Re: virus:"other reality"

Dan Henry (
Thu, 09 May 1996 21:28:57 +0600

At 04:31 AM 5/7/96 +0200, Marek Jedlinski wrote:

>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'!

I wasn't even thinking about handwriting. Just recognizing
computer-generated typefaces of the same letter is very difficult. But my
point was that we all know what an 'A' is, though I'll bet none of us can
write an algorithm to _detect_ one. Hence, definition does not directly
rely on detection.

>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?

Another example: the neutrino. We can define the hell out of it (charge,
spin, mass, symmetry, interactions, etc). But there are still some we
haven't detected or observed. And those we can find are detected by
inference only. The experimentalists think of ways to detect them, but
those detection methods are not part of the definition.

>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.

Another good area for discussion. I would have to side with Dawkins. I
would say that memes can mutate within (and only within) brains, but that
replication takes place only on tranference - from a brain to a brain, or a
book to a brain (I withhold judgement on copy machines and computer disks).

>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)."

This is great! And it might satisfy some of the others who insist on some
outward sign for proof of belief. The neat thing is that detection is
_hypothetically_ possible. It is conceivable that one day we'll be able to
externally monitor brainwaves with enough precision to detect such a
physical change. Does it matter that the detection isn't possible today?
Hollis H. Henry
ES&H Analyst
SCIENTECH, Inc., Hyperk Group TRAC Team
E-mail address:
Phone: (303) 258-0726