Re: virus: a tangent

Dan Plante (
Tue, 18 Mar 1997 17:13:01 -0800

At 09:14 AM 3/17/97 -0500, Kirt A. Dankmyer wrote:

>In talking about alternative thought processes, a thought occurred to me.
>Do some memes not, in some cases, create a "memetic immune system", making
>the transmission of certain "rival" memes difficult, and/or "encapsulating"
>memes so they can do less "harm" to the overall system? When I'm talking of
>"encapsulation", I'm thinking of cases like "I know about that, but I don't
>believe it" and more sophisticated cases like Saint Thomas Aquinas's
>appropriation of Aristotalian thought under a Catholic umbrella. (I guess
>the latter would be more like absorption.)

One particularly good example of this is the idea that, as an adherent to
Christian doctrine, any thoughts you may entertain which are contrary to
established dogma (whether they manifest themselves internally as a result
of individual experience, or are introduced from an external source such
as argument or debate), are simply God (or the Devil) testing your faith.
This approach is very effective since it uses one's fear of damnation to
simply exclude all incompatible ideas, reasonable or not. The addition of
this idea to the core tenets of almost any religion built around a life-
after-death theme, will serve to "inoculate" it against most concievable

>Given that such memetic immune systems exist, how would one construct a
>meme to damage the action of the immune system, making someone somewhat
>more open-minded? (Mo, this is not a sneaking question about how to
>convince Objectivists they're wrong...)
> -Loki

I use "open-minded" to mean "agreeing to see things, but with a
somewhat critical eye". If I can take some license with your question and
assume something closer to "receptive" or "compliant", I would, as in the
example above, attatch an idea-set or "meme-complex" to a "bullet" targeted
at the other part of the mind: the emotions.

Since the cortical activity that gives rise to our most abstract
thoughts and ideas wouldn't /do/ anything by itself, it needs a "motivator":
the limbic system - to provide the drive. The "memesphere" acts as a
"facilitator", in that it is able to, by virtue of its ability to build
abstract models of its environment well enough to identify cause and predict
effect, synthesize specific desires from these basic drives by association,
and formulate actions to fulfill these desires, culminating in reward from
the limbic system. It is the synergy of these two functional units working
in concert that originatesates the perception of "self", and is the source
of individual behaviour.

Seen as a co-dependant system (at this particular level of analysis),
the mind betrays an obvious vector to "infection". Disturb the limbic system
enough, and the "meme-sphere" will also be disturbed, resulting in confusion.
An undisturbed mind can be viewed as a set of ideas or memes whose "inter-
relatedness" or "sets of associations" is at its most complex, and is largely
static, or "settled" from a more fluid to a more solid state. Limbic
disruption, characterized by highly emotional states such as fear, joy, hate
and passion, or interruption, as with depression and exhaustion, subverts this
synergy to some extent. This causes the meme-sphere to diverge from a tightly
coupled, closed-loop link with its motivator, which results in a certain
degree of confusion or "flux", where complex and intricate associations
between memes are more difficult to form or maintain.

As the neurochemical activity of the limbic system begins to revert
to its norm, a meme-complex can be introduced (or repeated) wherein it acts
as a sort of "mold", allowing parts of the meme-sphere to "settle into the
new shape" as ideas re-associate. The efficacy of the infection will depend
to some extent on how closely it correlates with the rest of the meme-sphere.
If the meme-complex is highly incompatible with other existing, unrelated
beliefs, infection will be more difficult. The limbic disturbance can be short
and extreme (Patty Hurst), or longer-term, repetitive and subtle (politics,
marketing). The trick is understanding human nature in general, or an
individual's nature specifically, in order to know which buttons to push,
how hard to push them, and how best to introduce the meme-complex.

The Metasystem Transition History of the "Dan Plante" System:

initial conditions = data (conception)
control of data = information (conception to puberty)
control of information = knowledge (puberty to marriage)
control of knowledge = wisdom (marriage to divorce)