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

Reed Konsler (
Sun, 20 Apr 1997 21:09:53 -0400 (EDT)

>From: Tim Rhodes <>
>Date: Sat, 19 Apr 1997 13:30:38 -0700 (PDT)

>On Sat, 19 Apr 1997, Reed Konsler wrote:
>> >You have departed so far from any accepted definition of altruism that
>> >I've ever come across (they all include selflessness) that I can't help
>> >wondering if you're using the right word. Are you sure you're not just
>> >trying to lever the word into an inappropriate use?
>> Absolutely! What a great analysis. I don't know if this is a morally
>> appropriate thing to do. What do you think?

I'm surprised no one has pointed out that one of the more subtle manipulations
is to start a thread with a catchy title that sums up as much of the idea
you are
trying to get across as possible. The reproduction rate is high, fidelity
is good,
and the repetition often causes people to make connections almost subliminally.

"Altruism, Empathy, the Superorganism, and the Prisoner's Dillema"

I think those ideas are related, do you? If that set is repeated often
enough you
will make the connection. Perhaps if you are very interested in "altruism" you
will find yourself drawn into Bloom's "Lucifer Principle" and the
Superorganism or William Poundstone's "Prisoner's Dillemma." I bring these
books up not becuase they are the first, or even "best" expression of the ideas
I'm getting at...but becuase they are availiable, accessible, use language
one can
understand with at most a dictionary and a little will.

How did Richard Brodie get a number of people to by VoM? He kept saying
"hey, that's an interesting idea, I wrote a book about it...want a copy?"
I did. It was a good book. Repetition, it's even in VoM as one of the
mechanism of meme-propogation.

Take care what you repeat.

My favorite one, to date, is still:

"Angelica de Meme"

That's just SOO fucking good!

>I think we should leave the morality to someone else (when Tad gets back
>he can resume his role as moral arbiter). But is there another word for
>what your talking about? If not, we could come up with one. (I'd suggest
>"schqirazylratcity", but some find it a little hard to pronounce.)

Are you kidding? Morality is always the crux of any ethical system. I reserve
the right to be my own moral arbiter. I'm just not certian what is "good"
behavior in this context, and am open to suggestions. I don't want to invent
a new word...I want to taint "altruism" with the ideas of commerce, of expected
gratification, of group and individual selection. I'm interested in taking the
absolute and making it seem a little more ambivalent.

In the end, I would hope, altruism will shine through.

Now, as the person who formerly attacked the idea that we should each
"skull-fuck" one another with "our memes" this desire to play with what I think
the word "altruism" should feel like might seem a little, well, inconsistent.

Can you guess what quote I'm thinking of?

Maybe it's the agression I don't agree with:
"I ATTACK your ideas"
Or, the posessiveness:
"I attack YOUR ideas"
Or, as some have indicated, the lack of agency:
"My ideas attack your ideas through me"

I don't pretend to know.


Reed Konsler