RE: virus: In defense of heroes and fans

Gifford, Nate F (
Mon, 8 Dec 1997 10:04:56 -0500

>BTW, if anyone's interested, I'm thinking about putting
>together a memetic account of the suppression of
>dissenting views in modern Western societies.

Shouldn't a memetic account try to prove that it's society's job to
suppress dissenting views?

>> I am saying that both of your visions are
>> idealistic ... and open to predation by individuals with less
>> idealistic
>> visions ... such as your average third world dictator who
>> percentages of aid for his country into a Swiss bank account or
>> communist
>> party members.
>Is all idealism prone to such predation, or just certain

I believe that all idealism is prone to such predation. As an
environmental economist you would be in a better position than I to disprove if you could cite examples of stable idealistic societies I'd
appreciate it. 20 years or so ago I took a 1 hour class on Utopian
movements in America. The one thing I got out of the class was a deeper
appreciation for the Eagle's album Hotel California....Call some place
paradise and watch it die....

>> >> It seems to
>> >> me to be born in a circumstance where you are unable to
>> develop a
>> >> talent is
>> >> equivalent to being born without the talent.
>> >>
>> >That equation is context dependent. Can you really say
>> >that to be born in a particular circumstance is enough
>> >to preclude that development?
>> Yes, I can find conditions nasty enough so that we both
>> that
>> development is impossible: The Manila dump, Somalia, North Korea
>But it's still a generalisation -- you can't say for sure
>that any individual in such a place could not stumble
>upon whatever they would need to counter the ill

Read the writings of concentration camp survivors / and other
prisoners. I have a penchant for reading survival type literature and
universally survivors have to look out for number 1. The best they are able
to do for their fellows is to not overtly predate. I would argue that when
you spend all your waking hours scrabbling for food any energy spent on
trying to "counter ill effects" is deadly in the short run. Its only when
theres a margin for survival that there is a benefit for abstract thought
... which is necessary <but not sufficient?> for blowing other minds.

I would make the argument that the majority of the world's
population lives in these prison-like conditions ... and that abstract
thought is selected against in these conditions. I think the intellectual
inertia preventing the "state change" between concrete thinking and abstract
thinking is the root of the world's problems.

>> Whose values should we use? As I remember on of Karl Marx's
>> kids
>> died of TB because her daddy wouldn't get a real job.
>Oh yeah? Who told you that? Wasn't an all-American
>teacher-person, by any chance? Do you think that
>even a time-travelling modern epidemiologist going back
>there could pin down a kid's death of TB to any one

Sorry you're right.... Karl Marx increased the probability of the
early death of his offspring by failing to get a real job.
The reason that I made this point was that it was loans and gifts
that enabled Marx to continue his studies. The price he paid was miserable
circumstances for his family. I suspect that you would argue that Marx
proves "mind blowing stuff" can be produced despite grinding poverty while I
argue that Marx provides a baseline for the maximum amount of misery an
individual can stand and still produce "mind blowing stuff". After all,
Marx certainly wasn't living in the worst squalor that Victorian England
could provide .... and I suspect that the conditions that England provided
were better than what Germany offered.

>> Likewise, few artists wish to pay the cost for writing a
>> work
>> of art ... making the ones who do heroes. By not saying Willa
>> is
>> "better" then Jackie Collins aren't we encouraging people to
>> like
>> Jackie Collins .... since its so much easier?
>I'm bemused by the suggestion that willingness to pay
>makes the difference between great and not-so-great
>artists. And I say that as an environmental economist
>who has "willingness to pay" (WTP) coming out of
>his ears. Don't you think that an artist's perceptions
>of their own abilities might come into it somehow?
>Not to mention their own tastes.

This is deeply memetic....what comes first art or perceptions of

>You're not one of
>those who believe they learned the meaning of life
>in Econ 101, are you?

I'm not sure .... I do believe that Von Neuman's Mini-Max theorem is
one of life's great truths. But, I'm not sure if this belief is the symptom
you're talking about or not.

>> The movie Dr. Strangelove does a wonderful job of exploiting the
>> ludicrousness of a narrow definition of utility. I contend that
>> egalitarian views can lead to equally distopian scenarios.
>> the
>> story in "Welcome To The Monkey House" by Kurt Vonnegut where
>> is
>> equal is the best example of this.
>Hey, I remember that, though it's about 20 years since
>I read it! But what's artificially-enforced "equality" (like
>fit people having to wear weights all the time) got to do
>with what I'm saying? Isn't that the exact opposite of
>saying that we are all intrinsically, potentially equal?

My point was that there is always tension between freedom and
equality. For instance, here in the States we have the freedom to live an
incredibally sweet life. By cutting back just a little ... say 5% of our
energy expenditure we could double the standard of living for an equal
number of people. The general consensus is not to do that .... I suspect
because we know the better off the miserable are the more they want, and the
stronger they are the more likely they are to get it. So I guess I was
thinking of the story metaphorically .... that we <the first world, the
Northern Hemisphere, the West, whatever> choose not to <possibly> get our
mind's blown by the majority of the world's population because then we
couldn't drive to the fitness center. Now you can certainly provide me with
examples of people who don't fit this paradigm but they are the exceptions
who prove my rule.

My rule is that survival type selfishness is the basis for the
mini-max theorem. There are probably more utilitarian/egalitarian possible
worlds out there, but in order to get to them something has to level the
status quo ... As an economist you could enumerate the set of what that
something is better than I. Two members from the top of my head are
{technology, new resources}.