Re: virus: On Deconstruction

Dan Plante (
Tue, 01 Apr 1997 00:42:44 -0800

At 01:39 PM 3/27/97 -0500, Reed Konsler wrote:
>Welcome to post-modernism everyone!
>If you have at least one coherent ideology you can
>engage in the most pleasing of all mental pursuits,
>namely, deconstruction.


You took the words right out of my mouth. A very lucid presentation
of that particular social dynamic. Thanks, Reed.

I often find myself wondering, whenever I see this kind of insipid
display involving political pundits, special-interest advocates,
cause-du-jour zealots, and the like, if it would even be /possible/
to fortify, or "innoculate" a culture against this kind of subtle
intellectual and emotional manipulation, at least to the extent that
it "tips the balance" far enough to inject a healthy dose of reason
into those aspects of society that affect all of us beyond our ability
to ignore them; namely the government and the judiciary.

Does enough of the 'body public' even have the intrinsic faculties
necessary, regardless of how well or in what manner, the education
or "training" is implemented? I mean, let's face it; you're dealing
with a humanity that makes things like "The Psychic Friends Network"
into multi-million dollar corporations, and "Political Correctness"
into laws that send parents to jail for spanking their kids. Call it
the "You can't unlearn an IQ of 50" syndrome.

Let's take a look at the basics and put this in context. There are only
two factors that affect successful action on anyone's part. They are:

A: Ability
B: Desire

Ability, in this context, refers to whether an individual can think
at a high enough level of abstraction to maintain within their skull,
based on learning and experience, a satisfactory model of individual and
group behavioural dynamics, and of the culture in which these operate.
This model acts as a template with which the individual uses to associate
what he percieves in the world around him, and if it correlates well with
what he is seeing and hearing at the time, recognition occurs. This
recognition might take the form "Shit, /that/ old ploy? I can't believe
those idiots are falling for it.", or "This reporter is practically spoon-
feeding that GOP candidate. He's obviously bright enough to realize that
his network CEO is a staunch conservative.", and so on. Call it 'street-
smarts', or 'wisdom'. Models of this type require a high level of
abstraction, or a great deal of 'memetic processing space' in which to
run. Quite often, there's just not enough space.

Desire. Maybe an individual 'knows the score', but doesn't /want/ to do
anything about it, for any number of reasons. Or apathy. No desire for or
against, because he hasn't the desire to find out what the score is in the
first place.

The question is: is it possible to structure a 'campaign' to steer the
evolution of a culture so that, ultimately, the balance is tipped and it
becomes more 'wise' than not, and, most critical, that the change is
self-perpetuating? Is there enough ability to evoke enough desire for
lasting results?

This is a tough call. The best answer I can come up with is 'maybe'.
Barely. If it's done just right.

Interestingly, when trying to sculpt such a campaign, I find myself
reflecting on the drawbacks of memetics. I invariably find that the
model I use is not gleaned from the viewpoint of memetics, but from
an associative model that I've built up over the years, from reading
and observation. Not only does the memetic approach fail to provide any
predictive power, it also lacks, in my estimation, any perceptible
promise in that regard.

Don't get me wrong, I think it has value (which is what attracted me
to this list), but only in terms of a different viewpoint on an already
well understood dynamic, much like the Gaia hypothesis (stripped of the
anthropomorphism popular with some fringe groups) was a different
viewpoint. The Gaia hypothesis hasn't shown substantial utility for the
same reason. It was interesting, and I liked it for that reason. It was
enlightening, and therefore could /indirectly/ affect future developments
that /were/ directly useful, but as a 'tool' to affect change or afford
a /better/ understanding, not just a different one, Gaia and memetics
share the same character. The problem I have with memetics is that it
seems to be presented as just such a tool, or that it shows the promise
of direct utility in the future. Neither seems to be the case to me.

The other problem I have with the 'official' presentation of memetics
(whatever that means) is that one of its assumptions is demonstrably
false. The error is in presenting an individual's behaviour, thoughts,
motivations, wants, needs, desires, the perception of 'self', the
emergent awareness, as a /strictly/ memetic function, that is, solely
as a result of cognitive processes. This cannot be the case. In my
understanding of the CNS and the individual functions ascribed to each
part, The emergent human 'mind' can be shown to be the result of the
tightly coupled interaction of /all/ parts of the CNS, not just the
parts responsible for cognition, no matter how abstract. This system
can be viewed at a high level of analysis, as a cognitive part (the
cortex, for instance), and a limbic part (hypothalamus, pituitary,

The assumption displayed by the most common presentation of memetics
seems to me to be either

A: the limbic system hosts memes, or

B: memes (ideas, thoughts, impressions, etc) embody their own motivation
(that is, they are solely and directly responsible for an individual's
actions and future direction of thought).

I fail to see how either of these could possibly be true.

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)