication tool.

Hmmm. I don't think so, but you're welcome to try to convince me.

>Hey it would be great fun to try and agree on a distance scale.

That's the easy bit. Try mapping any *real* communication onto it and
you hit problems. Although it might be worth taking a shot at a single
bit transfer.

>>[4] It could be argued that the full range *requires* that the
>>imperfections be present, but it would be nice to have the choice of
>>whether to use formal or informal symbols as appropriate.
> I think imperfections can be a curse and a blessing. The
>parallell with biological mutations is strong here.

Very. That's why I'm totally against dropping the biological metaphor,
when it holds, it holds good. Alex has a point in that we mustn't become
constrained by it though.

>>[5] We would have to tailor our symbols to match only those parts of the
>>audiences internal maps which they had in common. This would explain why
>>blockbuster movies tend to have that LCD appeal.
> Ok I have spent ages error correcting and now anything further
>is diminishiing returns

Awwwww. You were just getting to the good bit.

> I hope you dont mind this intrusion but I would love to reduce
>our semantic distance.
Is this a pickup line? Have I pulled? 8)) Excellent!

>This must be an important objective.

I'm flattered. ;)

[1] This applies to men as well but it was three girls who inspired the
original question.

[2] Which may be vastly different to your parser so we can't even cut
corners by measuring one of us and multiplying by 2.


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