RE: virus: Autocatalytic Idea System Examples

Gifford, Nate F (
Thu, 29 May 1997 09:23:13 -0400

Dave Pape wrote:
>Standards in industry (eg ASCII, SQL) are an example of self-tightening
>feedback systems: different companies develop their own standards, and
>them in parallel, and the standards tend to be quite short-lived, and
>companies start talking and all of a sudden a committee or convention is
>called and a lasting, global standard implemented. The talking and
>forming is the system tightening itself, see?

I think that standards are more an agreement on terms...a sort of best
practices if you will. For the most part the only places standards exist
are where it is in a collection of companies best interests to cooperate.
Take Unix for example ... there was the really cool BSD standard and the
stodgy AT&T Sys V. I've been stuck in the Microsoft world for the past six
years or so, but it seems to me that standardization killed Unix. I know
there is now Free BSD and Linux ... but I look at them as new growth on a
decaying tree trunk and unlikely to thrive in the long run <I REALLY HOPE
I'M WRONG>. Compare that to Microsoft who only keeps enough internal
standardization to not piss off its customer base. My point is that it
seems to me that standardization is a symbiotic/parasitic process. Its
symbiotic in that it provides enough structure for an idea - Unix - to
grow. Its parasitic in that in the long run it constrains the idea until
it can no longer grow because the standard prevents implementation of new

>Musical styles are another example. Typically, pop music genres begin with
>bunch of woolly, not-quite-there tunes which all contain elements of how
>well-formed genre will sound. As the genre develops the musical ideas
>involved in the tune get more and more tightly associated, and there'll
>loads of selective basins-of-attraction shit mixed in there, meaning that
>certain groups of closely-associated musical memes keep on getting
>exercised... and they'll be the ones which produce loads of tunes, loads
>emergent metamemes...
In last Sunday's paper I just read that KISS is allowing the Muzak company
produce four of their songs. I contend that "the not quite-there tunes"
ARE THERE - they are the basis that less creative, but more
culturally-in-tune groups use to sell the original ideas. Its my opinion
that most groups really only have one to three albums in them. My favorite
example would be Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Neil Young is legendary
for his ability to lead state of the art ... but only by abandoning
paradigms. On the other hand I saw C,S,N on tour last summer <someone GAVE
me a ticket>. The band seemed to be having a good ... relaxed time, but
the concert was like a zombie convention. Perhaps it was just me, but the
fans were acting the same way they were back in 1972 <sans MaryJane>. I
don't think they'd heard any new music since Disco drove them to the
classic rock station on their radio.
>La la la.
Boom - De- Boom - De - Boom Boom Boom.

Ironically, New Music is about rejecting whatever the record companies are
currently pushing so the record companies will push you.