virus: Memetics and set theory

Eric Boyd (
Thu, 02 Oct 1997 05:29:39 -0500

Hi all;

First, thanks Tim for bringing the idea of applying set theory to
memetics... suddenly all of those Math 217 classes are *useful*! Iím
afraid Iíve lost your original post (Iím only receiving the Virus
Digests, and I donít keep them), but hopefully Iíve reconstructed it
here to suit you. Anyway, into my comments and "new" ideas about

First, Iím broadening the discussion from "memes" to ideas. Donít want
to restrict myself, and I'm unsure of exactly what a "meme" is... so
here goes.

First, let me define my sets:

U := {all possible ideas}
("Universal set")

E := {all ideas currently in existence}
("Existance set")

A := {all ideas in a given individuals ideosphere}
("Awareness set")
A is equivalent, for my purposes, to {all ideas an individual has been
exposed to} (I am neglecting "forgetfulness")

and some sets of functions:
(where a function is a "machine" that "influences" our behaviour)

C := {all ideas *controlling* an individual}
("Controlling set")

M := {all idea influences on an individuals idea selection process}
("Memetic influence set")

G := {all genetic influences on an individuals idea selection process}
("Genetic influence set")

O := {all other influences on an individuals idea selection process}
("Other influence set")
(this could possibly be a null set... itís just a fudge factor)

some general notes:
1) When an idea is "selected", it becomes a part of set C, and possibly
a part of set M as well.

2) The combination of C and G and O *is* the individual. (tautology)
(all we're saying is that the combination of all influences on an
individual result in that individual. i.e. we are the sum of that which
controls us)

3) is the universal set U the mind of God? Is it even meaningful to
postulate the existence of this set? I donít use it, but it certainly
fits into the above very well. Question: is U an infinite set? i.e. is
there a limit on idea diversity? If so, why? If not, (and I hope there
isnít) does that trivialize "the Quest for Truth"? (this question has
been answered, but I wasn't happy with it... try again!)

4) C is contained in A ( denoted by C < A )
Similarly, M < C < A < E < U

5) let Q be some individual

6) It should be noted that Brodie's three Primary "buttons" are
*genetic* in nature (G), while "science" (the process) is mostly
*memetic* in nature (C) and (M).

Now, on to the meat:

M and G and O can be seen as sets of functions which map elements from A
into C, and possibly into M as well. i.e. Through the combined
"machinery" of the ideo influences M, the genetic influences G and the
other influences O, ideas that Q is aware of A(Q) are mapped (or not)
into C.

Iím not sure if there is really any difference between C and M, but I
think itís valuable to separate them out anyway. It makes it very clear
that one can "change ones mind" and yet still have the same basic
epistemological stance M.

Now, idea creation. If we agree that ideas are evolutionary beasts[1],
it follows that all ideas arise out of previous, related, ideas. i.e.
"new" ideas are not possible, but "novel" combinations are.

Since then new ideas can only arise out of ideas that you are aware of
(A), it follows that if we want idea *diversity*, we must have Awareness
diversity. That is, we must have people who have different Aís. The
more different the better.

Now an interesting thing about this is expansion of E. Expansion of E
can only occur by expansion of the Aís which E contains. That is, ideas
canít form themselves, *we*, the ideaís nominal vectors, are very
necessary. Until our computers (or some other pseudo individuals) are
able to combine ideas in novel ways (diversity) and decide which ideas
are "good" (selection) we have nothing to fear from them, for they
arenít capable of hosting ideas.

"Computers are useless. They can only give you answers." - Pablo Picasso

(note that A also expands by exposure to U through the senses... We are
all well aware of the danger of "Big Brother"... who is dangerous not
becuase He is "smart" (i.e. a "pseudo individual" from above) but simply
becuase of the vast amount of information available to Him. What this
really means is that even if computers don't become evolutionairy agents
like us, they still pose a danger since they can expand their A's fast
enough to *not* need to be capable of that. It is not the knowledge
that is scary but the *influx* of knowledge. For we will always triumph
over a static system)

Now: a level 3 analysis.

First, I want to quote what Brodie *actually* says in Virus of the Mind.
Which is very little (I hope you donít mind, Mr. Brodie...)

"Level 3 is learning to look at life as something to be /created/ out of
your personal programming and purpose -- the /two/ Pís? -- rather than
as a maze of knowledge, beliefs, goals and challenges to be run like a
rat. Itís complete personal freedom Ė freedom from societal pressures,
freedom from guilt, freedom from mind viruses. <para> In level 3, you
pick a purpose for your life and hold it as your highest priority. If
you commit strongly enough to this purpose, the cognitive dissonance
created with old memes that donít support this purpose will result in
some reprogramming" Pg. 223

It seems level 3 is about freedom and meaning.

Of course, that isnít what youíve been talking about here at all. For
this reason, I much prefer Tad's term "MS Flip" for what you've been
talking about, which I can sum up real quick:

1) All people are controlled by memes
2) You cannot escape!!!!! EVER!! :-)
3) However, you can decide to "flip" between differing sets of
controlling memes, and in that way you can "control memes" - although
they still control you.

In summary: Level 3 is the freedom *to* choose your memes, but not
freedom *from* your memes.

"Level 3 is characterized by the ability to flex your meme-space on the
fly; to use multiple models depending upon your purpose and priorities.
It's possible to gain an intellectual understanding of what this means
from Level 2, but probably not possible to really feel the impact of the
difference in life experience. The Level-3 mind has a great capacity to
hold dissonant, contradictory beliefs. (Einstein was said to have this
ability.)" -- Richard Brodie

Now, honestly, Iím having a hard time trying to rationalize these two
different presentations of level 3. On the one hand, it is "committing
strongly enough", and on the other itís "use multiple models"... All in
all, the new "MS Flip" thing is a quite different than "level 3"

But then, Iím at a level 2 understanding of level 3...

Anyway, back to my analysis. MS Flip, then, it the idea that one can
switch Cís (and thus Mís) between differing subsets of A. However, as I
see it, all of these different subsets must have a least one common
idea: the idea that switching between different Cís is good. (if the
new C does not contain this, then the individual stops being an MS Flip
person until such a time as C *does* include it... for they become

Does this necessity place any limits on the contents of C for an MS Flip

My answer: only if C has to be a consistent set (i.e. every element x in
C agrees with every other element in x) If C doesnít have to be
consistent, then the set could contain both "flipping is good" and
"flipping is not good" (which, seems synonymous with "I know the Truth")
without trouble, and in theory *any* possible combination of A could be
"chosen" to be C.

Thus, for an MS Flip mind, *consistency* is *not* a good thing: it
limits the potential number of viable subsets C of A.

The question then is: in abandoning consistency, what has the MS Flip
individual lost?
(i.e. what is the price paid?)

Iíll leave this one to Tad, since he seems to like this side of it.

End MS Flip analysis.

Now I want to talk about functions defined on their own range. I said
earlier that M and G and O could be considered sets of functions which
map elements from A into C. Since some parts of C are also in M, it
follows that M and G and O map elements from A into M on occasion.

But what does it mean to have a function which can modify itself? And
how do we deal with such a beast? I think itís beyond mathematics,
although Iíd have to do more research into "implicit functions" to be
sure. Really, what this means is that at a fundamental level our minds
are "boot-strapping" themselves. Using their current platform to modify
their current platform... a circular construct.

Perhaps Iíll talk to some pure math Profs. and see what they have to say
about this...

(and sorry I took so long, Tim)

who is really doing this as a review for himself, but thinks a general
clarifying of the Virus discussion is needed anyway...

[1] If we agree that ideas are evolutionary beasts... the first memetic
--> We can't even agree that *memes* exist, let alone that *all* ideas
are memes!