Re: virus: Re: virus-digest V1 #116

Alex Williams (
Sat, 21 Dec 1996 10:45:27 -0500 (EST)

> 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.

Machines /now/ certainly do not host memes or provide a creative
medium for their interaction; machines today operate as a `conduit,'
just as speach or the written word does, to facilitate the
transmission of meme spoor.

However, I can see a time in which the AI community comes up with a
system of sufficent complexity that its operation /can/ be described
with the meme-abstraction, and thus, be aproachable through memetics.
Likewise, as I just said in an earlier post, I don't have a problem
with applying the meme-abstraction to animalk behaviour analysis. To
me, it seems clearly applicable and even useful.

Memes cannot exert power independently from us simply because we are
their `conduit' to manifest reality. Memes wear our flesh just as
genes do, in order to propogate themselves. This would seem to be a
basic axiom of meme theory.

> 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.

Your preferences /themselves/ are memes, and when they approach a
competing meme in your headspace, they either support each other's
existance or conflict, leading to you exhibiting your preference one
way or another. There is no `you' to pick, no more than in most
modern computers, there is a `spirit in the machine.' There is only
hardware and abstract instructions running on it.

> 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.

Again, what are you selecting the ideas with? Infinite regress and
lack of solution lies down that road. Applying meme theory, you have
a complex interaction of independent agents as your model, along yours
we hit the typical `who made the mover?' question theists ponder.

> 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:

Actually, the entirety of memetics is virtual; we anthropomorphise the
memes so that they `conflict,' they `fight,' they `cause,' but in the
end its all abstraction. The question is whether or not its a
`revealatory' abstraction, does it allow us to perceive and understand
what we did not previously. In my opinion, it does and thus enters my
`library of tools,' so to speak.

`Society is the medium and outcome of social practice,' is definitely
a stance opposite that of the memeticist. In memetics, as I
understand them, the world is viewed as a bottom-up structure; you
consider the individual first, then the aggregate as a syncretic
construct of that. In that paradigm, thus, the above statement would
be `society is the mass-motion of individual practice.'

> 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.

For the process of discussing the meme, /not/ giving it `first class
object' status is a contradiction in terms; that axiom is part of the
adopted paradigm.

Note that in memetics, the /human/ is not the agent. Humans provide
an environment for the agents (meme-complexes) to live in. This is an
important difference, it allows you to remove the `human' from the
consideration, in true Occam fashion; save for the genetic influences,
there /is/ no "magic I," no /entity/ save in the fact that it provides
a habitat for memes (and genes, in the same fashion, see THE SELFISH