virus: Altruism, Empathy, the Superorganism, and the Prisoner's Dillema

Reed Konsler (
Fri, 18 Apr 1997 12:15:42 -0400 (EDT)

>>The other problem is that the game has already begun. The dice
>>have been rolled, and the players are in action. To sit out is to lose
>>out. It's too late to suggest another game. We have to wait 'till the
>>current players have all lost before it's over, and before we can
>>suggest some alternatives.

>There's a discussion going on that showed up in
> about how to replace NT on a server
>with Linux, remotely. Imagine the effect on the sys admin,
>coming in the next morning, to find the machine in just the
>same state he left it, except running a different OS. Not
>absolutely irrelevant, perhaps? :-)

>But what if the game is like Nomic? What if you _can_ change the rules,
>without waiting for everyone to lose? I think that's what Reed
>is trying to say.

>>> or in other words:
>>> "Cooperate, don't defect"

>>You're always going to find people who disagree, possibly quite
>>strongly, with this.

>Not very many, if you can really demonstrate its rationality.
>(Though it looks like in iterated games defection is called
>for as punishment for previous defection by the other.)

>>> But how can you make such a system stable?

>>Eliminate Greed. It's the only way. How to eliminate greed? I can
>>only think of one way: Eliminate the human race.

>All (!) you have to do is show that greed is not really beneficial.

>You ARE changing the rules, everytime you create a new meme - something
>(someidea) that wasn't there before is now, and must be allowed for /
>dealt with in proportion to the number of people who hold it, spread it,
>and defend it for the benefit of those who need explanations.
>You need not wait (IMO) for everyone else to lose - simply spread enough
>memes and supporting evidence that greed is not rewarded. The fate of M.
>Milken the junk-bond trader, most underworld figures whose names are
>known through their trials and various politicians who get caught with
>their fingers in the till is one form of this - and the reverence
>accorded to Mother Teresa, M. Gandhi and various others is another.
>Part of the difficulty lies in showing how altruism / empathy is
>sufficiently rewarded to make it worthwhile; this is even harder when
>most of the population is conditioned to regard material items and money
>as rewards superior to peace of mind, good health and increased
>The alternatives are better - but demonstrating them as better is tough.
>Suggestions for a meme to convey - "Not only is greed self-defeating in
>the long run, altruism makes better neighbors and ultimately greater
>personal fulfillment."? Anyone got a better / different view?

I Love it!

I think this ties into the discussion we were having earlier about the idea
of "Consensus Reality". Why didn't it get brought up sooner? I wonder if
it was becuase we were arguing while denying our baser selves? Perhaps, to
some extent, each of us was more interested in seeing their "meme" triumph
over everone elses: To stamp their seal, to evangelize, to infect. It was
only after we all realized that that wasn't working that we began to pause
and say:

"Well, alright then...what do YOU think?"

And how many times have you read something and it just "passed through"
without ever really impacting you? And how many points-of-view or
interesting ideas do we ignore each day because our mechanisms for
filtering them out (for instance, by only reading something refering to you
specifically) aren't very good?

Object Lesson?


Reed Konsler