Re: virus:"other reality"

Marek Jedlinski (
Tue, 7 May 1996 04:31:42 +0200 (MESZ)

On Sun, 05 May 1996 Dan Henry <> wrote:

>>> To believe (the meme) X is to incorporate (the meme) X into one's
>>> meme-structure.
>>But how can
>>you determine whether or not I have "incorporated (the meme) X
>>into my meme-structure"? If it shows in my behavior, you can.
>>If it doesn't, what value does the definition present?
> My proposal was meant to be less useful by avoiding
>the problems associated with the method of detection. But not all
>definitions include the means of detection.

That's what I'm wondering about...

>As an example, consider OCR. It is simple to define the letter "A", but it
>is extraordinarily difficult to develop and algorithm that reliably detects
>all the forms of the letter "A" that we can easily read.

Yes, but the only way to detect the letter "A" is by observation, while
the difficulty of expressing it 'softwarily' lies probably in the
complexity of the observation process. E.g. in dealing with extremely
illegible handwriting we may often be able to make correct guesses
based on elimination - if you can read three out of six letters in a
word, then you can radically limit the range of possibilities for the
remaining three letters. Ultimately we may often reliably determine
the presence of the letter "A" (or its intended presence!) even if
there is only an empty space instead -- say, a stain on the page.
But even in less extreme situations, the shape of any given letter
will vary greatly, and arbitrarily - compare upper case and lower
case 'a' and 'A', or -- better -- 'd' and 'D'!

Overall, it seems to me that *all* definitions rely on observation
of some quality or behavior of the defined entity. That it to say,
I cannot think of an example to contradict that. Ideas, anyone?

>I was hoping merely to present the bare-bones definition that all could
>accept (hopefully including Reed), thus closing the thread. Then, we could
>discuss how to detect a belief in another person. But that's the part that
>I think is futile.

I think we may not be able to get very far until we precisely define
the concept of meme itself. Dawkins caused a lot of confusion when he
said that a brainb and a book and a song are 'equivalent' as meme
carriers. In fact, we should probably treat the brain ONLY as the
proper carrier, while 'inanimate' objects merely as exernal represen-
tations of memes. A meme contained in this message will not replicate
without a brain to decode it.

I would like to suggest a modification of your definition of 'belief'
along these lines:

"To believe X is to incorporate (the meme) X into one's meme-structure
permanently with corresponding physical change in one's neural structure
(synaptic complexes in the brain)."

My addition of 'permanently' is of minor importance here and the
permanence will need to be relative only (you don't really believe
something if you discard the idea after 10 minutes' deliberation).

The other part is a lay attempt at introducing some verifiability;
whatever it is that happens in our brains as we think, believe or
remember, it must be accompanied by some physical changes of state
of the neural connections. (I have a memetician-neuroscientist
friend of mine's paper on this here, but it's in Polish... I am
planning to translate it, but don't hold your breath yet. Call this
a vapour-reference ;-) Anyway, if such changes do occur, they will
be traceable. Then we could determine the presence of a belief
without relying on the subject's unreliable introspection. Unless,
that is, we are content with 'meme' as a metaphor only, but that
would be closer to poetry than reasoning :)

marek jedlinski