RE: virus: Altruism, Empathy, the Superorganism, and the Priso

Wright, James 7929 (
Thu, 24 Apr 97 09:01:00 EDT

Robin wrote:

>This is what I don't understand about this sort of assertion:
>As people interested in memetics, haven't we all read
>Dawkins? <

So far, all I have read is the Web version of the "Virus of the Mind"

>And don't we know that it's *genes* that are
>primarily selfish? <

This also shows up in Richard's VotM book, which I finally finished last

>And Dawkins himself says that does *not* mean that *we* have to be

If you say Dawkins says so, fine.
>From Dan's post:

>Because we are all driven by self-interest (IMHO), we tend to

IMHO: This seems to me to be an inherent contradiction. It is in MY
self-interest to grab all I can, wherever I can, whenever I can.
Cooperation arises when I see that the results of cooperation are
SUPERIOR to self-interest, so that ultimately self-interest is seen as a
disadvantage to personal fulfillment in a social group.

>If I were a member of a tribe that had to hunt together, and I
discovered fire,
>then it would be in my interest to share that knowledge (or perhaps I'd
>become the tribe's fire-builder and let the others go hunting). Why
are we
>hunting together in the first place? Because the prey is faster,
>and too dangerous to hunt as individuals.<

It would also be in your self-interest to keep that knowledge secret, so
that YOUR children would be better fed, stronger and ultimately
longer-lived than your tribemate's children, and could eventually
dominate the tribe. I think you skipped a step from "family" to "tribe"
here; there might be a "tribe of families-related-by-blood/marriage" in
there somewhere, where what you describe might be true.
<Snip section replied to by Robin above>
>Educational institutions do what they do as a means of survival.
>Disemination of information is the value that they provide to the other
>individuals in the society. In exchange, they get the resources they
>to survive. They don't do it out of charity. If they are successful,
>grow (in prestige, if not in size) and perpetuate their memes. If they
>don't, they fail. It's no different than any of us.<

We have made a leap here, from tribal to intertribal (societal) behavior.
I did not say or imply that educational institutions were charitable,
only that they were cooperative. Whether or not they succeed or fail in
existence may well depend more on the memes they choose to use and spread
rather than their actual educational value; a college that stresses
fund-raising and develops successful memes to perpetuate it may continue
to exist when an overly research-oriented institution runs out of money.

>Why do I keep jumping back into this thread?<

Perhaps because it involves interesting memes in itself?