virus: Memetic ecology (was Tim re:God and Level-3)

Dave Pape (
Sun, 30 Mar 1997 18:23:49 +0100 (BST)

At 11:42 29/03/97 -0800, Tim wrote:

Thanks Tim for some top brain-candy. I'll be dripping pools of
strawberry-flavoured memetic saliva for days!

>If we are
>meme-ecologies, to what extent does changing our memes change that
>ecology, and as a result the change the selection pressures within that

It's a chaos thing: some initially small memetic changes will have large
knock-on effects, but yer memecology will seem quite plastic and resilient
to attack at other times.

[Trawls scone for bio-ecological analogies]

Some new memes will be like rabbits introduced to the Australian outback:
the rampant bastard aliens displace loads of species that were there before,
upsetting a whole load of interspecies relationships as they go. Oh no! Hell

Mind you, what happens next? Well, maybe great-great grandchildren of
rabbits will start to specialise into niches, perhaps speciating, and
gradually (we hope) a new ecology emerges. Maybe.

Certainly in minds, I'd say you can get a niggling little memetic input that
churns away perniciously, eventually collapsing a big chunk of your
world-view/self. But then, guess what? Like the Darwin machine you emerge
from, you develop a NEW worldview which incorporates the new memes.

And I dunno, maybe there's even speciation of newly invading memes? Hmm,
which makes me think that maybe there's generalist and specialist memes, and
that specialists would tend to have less impact on existing memecologies
than generalists.

Example... You all know you can sum up the main principles of evolutionary
theory in a paragraph? Well I'd argue that this paragraph is a generalist
(paragraph-sized-meta)meme. Crafty mother applies all over the shop. I
reckon that a paragraph like that is more disturbing than a paragraph about
some specific example of evolutionary theory in practise, or some little
paragraph of evidence in support of it. Hmm... shit example? Ah well, but
I'm sure there's others...

>Can a new meme create a niche that wasn't there before that meme
>was introduced?

Don't see why not, although I'd lay money that there's very few that could
create a new niche without affecting existing niches in some way...

>Does the introduction of the "if you think it will work
>it will" meme re-align the meme-scheme so that it can become a
>self-fulfilling prophecy?

Yes! Erm, by... acting as an excitatory memantra. EG... there's a meme
corresponding to action directed at one of your goals, and if THIS meme is
active too, it'll have a positive effect on how active the goal-meme is,
meaning that the goal-meme is more likely to take convincing control of your

>Does "I can't do that" have a similar, albeit
>opposite, effect?

I'm sure it does... cos if there's something you're sure you can't do, the
cheapest response is to give up trying. So chanting THIS memantra will
dampen down expression of goal-oriented memes.

Huffa huffa.

Dave Pape
Always bet on the guy with the spine.

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