Re: virus: Re: virus-digest V1 #115

brandon stewart (
Thu, 19 Dec 1996 03:13:54 -0500

XYZ Customer Support wrote:
> Prove that by infecting me with a meme that will be to your
> benefit. Use one of the several principles that are pointed out
> in articles about meme propagation and see if any of them can
> ever possibly apply to me.

This is in an interesting point to consider. But i do not think of it as
a counter-example to the idea that the environment of the mind can be
susceptible to certain propagating ideas. In biology, certain organisms
occupy ecological niches---that is, the environment is not the same for
every organism. I am hard pressed to think of a biological replicator
that can equally survive in all types of environments known to support
_some_ type of biological life.

Similarly, we can consider the realm of minds to be composed of many
environmental niches. As starters, we could probably call each of these
mental niches an "attitude". Within certain attitudes, certain ideas
will best spawn and respawn. Now, finally, as to why i do not think you
are susceptable to being amicable to Steve:

Assume an attitude X, which is antagonistic to Y. Any replicators Yr,
which fare well in Y, will probably not fare well in X. This is because
X uses any exposure to Y, including Yr, to redefine X against being
susceptable to these exposures. The more X is exposed to Yr, then, the
more Xr will be better equipped at remaining X, which is defined to be

Perhaps this is why Christians insist on letting people "make their own"
choice when choosing their faith. This lowers the apparent threat to
sceptics, making Christianity easier to spread, and thus giving it
better survival value. Of course, these people make their own choice in
a social atmosphere drenched with Christian replicators. People will
often choose Christianity because of a lack of anything else "on the
market". If their gaurd is down enough to be willing to buy, they will
have to go out of their way to pick up something other than Christian,
and they no longer have a priori reason to avoid things Christian.

However, this is all little more than analogy, it seems. The best that i
have seen of memetics so far, is that it "seems to fit". The earth seems
flat, if taken in a very loose localized analogy. And though we know the
earth now to be round, this knowledge would very likely not be had if we
did not first consider it as flat. Memetics, as it stands, seems little
more than such a first stab. But the analogies fit rather comfortably,
or uncomfortably depending on your belief going into this list.

As for predictive value, memetics does have this. But in this stage,
memetics is a no better predictor than existing social, psychological,
and behavioural sciences. One might say its lack of betterness is
inherint, or that it is simply because memetics is a new field. As an
instance of something memetics can predict, take for instance
advertisements. Advertisements that do not somehow appeal to the
interests of their audience or will have less success (as defined by the
intentions of the advertisement) than those that do appeal to interests.
That is, better advertisements have more reproductive value. Yet this
rather trivial fact can be explained equally well by intentionality and
pavlovian behaviour.