Re: virus: urban legends

Dan Plante (
Tue, 18 Mar 1997 17:32:38 -0800

At 10:10 AM 3/17/97 -0500, Kirt A. Dankmyer wrote:

>I've been forwarding messages from this list to a friend of mine, and he
>came up with a comment I thought y'all would find interesting.
> -Loki (in North Carolina, NOT Seattle)
>>>>By the way, while the three people in that personal anecdote are female, I
>>>>don't appreciate the "Women eh", suggesting as it does, without actually
>>>>stating it, that this phenomenon (telling the stories we like regardless
>>>>of their truth value) is typical of females, or that males never engage in
>>>>it. Nuff said.

I suspect, since you seem to be the only (alleged) female visible on the list,
that you were being baited. It's a "man" thing. Juvenile, but entertaining.

>>Here's a scheme for you to discuss, possibly the most infectous and
>>successful meme complex in the world: the 'war of the sexes' meme-complex.
>>Not only the contents of the meme-complex, but why that particular scheme is
>>so successful. The dichotomy of gender near universal and a lot of the
>>aspects of it don't vary (i.e. men are strong, women are subtle). Is the
>>fact that disparate civilizations seem to have developed a similar scheme
>>mean that not only is it successful, but more probable to be an accurate
>>representation of reality?
>> Which brings up another issue: the accuracy of memes. How does the
>>accuracy of a meme affect it's propigation? And, possibly more important,
>>should the 'truth' of a meme be used as criteria of the desireablilty of the
>>meme? Does truth equal beauty, in this respect?

Truth is beauty. Now there's a powerful yet subtle meme (and one that
I'm thoroughly infected with). My limbic system, based on the aesthetic filter
promoted by this meme, rewards me with drugs whenever I contemplate a simple yet
elegant new theory that fits all the observable data.

It seems to me that the main requisite for infection is how receptive
the host is to that meme, regardless of how well it correlates with any model
of reality derived from empirical observation.
Receptivity, in turn, depends on what the host mind "gets out of it",
that is, how well it addresses the wants, needs or desires of the host mind,
or how well it avoids its aversions, developed through a history of memetic-
limbic interaction.

Take, for instance, the meme "The earth is 5 Giga-years old". To a
fundamentalist Christian, this is a bad meme, and its successful aversion
protects the meme-complex "The Old Testament is true and good", which in
turn supports the more extensive meme-complex "Christianity", for which the
mind (meme-sphere and limbic system) has developed a "warm, squishy feeling
of contentment" association reward.
On the other hand, the same meme, to a paleoscatologist, would be
accepted instead, but have the same warm, squishy effect, for the same
reason. The meme "The earth is 6.5 kilo-years old." would have opposite
efficacy in both cases.

Having said all this, and in answer to the gist of your question,
I would have to say yes. If you could somehow quantify and qualify all memes
rigourously, including their index of correlation to a generally-agreed-upon
model of reality, you would find that the ones that correlated well
outnumbered the ones that didn't by many times.

This seems to contradict the process detailed above, only because
it was presented out of context. The process per se does not "concern" itself
with reality, but it does operate under (and by virtue of) the selective
pressures of the physical world. Very few memes or meme-complexes are as
abstract or complex as "Christianity" or "quantum cosmology". The vast
majority of them tow the line of rationality, and are as simple as "Banging
your head against a rock hurts, so I won't do it.", and while this sometimes
occurs, the mind is usually autistic, insane or otherwise damaged. A few
"irrational" memes or meme-complexes manage to survive for awhile, usually
by co-opting some powerful drive or instinct originally intended for survival
or reproduction purposes, such as the idea of life-after-death matching itself
well to the fear of dying. They survive for a time by being useful in a
cultural context, the part of their environment that is mutable.
When the culture changes enough, the meme-complex finds its environmental
niche dissapears, and follows suit (it may mutate, but it will no longer be
recognizable as Christianity). As soon as nanotechnology, remedial gene
therapy, etc (whatever Technologie du Jour turns your crank) allows an
indefinite life span, every religion built around life-after-death croaks.

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)