virus: mechanisms and people

Robin Faichney (
Mon, 16 Jun 1997 14:23:00 +0100

A couple of weeks ago, David McF said something that I
took to mean, viewing people and mechanisms as
essentially similar leads to lots of good insights that are
denied to those who prefer to stress their differences.
(I hope I got that right.) I'd like to state my position here,
because I don't think it came out clearly before.

I don't the deny the validity of at least some of the
insights gained from looking for similarities between
people and mechanisms. In fact I've experienced
such insights myself. But I have to say there are
also insights to be gained from looking for differences
between p's and m's.

Now, I readily admit to a prejudice in favour of
differences, and against similarities. And I suspect,
though I may be wrong, that David would admit to
a preference for heading in the opposite direction.
Ideally, we will both be sufficiently open-minded
that some day we will be able to agree that people
are like machines in certain specific ways, and
unlike them in other ways.

But there's another factor here that spoils the
symmetry, and this is where memes come in
(explicitly). You see, I believe that to view
people and machines as essentially similar is
both to dehumanise other people in your eyes,
and to dehumanise you. This is due to the
differences, not between people and machines,
but between the people and machine memes,
or rather the meme-complexes associated
with each of these, and their psycho-social

And, this may be a lot to ask, but in my view
it would aid the discussion greatly if anyone
who feels like responding would first read
because Jaron Lanier there states what's
also my position, very clearly. It's an
article that first appeared in the Journal of
Consciousness Studies: