Re: virus: Autocatalytic Idea System Examples

Dave Pape (
Thu, 29 May 1997 18:59:22 +0100 (BST)

At 13:19 29/05/97 +0200, Chitren wrote:
>>Hello. Here's some more memes about autocatalytic things, if anyone's
>That brings me to my first post on Virus.

Hello! Welcome to our shared world of Ideas Turbulence.

>I have read part of Daniel Dennett's "Consciousness Explained",
>where he exposes his view of consciousness as a set of memes.
>Does it seem sensible to view the whole set of memes as personality ?

Erm... dunno. Certainly I view personality as emerging from cognitive
interaction. Some of that interaction is non-memetic (ie emotional,
perceptual, motor), so it's not the case that all the memes in your head are
ENOUGH to provide personality. If anyone's got any old posts from me that
claim they ARE enough... sorry. BUT I don't know whether I'd claim that ALL
your memes are needed to make your personality.

Actually I'd probably claim that there's no such unitary thing AS
personality. "Personality" is probably memetic shorthand for a bunch of
ideas you use to predict how people will act, rather than a stable meta-idea
that gets activated in your head.

>Here's another thing : if personality really is an autocatalytic set,
>how do you expand your basic meme system ?

Hmm... I think you might be forcing me to improve my ideas about what
personalities are. I may have to stop believing in them :)

>Unless you have an ethical principle to keep an open mind and not
>reject any hypothesis, you're bound to absorb and agree with only
>memes that do not contradict what you already know, meaning you
>don't really grow :

I'd say this is black-and-whitism. I think encumbent memes certainly make it
HARDER for newly arrived (and disagreeing) memes to gain a foothold in the
competition for cognitive resource, but if they're drummed into you hard
enough, eventually you'll get reprogrammed, and (parts of) the encumbent
memecology will "rewire"- cognitively in terms of associative relationships
between ideas, and neurally in terms of connection strengths between nerve
cells. I've certainly become much more of a 9-to-5 sellout workaday
cocksucker in the last 3 years, and I'd say that's cos I've been hit with a
constant stream of pro-work-society memes.

>the autocatalytic system, hasn't produced anything
>new, that same meme you agree with could have been reached via your
>autocatalytic memetic system.

Could it? Maybe you were trapped in all sorts of local minimums... stuck in
little basins of attraction, caused by connections between ideas/neural
groups... Your claim here assumes that the process of memetic interaction
leading to meta-concept formation never gets stuck. I reckon that, given
stable conditions, you do get stagnation of memetic systems/ideas. Just like
genetic evolution slows down when conditions and ecological relationships
stabilise. It takes a kick to the system (although maybe only a small one)
to knock the system out of its ruts. Ruts are such a fucking good image...
local minima, man. ...Ruts. ...Yeh.

>Which brings me to Robinson's Formal System and Godel's incompleteness
>Godel's theorem shows that you need to have some axioms in any system,
>because you cannot prove all theorems of the system within the system

If I understand axioms okay (ie as unproved/unprovable theorems), I think
I'm with you.

>You'd need a meta-system for that.

Okay... now then... my feedback thing, where I'm saying that feedback is
like replication, is saying that feedback produces a metasystem, but it
takes time to do it. IE consciousness is ideas (for want of a better word)
emerging about the way your brain/memecology was just now... except the time
and space positions "now" and "in your brain" need to be smeared a bit.
You're never conscious of yourself BEING CONSCIOUS of HOW YOU ARE RIGHT
NOW... see what I'm getting at? I'm sure this is where Robin Faichney was at
when he was talking about potential infinite feedback loops in
consciousness. So /you (the fuzzy version of) now/ is... the meta-system of
/you a (fuzzy) moment ago/...? Am I talking shit here? Ouch...

>Robinson's FS has been used to make PROLOG, a language much used for
>AI systems, an especially for Expert Systems. The basic idea is to
>arrive at a new system of propositions (hope I'm not making any mistake
>here)but in a reasonable amount of time.
>The only way to achieve this is to try to falsify the new system
>consisting of the old one and the opposite of the hypothesis you want to

Sorry, I didn't really hook into that bit... can you give a bit more detail?

>We succeed in out-Godeling Godel's Theorem (not absolutely because his theorem
>is correct, but we can do the metasystem transition - see Turchin for that -
>and reach a greater autocatalytic meme set) because we can juggle with
>apparently contradicting ideas. This is how we progress scientifically as well.
>We would not need paradigm shifts for science advancement if all scientists
>had an open mind as well.

>In fact what we should do is consciously favour memetic variation, selection
>does the rest.

Well I dunno, to be honest. The way I see it, there's two strategies you
could adopt:

1 Grab hold of a stable memetic ecology and stick with it. Hmm. That's
a very Cartesian-dualist way of saying it. How about... you could have (be?)
a thinking style in which memes and other cognitive entities put competitors
down very fiercely. Maybe all that'd be needed for this is heavy-handed
lateral inhibition circuitry.


2 Memes don't compete as fiercely. This'd probably make you sound more
"imaginitive", in that you'd get wilder associations between
thoughts/ideas/memes... but the flipside would probably be that you'd
"change your mind" a lot, and you'd "be indecisive", meaning that control of
your behaviour would pass more fleetingly between competing memes, and
memetic competitions would take longer to resolve. During those contests
you'd just sit there, not actually implementing any of the competing memes.

Now, I think everyone exhibits both strategies, or lies along a continuum
between the two extremes. BUT what I'm saying is that both strategies are
valid in their way, and different mixes of both suit various different
situations. Critically, I'd say that there's disadvantages as well as
advantages to your memes/ideas competing less fiercely.

Thanks for the post... I'm definitely thinking about how I view
personalities... reckon I may've fallen into an oversimplification-trap.
Will print this out and have a think.


Dave Pape
I am ready.

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