virus: Level 3, Belief, and Utility

Reed Konsler (
Mon, 28 Oct 1996 15:26:20 -0400

>From: David McFadzean <>
>Date: Wed, 23 Oct 1996 13:04:24 -0600

>Here's an analogy I find useful: Say that objective reality is a
>person and our model (theory, description, belief) about reality
>is a portrait of that person. There is no end to the number of
>different portraits that can be created: pencil sketch, oil painting,
>bronze bust, chalk drawing, marble statue, photograph, short story,
>X-ray picture, home video, artfully arranged vials of bodily fluids,
>caricature, mug shot, JPEG, 3-D computer model, Myers-Briggs type,
>etc., etc. They can be more or less accurate (an X-ray of the person
>is certainly more accurate than a drawing of a totally different person)
>and they can be more or less useful depending on the task at hand
>(a mug shot is more useful than a painting if you want to find the
>person, but a painting is more useful if you want to decorate your
>house). But which portrait is the True one? I hope you can see how
>the question doesn't even make sense, no matter how skillful and talented
>the artist, no matter what materials are used, a portrait can never
>become the portrayed. And the same is true of our models, beliefs
>and theories.

I like this analogy. Let's try to tie this into Brodie's memetics levels.
A level-1 thinker, I suppose, is unconcious of the distinction or
relationship between the portraits and the portrayed. A level-1 thinker
interacts with objects in the environment completely empirically and
without preconception...unconciously, if you will. A level-2 thinker is
engaged in the perception, criticism, and perfection of a particular the painter who is always trying to create just the right
smile...or a clay sculptor playing with the nose...or the X-ray technician
working on higher resolution...

My understanding is that the level-3 thinker is familiar with a number of
portraits and is engaged in a process of determining which portrait is most
appropriate given a set of requirements or a goal. The level-3 thinker
awakes to the question "What will I believe today?" and answers it based
upon self-determined goal(s).

Two things are difficult in this analysis. The first is that we are not in
the habit of defining belief as something that is chosen. This would make
it a kind of opinion, yes? In this context, belief could also be fluxional
("Well, I only belive in God on Sundays...I like the taste of communion
wafers") and the common concept of belief incorporates some sense of
consistency over time...or else why is being "born again" such a powerful
analogy? We think of beliefs as static things which occupy a lot of brain
space and are often mutually exclusive.

The second is: from where do the goals come? Richards advocates "Choose a
goal and the beliefs will follow" (literally, he speaks of a natural
progress of reprogramming) but it is that choice which is left vague. I
would be very interested to find out how he advises us to select goals.

It seems to me that we are arguing about which portrait is appropriate for
given situations. Sometimes the situation is others we need
to aquire a tool (model or portrait) long before we need to use it. The
question becomes: what ideas are of the broadest general utility. Richard,
I believe, would argue that memetics is one such idea.

I'd like to see this level-3 concept devolped a little more as well.


Reed Konsler