Re: virus: Re: sociological change

Alexander Williams (
Tue, 24 Dec 1996 15:43:16 -0500

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Ken Pantheists wrote:
> If they are a language, then once infected by them, you would use those
> motions to communicate your own pleasure, submission and playfulness.
> And it wouldn't be a matter of mimicking the dog-- you would have to
> have fully incorporated them into your brain in order for them to be a
> meme.

I can /read/ Latin a whole lot better than I can write it and better yet
than I can speak it so that a native Roman'd understand it. An argument
can be made that the dog is speaking to me in his own language and
interpreting my `sit' in his own context, close enough to my intent so
that he puts his butt on the floor. There'd no need for our conduits to
be the same for the engendered meme-complexi on either end to be similar
enough to communicate useful information.

Defending an inability to communicate on different conduit-methods would
be to say that I can't write meaningfully about art or theatre and art
can't say anything meaningful about literature. That's patently untrue,
as your own education attests.

> (I'm sorry-- as I type this I can't help but chuckle as I imagine you
> bouncing around your room on all fours, wagging your tail. Are you, by
> any chance, a dog who has taken a human nick just to fool us?)

I have been known to meow at my cat and hiss at my snake to some effect,
but generally we stick to the conduits we're best with; the cat purrs
and rubs at my legs and I make comforting sounds and stroke his back.

> Alex:
> If you accept that there are no entities, merely meme-complexi, then
> you can take `behaviours' themselves as `artifacts,' they are
> creations, just as language and pottery, that serve the complexi in
> some physical sense; like scribbles on paper, behaviours are `meme
> spoor.'
> ************************************************************
> But they can't become memes unless we use them.

You don't have to manifest a meme for it to be present. I'm quite
cognizant of the memes of hate, murder, and crimes of passions, but I'm
not actively /using/ them constantly unless its in conversations like
this where I make reference to them or in my writing when describing
varied horrid, foul acts that I have meme-complexi for but need not act

This might point to yet another definition clash.

> Yeah.
> It's been a major issue for a long time. Part of what you might call a
> human condition.
> Existentialism and post modernism seem like new spins on it, but I think
> you can go back to some of the earliest, most primal stories and
> symbols, you will see a kind of acknowledgement that you cannot
> absolutely judge a man because you cannot share absolutely his
> experience.
> So much of human storytelling and art is about just that-- trying to
> relay experience. I think we as a species understand that we have a
> double edged sword for a mind. We have the capacity to apprehend many
> experiences but can live only one. That is why we have developed
> narrative structures and abstractions for experience (i.e. culture)

Further, you've removed the ability for one person to communicate at all
with another, removing the ability to be `close enough' acceptibly. I,
obviously, extend `close enough' for the memetic contents for most
higher animal entities, you do not.

> You place a lot of faith in that first sentence. I agree, we *can* talk
> about pretty much anything. But can we effectively *communicate*
> everything? I think not.

In this case, define `effectively.' I don't have a lot of artistic
ability, but I think I could communicate the meme-complexi
representative of a `house' well enough, but I don't think I could
tackle `a warm house in the summer, reeking of family goodness.' Where
does the line at `effectively' fall?

> I didn't make my litle joke clear enough. I meant to say that honey
> bees, even if they lived in the time of human activity known as the
> Early Rennaissance, would not have much of an opinion or idea of the
> rennaissance-- because it is a purely human endeavour.
> Likewise-- ming dynasty cows don't think of themselves as subject to the
> rule of the ming dynasty emperors.

Alright, but how much interest do human historians have in The
Activities of the Hive of Queen Zanzael IIV in the Season of Sky Fires,
the mandible-passed history of the beehive in the English gardens during
the Early Renaissance, more specifically the first year's summer
thereof? How much interest did the Zulu Africans have in the history of
the Ming Dynasty? I think its safe to say that they were of entirely
different natures and, as such, completely uninterested.

Its only in really recent history have even the majority of human
cultures really been interested in studying the history of any cultural
group save their own in any depth.

> Well, I'vebeen blundering out of my home territory for a little while,
> so I'll come right back home and answer you withsomething from my own
> specific toolbox of "skills". Among many things that animals don't do,
> one is theatre. As a matter of fact, they're the worst actors around--
> they are so totally themselves. W.c. Feilds was right to never want to
> work with them. :)

Well, we're not too good in cetacian sing-alongs, either, nor in wolven
moon-howls, nor are we too keen when trying to get involved in dolphine
mating rituals (despite some rumors I've heard about female
pool-researchers at SeaWorld).

Why should they be natively good at one of our cultural artifacts when
we don't do well at theirs? It may be that its impossible to breach the
cultural boundaries between species to that depth.

> I. in my opinion, would say that hunger is an instinct or reflex, the
> food you eat is made available by the environment, but how it is
> prepared, what you eat first (soup or dessert), everything else is
> memes.

There is a difference between the /state/ of being hungry and the meme
that represents hunger. I can think about being hungry even when not, a
squirrel puts food away because a meme exits within its mental
eco-structure that links hunger with food and the need to put it away as
the weather cools.

> Then we don't have memes. Memes are the specific act. Otherwise all
> people in our species who are hungry would feed themselves the same way-
> we would graze on grass or bring down an animal and eat its flesh- just
> like animals do.

See, here's where our definitions start conflicting. In my view, memes
have nothing to do with being executed. I can have memes and entire
complexi which are latent, they exist for no other reason than for other
memes to refer to them.

> You are the first person I have come across that has said this.
> Most people hear about memetics and say "wow, a theory that can contain
> the multiplicity and duplicity of all culture-- mind boggling and
> exciting".... you are using it to reduce. you are a reductionist.

Worse, I'm a bottom-up Scheme/LISP programmer. I break things down into
tiny pieces and then build the system back up again, reusing as many
blocks as possible.

> Alex:
> You know, it just occured to me, if animals have no cultures, why do
> anthropologists study gorillas in the wild?
> *****************************************************************
> For the grant money?

Autumn now has full power granted by the Head Heretic to Nerf-slam you.

> Me:
> > Memetics, when applied to the behaviour of human animals, helps to
> > explain how we behave through our technology, through our social
> > contracts and personal ideologies, through our media....
> Alex:
> Important snip, `helps to explain how we behave.' ...
> *********************************************************
> Even more important snip." through our technology, through our social
> contracts and personal ideologies, through our media..

It has nothing to do with technology, contracts and media; at heart its
all behaviour.

   Alexander Williams { /}
  Prefect of the 8,000,000th Terran Overlord Government Experimental
      Strike Legion, Primary Transport TOG "Bellatores Inquieti"
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   Your life expectancy is less than two minutes.