Re: virus: Rationality

Tony Hindle (
Wed, 5 Mar 1997 05:40:54 +0000

In message <>, Martz=20
<> writes
>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?=20
>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?

I think it=92s Darwin=92s Dangerous idea (if not it=92s=20
consciousness explained).
I havent got a copy at hand so this is as I remember it.
Dennett talks about words (symbols of expression) being=20
(imperfect)=93mind tools=94. we use them internaly as we think (speak=20
to ourselves). A spoken/written sentence is really the end of a=20
translation process from the original thought. (the current mind=20
tool set of the brain does the translation). This translation is=20
an aproximation to the meaning of the original thought (a clue).=20
The translation then acts on the brain as a powerfull reminder of=20
the original thought which is then translated again to produce=20
another =93example translation=94 this operation cycles a few times=20
until there are many example translations that aproximate the=20
original thought. There will be an abstract class to which they=20
will all belong and this will be the original thought, which the=20
brain can label. The label is now available as a new word or a new=20
mind tool for use in the future.

Ok, Im going to try again; The bit that your =93feedback=20
loop=94 reminded me of is when he describes how consciousness=20
bootstraped itself into existence. He talks about language being=20
a mental prosthetic (as a wooden leg is a physical one). So when a=20
new idea occurs to you, you initialy verbalise/write it to=20
yourself. Another way of saying this is you =93think that thought=20
with any words you already possess. (call this draught 1, Im=20
starting in the middle I know) . Now you =93say/read it back to=20
yourself=94 and what it actually means to you is not exactly what=20
your initial thought was (even though your initial thought is now=20
changed slightly as you =93hear what you have said=94) so you try to=20
correct/improve it and produce draught 2. Now your thinking acts=20
upon draught 2 and =93sees=94 it is not exactly what you meant and so=20
on. Is this the feedback process you were describing.
Eventualy you have a (long) description that conveys the=20
meaning of your initial thought, call this description X. You have=20
now created a new word X. Your mental tool set has been improved,=20
next time you have a new idea you have a finer grained mental tool=20
kit with which to describe it before giving it a name and thus=20
creating your next word. =20
Well that's three atempts Ive had to explain it, maybe you=20
can abstract something from them.
>>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. =20
>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.
Point taken. A perfect photocopier would have zero=20
distance. This reminds me of digital signal transmission and=20
repeater stations. If an analogue signal is used for transmission=20
extra noise will be added while the signal is in the transmission=20
line. For a digital signal provided the "noise" on the transmission=20
line doesnot exceed a threshold level it can all be removed by=20
decoding/recoding and amplifying at repeater stations. that is why=20
they have repeater stations every so often in the transmission=20
lines. Analogous to this would be a photocopier being used for say=20
6 generations, then a human scrupulously checking letter, by letter=20
the print on the sixth generation copy and going over all the=20
letters in black ink. In this context I suppose a zero distance=20
device would be a text copier, at least it would be zero distance=20
for the text if it had perfect protocol for that text (easily done=20
>> 2)spoken conversation between A & B: Big distance
>And higher bandwidth. More signal. Even more if they're in eyesight.
Yes. Yes. yes (although under some circumstances eyesight=20
can increase the distance.) You see a beautiful woman you want to=20
comunicate something impressive which you rehearse. Then as face=20
one another, you say "Agh-blughl-oom".
>> 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.
That'll do for now.

>> 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.
I think we have to distinguish two cases. Lets take a line=20
of chinese whispers as an example. As the meme went from left to=20
right it would be increasing distance, but if each exchange was=20
allowed a few cycles of feedback the effective distance would be=20
decreased. Indeed if the meme was a single word and lots of=20
feedback was allowed the line could have people of all different=20
nationalities and a single word meme could get through, especially=20
if every sixth person was a repeater which in this context would be=20
someone who was a native speaker of the meme.
A second case would be when the meme was a long statement,=20
say a one minute monologue rich with meaning. I agree that feedback=20
at each stage in this case would cause extra distance from the=20
original meme but i dont think the distance would keep on=20
increasing (see below.)
As for mapping the chinese whispers onto two people, Yes I=20
can see that The original meme could see more distance with more=20
iterations but I think it would be moving towards "a basin of=20
attraction". At the basin would be a more stable (=3Dsatisfying?)=20
For the three women talking I think it would end up as a=20
mutualy agreed tale that made all three of them feel good. If it=20
also compelled them to tell others it would be something we might=20
expect to hear often (gossip-with the spin that suits them).
With us during our exchenges the meme will also move=20
towards a basin of attraction, more satisfying to both of us=20
because it complements our conceptual tool kit......Women eh!

>>distance only ever reaches zero on what we call "perfect agreement"=20
>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.
Point taken. When we agree we both agree with what we think=20
the other is saying. The beauty of further comunication is that we=20
can check our agreement by experiments e.g., use the new meme in a=20
new context and see if the other understands.

>> Perfect logic is a zero distance comunication tool.
>Hmmm. I don't think so, but you're welcome to try to convince me.
I supose I meant perfect protocol with no transmission=20
noise. =20
>>>[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.
Any metaphor that is partly isomorphic (meaning as I=20
remember Hofstadter's meaning) is usefull but we must know its=20
limits (exceeding them can be good for a laugh 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.
was there more, send me it please, before I go away. I must=20
have deleted part of the original it or something.=20
>> I hope you dont mind this intrusion but I would love to reduce
>>our semantic distance.=20
> ^^^^^^^^^^^
>Is this a pickup line? Have I pulled? 8)) Excellent!
My real name is Cindy I am 21 and an international=20
supermodel. My wife is expecting our first child on may 15th.

Ok I've got to go now. I am going to be away from computer=20
from 6th to 12ish march. ( frustrating cos Im just getting into=20

Tony Hindle.
The only thing I know for certain
is that I know nothing for certain....well, probably.