virus: Memetic Ecologies

Alex Williams (
Wed, 2 Apr 1997 09:02:51 -0500 (EST)

> Agreed. Only those parts of the human CNS (ie: cortical structures) shown
> to contain activity which correlates with information processing host memes.

Not even that; the flesh processes data in more places that just the
cortical structures. You make references to such processing below.

> I'm not sure what you mean by 'organism' in this context. Do you mean the
> entire human body? Surely you don't think that a foot contains, or in any
> way contributes to, information /processing/, do you? This would certainly
> be inconsistent with the definition of 'meme' that I've gleaned from the
> available sources. While there is some validity to refraining from
> making distinctions between structures or functional units at greater
> levels of detail, I explicity stated the level of analysis that provided
> the context in the original post.

I /do/ mean the entirety of the human body. If your foot has nerve
endings in it, if the state of your foot, the /informational state/ of
your foot, can change the memetic environment such that the memecology
of your memesphere changes, it has a direct hosting effect on you, as
an information organism, hosting memes.

> >Memes take input/run over the substrate of the organism.
> I don't know what you mean by 'input/run' or 'substrate' in the above
> context.

Take input/run in the abstract context of software, substrate in the
sense that the organism as a whole provides the environment for the

> Possibly, but that's not what I said. I agree with the conclusion that
> sensory input of any kind (including sensory feedback from the host's own
> musculature) can change the instantaneous memetic makeup, but presenting
> memes (and their associated activity in the cortex) as the single source
> of 'self', of the phenomenon of percieved consciousness, of the sole
> mechanism responsible for an individual's behaviour, is mistaken. Memes
> (again, as I understand them), are essentially inert. There is no 'drive'
> or /intrinsic intentionality/ contained within them. Without a tight
> coupling with the rest of the CNS, these ideas, thoughts, impressions and
> associations don't produce any action, any behaviour. There's no reason,
> no motivation, no /drive/ to do so. It is the process of

Given the state of research into the idea of `self' in the various
fields tackling it, you make a brash and self-aggrandizing statement
in positing, 'presenting memes (and their associated activity in the
cortex) as the single source of 'self', of the phenomenon of percieved
consciousness, of the sole mechanism responsible for an individual's
behaviour, is mistaken.' How do you /know/? You don't.

You can say that it flies in the face of currently respected research,
and that I'll agree with. You can say you don't understand how it
could be true, and that I'll grant. Without omniscent contact with a
higher power (likely lurking behind Hale-Bopp), you can't say its

Memes are not inert bits of information floating around in the
memesphere, at least as I and some others on this ML see them.
They're active `informational agents,' just as information agents in
some economic models today trade in resources and attempt to gain
`energy' and `reproduce.' They are abstractions, models of operation,
and as such have nothing to do with the CNS at all, save that they
exist in the information constantly updated and supported by an
organism equipped with a CNS.

Theoretically, I could almost disect the memesphere of a planarian.
It would be highly mechanistic since most of the behaviour arises from
direct neural/instinctual activity and very little modeling is done by
the information organism of its environment or internal states. But
it could be done. I suppose even the memetic environment of something
as primordial as an amoeba could be sketched out, with the help of a
microbiologist. Most of its processing is not done by a NS, central
or non, at all, but by ionic transfer and chemical computation.
Still, as an abstraction, its space could be mapped.

> that /together/ give rise to desire and hence individual rutting. It is
> the interactions of the limbic system and 'memetic' system that evokes
> behaviour. In the beginnings of a memetically capable entity, there are

You're projecting your previously established model on discourse and
looking publically perplexed when people whose models differ from
yours are talking about things moving in directions that don't follow
from /your/ model.

I can't speak for any other, but in my model, the limbic system is
abstracted away as an injector of memes, a neurophysical,
millions-of-years-evolved built-in bootstrapper of
memes-likely-to-do-me-good. If I get a nose full of pheremones that
puts me in the mind of la petit morte, I get a sudden memecological
shift in which memes that lead to sexual satisfaction get massive
reinforcement, more `energy' (or sugar and spice, to mimic agent-based
economic models) is given to them by the memesphere because they're
being selected for. Because they're getting more energy, they
reproduce and mutate more times as well, my thoughts are likely to be
filled with thoughts of love.

Similarly, if I have a flourishing memecology in which lots of agents
are milling around that think touching hot objects is either neutral
or positive, and one gathers enough `energy' to activate and the
limbic/muscular/pain-axiom system kicks in and dumps lots of memes and
meme-energy into the memecology that selects /against/ those memes,
they're likely to die out or mutate into forms that are more likely to
reproduce, like `touching /warm/ objects is good' (which very well may
be true).

> in the limbic system. The hypothalamus does not host memetics, and the
> stimulation of receptors with dopamine is not a meme. Individual behaviour
> is the emergent property of limbic (motivator) and memetic (facilitator)
> /interaction/. I imagine it's the 'memesphere's' ability to make associations
> that made it valuable enough to the limbic system in getting what its
> host needed out of the environment, which led to selective pressures
> favoring more and more capable memespheres throughout human evolution.

You're being far too mechanistic in this entire line of thought.
Memes are not things you can point to and say `these are /here/ and
/here/ and they decide what you're going to wear today.' Its not that
cut and dried, its a far more information-centric view of the psyche.

The limbic system appears to have a very complex relationship with the
memesphere, influencing both the memetic ecology directly (by having
`hard coded,' if you will, memes it can inject at intervals into the
memecology) /and/ by influencing the memespheric environment by
being a factor in the way memetic `energy' is `rewarded' to active
memes. We can't expect something that rolleed out of millions of
years of pseudo-random evolution to be simple, but there is a simple
set of rules underlying it.

> If you mean specific areas within the cortex, then no, you're right. The
> electrochemical activity in the cortex associated with cognition is highly
> distributed within it. The 'brain' has many parts, some involved in
> cognition, or concious thought, and some not. Endocrine action is not
> thinking, for instance (but it does influence the direction of thought).

Endocrine action /can/ be seen as information processing, however; its
an internalized sensor/controller that the memesphere feeds to the
memetic ecology as an energy trickle, with all the other input
triggers and activation energies. From the information-theoretic
standpoint, the endocrine system (and the limbic system, and the
vascular system, and the respitory system) can be seen as massive,
specialized computing complexes whose results feed into the memesphere
alongside input from the eyes, ears and kinesthetic senses.

> I don't understand. 'Informational abstractions' and 'physical abstractions'?

Information theory. It would make good reading for you.

> You seem to see this as a refutation. I see it as redundant. The emergent
> property of limbic and memetic interaction /is/ you.

However, there is no single-entity single-I /you/. There's just
agglutinated output.

> If I understand you correctly, then I believe your conceptualization of
> the 'body's environment' vis a vis memetics is incorrect. The body's
> 'environment' can no more process ideas than the body's foot can. I think
> you may be misidentifying the mind's /model/ of its environment with the
> environment itself.

The foot /does/ process ideas, however. Rub the skin vigourously.
Does the skin redden? Input/processing/reaction. There is
/processing/ going on at local levels throughout your body; all these
things go into the memesphere.

> There is no 'fiction', or 'illusion' with regards to self-awareness,
> conciousness, or thought, however many fancies these assertions seem
> to tickle on this list of late. These words invariably evoke thoughts
> of non-existence, or that what is being discussed is not /really/ there.
> An individual's perception of his or her own conciousness is a very /real/
> phenomenon. A highly complex emergent, but a real phenomenon nonetheless.
> Ask anybody :-)

If just anybody knew the real answers, then we'd be in the Higher
Level of Evolution, wouldn't we?

Your perception of a singular-I is very real, but it /is/ an illusion,
just as mine is, just as the illusion of perception of running in a
movie is just a trick of the eye seen by quickly changed frames.
There is no motion. There /is/ no I. There is just a highly complex
multi-threaded, multi-faceted, multi-focussed output through a limited
bandwidth and a set of internal models which are conveniently, and for
convenience only, labelled an `I.'