quantum memetics. was: Re: virus: Re: Rationality (meme

Dan Plante (danp@ampsc.com)
Fri, 21 Mar 1997 21:32:37 -0800

At 10:04 AM 3/20/97 GMT, Drakir wrote:
>> From: Dan Plante <danp@ampsc.com>


>> One example would be, say, you go to work and during the entire week, every
>> time you talk with your co-workers, you scratch twice above your right
>> nostril during any slight pause in your speaking that would correspond
>> with a comma if it had been written down. Observe them on Monday morning,
>> and see if anyone has started doing it. If so, that very simple gesture/idea
>> would be a candidate for a memetic quantum.
>OK, I see what you mean, but I'd still have to wonder, what meme would cause
>you to chose scratching over your right nostril? Surely this is more
>fundamental than the action itself.

Excluding the train of thought that led up to making the decision,
A): what would have made me choose that particular action over another?
B): would it represent a comparative reduction in its set of associations?
C): would it be transmissible itself?

I don't know. My best guess would be
A): it may have been a memory of a similar experiment in group behavioural
dynamics I've read about, in which case the causal meme(complex), even
after reducing its own set of associations only to that which was needed
to effect the decision, may not have been more fundamental. I often
thought-trace (trace my thoughts back - a term I borrow from "fault trace"
as in electronics trouble-shooting), but I don't think I'd ever be able
to "separate the wheat from the chaff" well enough to discriminate.

B): I haven't a clue. Arriving at a reasonable conclusion to this question
would involve being able to rigorously and uniquely define exactly what
was being associated in each set, before you could qualify whether or
not it was a reduction; a truly horrendous task, maybe inherently

C): do an empirical test. How this test would be implemented is beyond me
(keeping in mind that if you could identify it well enough to try and
transmit it, it's probably transmissible, and if it's not transmissible,
you probably wouldn't be able to identify it well enough to do the
experiment). You would also have to qualify "transmission". Is the size
of your subject group statistically valid? Do any of them have even a
tiny clue as to the purpose of the test (invalidating the results)?
What if your transmission efficacy is 43.7%? Will you qualify trans-
missability as an index, or threshold it? If so, why? Even after all
this, the results would still be inconclusive. You may have a list of
completely, partially, and non-transmissible memes, but that still wouldn't
be enough information to conclude that there wasn't a meme, just a tiny bit
more complex than one of the non-transmissible ones, that was 100% trans-
missible. Doing a "thought experiment" (pun intended) to side-step the
practical impediments of an actual test wouldn't work either, even with
the wealth of neuro-biological and neuro-psychological knowledge
presently at our disposal; you run into the same problems.

All this, and other musings, lead me to the following:

Caveat: The mind is defined as "what the brain does". This is my assertion
and is, I suspect, shared by most others on this list (Please don't
mail me any protestations in this regard, I use the terms "suspect"
and "most" for a reason). This precludes attributes such as a "soul"
or "spirit" that are somehow separate from the brain or independant
of known physical principles. I also assert that any considerations
regarding quantum physical interpretations as to the validity of
separating the central nervous system from its environment (quite
valid in the proper context), to be irrelevant at the scales used in
the following.

Having said that, here's what I conclude:

Assuming the availability of instruments capable of sensing any and all forms
of activity in the brain (MRI, CT, or their successors) with sufficient
clarity, discrimination and speed, the data would show a direct correlation
between a single individual's uniquely identifiable meme-complexes and
uniquely identifiable patterns of electro-chemical activity, over arbitrarily
short periods of time. This does, I believe, reflect the current paradigm in
the related fields.

This correlation would continue with decreasing meme complexity until a
threshold is reached where some activity is seen, but can be ascribed to no
discernable meme, not because the subject is unable to identify the
attributes of it or has difficulty discerning it from others, but because
it is reduced to the point where it is impossible to be aware of it at all
because it doesn't exist any more, at least not as anything that can be
described as a meme (or a "vague inpression" or anything else within the
definitive bounds of awareness).

As the complexity, or "level of abstraction" of the meme decreases, so does
the corresponding neural activity (in space and over time) within the brain.
They don't decrease in parallel, however; they converge. They both reach a
point where one is not discernable from the other, because they are one and
the same thing. Wetware becomes undiscernible from software. The point is that
the "meme-sphere" is an emergent property of neural activity, and as such,
has no property (or existence, for that matter) outside or "below" its own
emergence. Therefore, from the point of a neuron's activity up to the most
abstract idea (or the clearest moment of self-awareness or lucidity) there
exists a continuum, a continuous progression of shades of gray, within which
a demarcation between meme and not-meme makes no sense, and therefore,
neither does the distinction of "simplest meme". It seems to me that the
qualities we perceive in our own thoughts, our own awareness, steers us into
believing otherwise. It's a bum steer.

In a fluid, darting flock of sparrows, there is no "quantum flock".
Say "quantum flock" ten times fast.
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)