RE: virus: Altruism

Richard Brodie (
Tue, 29 Apr 1997 06:35:42 -0700

James Wright wrote:

> debating this last several days over what acts qualify as altruistic,
>may we have your suggestion? a working definition of altruism, along
>with an example of what qualifies?

This is a Level-2 question. Ask instead what purpose is served by
discussing altruism? What can we explain by invoking it? What definition
would be useful in a particular context?

Since you have read Virus of the Mind, you have read my discussion of
replicators. Replicators tend to succeed if they influence events in
ways that enhance their replication. So one could look at humans as
likely to be "altruistic" in ways that benefit their genes or their
memes. Either form of altruism may align with or conflict with their own
life purpose.

>By the way, over the weekend I broke down and bought the VotM book;
>still working on reading it (my brother kept it the entire weekend,
>while he read it, so I missed that opportunity). I guess your
>participation in this mailing list isn't entirely fruitless.

Thank you very kindly!

> ----------
>From: Richard Brodie[]
>Sent: Wednesday, April 23, 1997 1:39 PM
>To: ''
>Subject: virus: Altruism
>James wrote:
>>Whoever left it didn't want/need/have to use it, and left it there, so
>>it would be used instead of going to waste. I saved another forty cents
>>(the difference, doubled by store policy). I have no way of knowing who
>>left it, and they had no way of knowing who would pick it up, or indeed
>>whether it would be used before it expired at all.
>>Does this (admittedly small) act qualify as altruism in your view?
>Altruism is a DESCRIPTION of behavior, not a CAUSE of behavior in most
>Richard Brodie +1.206.688.8600
>CEO, Brodie Technology Group, Inc., Bellevue, WA, USA
>Do you know what a "meme" is?