virus: Re: virus-digest V1 #116
Fri, 20 Dec 1996 14:09:29 -0500

Replying to Alex Williams,

I don't know whether anthropocentrism "is a bad way to go," but I'm confident
that machines are simply tools by which humans communicate over time and
space. To be sure, these tools now enable us to coordinate (rule and be
ruled) on a global scale, but they are resources that we put into service.
You might be comfortable in the idea that you are serving them or some other
extra-somatic master, but that drum you're marching to was first played by a
human. Memes do not and can not exercise power independently of us.

For example, genetically, I can not pick my parents. In terms of ideas,
however, I have an option. As I understand your view, the memes pick us,
regardless of my preference. That either takes me and my choices out of the
picture, or equates me with the files that might make up my home page.

So I disagree with you. I can, I'm sure, select the ideas I follow, if not,
as Marx said, under circumstances of my choosing. People act within society.
The dichotomy is inescapable. There is no need to reduce it more than that.
The challenge, I think we agree, is to understand the forces of change.

I might agree that individuals are not completely autonomous. We interact
through our shared competence with language and rules. But rule-based society
is virtual, not animate as your rendering of memetics seems to imply. As I
said before, following Giddens--society is the medium and outcome of social
practice. By stating the axiom, "Memes make the mind, and a mind is the way
memes make more memes," you are consistent in recognizing that you hold the
opposite opnion:

I think the term co-constitution satisfies the need to show that agents
(socially acting humans) and structures can not exist without the other. It
is important to understand that the term recognizes the dichotomy of real and
virtual while avoiding the danger of conflating the two. Therefore, I don't
think that I have privileged some "magic I." It seems to met that you have
certainly privileged the meme, elevating it to dominant status.

Craig Simon