Re: virus: Re: sociological change

Alex Williams (
Sat, 28 Dec 1996 19:14:03 -0500 (EST)

> What you can do is lie about what it's like to be any of those people.
> The credibility of your lie will depend on how many people are willing
> to be swept up in it. (welcome to the first virus-acting workshop) ;)

In a sense, /all/ communication through all our various conduits is a
`lie.' It doesn't capture the memes that are intersecting in our
minds, they're merely `meme spoor,' the markings make by memes. As
such, all these arguments apply equally to all forms of human
communication and, I'd say, to all forms of communication, no matter
their species of origin.

> You could pretend to be hamlet and that would have credibility because
> you are following a script written by an acknowledged playwright and we
> trust that shakespeare's words are "truthful" in that they teach us
> something about the human condition and about revenge. (the "shakespeare
> was an excellent writer" meme)

Or I could pretend to be Hamlet and, despite being backed by a great
writer, I could be laughed off the stage because I'm so bad at it. Or
I could perform a part in a play by a playwright no one had ever heard
of, yet carry off the performance, be believable in the role, by
matching the expectations of the audience.

> You can even pretend to be the guy with aids or the catholic woman
> waiting for an abortion. Now here is where is gets sticky. How iron-clad
> is your presentation? How are you communicating this experience? Are you
> allowing the audience to see you assemble the "performance" by having
> them come to the theatre, read a program with your name in it as one of
> the actors-- if you were writing, you would assemble your performance by
> saying "If I were a cotholic woman..." You can even state " I AM A
> COTHOLIC WOMAN" (a blatant lie) and it would still have credibility if
> it occurs in the context of theatrical conventions or *style*.

... or if it occurs in a purely textual medium and there are no
independently verifiable verities.

Mind you, this gets away from the real question we were approaching,
but its interesting in its own memetic right.

> But, of course, there are real catholic women and real guys with AIDS
> who can poke holes in your credibility. So if you say something
> outrageous and absolutely wrong-- basically putting words in their
> mouths-- they will try to "take back" their identity from you.

If they can. And even then, the conduit's already been used, no
matter /who or what I am/ I've employed the conduit to give you my
meme spoor and your (the collective you) are reacting to it, by
spawning memes in your own minds which may lead to you `calling me
out' or even supporting my view, /whether or not the origin was

> What would be even more outrageous is if you lied to all your friends,
> by telling them that you have aids and how bummed out you are about it.

Probably could pull that off, too, though my friends would wonder
where I picked it up and probably conclude it was from draining the
blood from indigents ...

> (You can usually get away with saying anything about cats-- Andrew Lloyd
> Webber did. It is unlikely they will demonstrate in the ticket lines for

I'd chark that up to the felines not caring enough and figuring it was
good PR, anyway.

> They will not hold a candle to the detail of the real experiences of a
> real person who has lived for years as that person and has put his or
> her whole life into creating that persona.

Unless you present too /much/ detail and fail the test of authenticity
by being /too/ polished, which is quite easy to do.

> The long and the short of it-- You can comminicate to a limited degree
> an imagined experience, but that communication will always be focussed
> through the lens of your local experience. Ever see white actors playing

I've not one argued against this point, but rather for its extension
to /all/ facets of communication and its corellary: You can
/understand/ communication only focussed through your lens of local

> "indians" in movies? Isn't it just pathetic? Why do we know this?
> Because the "indians" have talked back to those images and, once those
> messages sink in, we can see the power structures.

Actually, I thought it was because the "indians" don't match our
expectations for what we /should/ be seeing. Sort of like seeing
Arnold Swarzenegger playing Seymour in LITTLE SHOP OF HORROR.

> I have always seen memetics as a visualization of these competing
> "modules" of communicated experience (imaginary or authentic), these
> constructions of body, time, status, place, wealth, gender...

And it is, absolutely. I just suggest its extensible beyond human
culture is all.

> i don't see memetics as a key to human socialization. I think it has
> more to do with the abstraction of our experience. And I don't think
> animals perform these abstractions-- they are exactly what they are.
> That's what makes them so calming to be around-- why they are good
> companions to have in our private homes where we want to filter out all
> that abstraction and be who *we* are. Pets cue you to be you. They don't
> give special credence to you "as the executive" or you "as the sports
> car driver"-- they just lick your face.

What is the key to human socialization if it isn't abstraction of our
experience? That is why memes conglomerate into cultures, in order to
propogate individual experiences in ways that others can interpret and
use to eventuate their own improved survival chances. Humanity, of
course, has been well above the memetic survival line for some time,
and like all evolving entities that no longer have to spend most of
their evolutionary time keepinf up with the environment, widespread
memetic mutations and alterations have occured, cultures and memes are
no longer dedicated soley to the survival of the specie but also
toward exploring the memetic landscape of experiences and
possibilities, not all of which are optimal, but as long as they're
more optimal than survival demands there's room for some slop.

Animals have very low needs to handle abstraction. They are, as a
result, significantly less complex responders than other human beings.
However, we know empirically that canines form social packs and a
hierarchy of society therein; that in itself demands a certain
facility with abstraction (`that's not just another dog, that's the
alpha'). Pets cue you as `that guy who feeds me,' and as such, you
get preferential treatment; in general, dogs see their masters as the
`pack alpha' and demonstrate similar submissive behaviour as

Cats just keep in mind you feed them.

Its interesting to note that in the wild, while domestic dogs form
social packs, domestic cats are still solitaries for the most part.
Training a dog to do tricks is only slightly challenging, while
training a cat to do tricks gives credit to the idea of the human
Saint. You might be tempted to chalk this up to a difference in
intelligence, but I'll just rebut that intelligence implies memetic
environ ...

> What do you want to build?
> Why are you proposing that it be built?
> Is it not a *representation* of a memesphere? Because it isn't a
> memesphere, just a detailed lie written by the few programmers who would
> build the network.

Actually, since the only way to communicate is via conduit, and since
we can never realize the same memes that spawned the spoor in the
receiver as the sender, everything we create is, seriously, one big
lie after another. Including children, by your expansion, since they
have very little in the way of bootstrapping. Any culture they
receive, we impart, via conduit ... and the act thereof imparts a
`lie,' if you will.

If a system, artificial or natural, that operates in any way that can
be abstracted and modeled by memetics /merely/ a /representation/ of a
memesphere or does the act of describing in memetic terms make the set
of terms used into the memesphere of the target? Chicken or egg?

[Besides, I like learning systems ... for an example of `a detailed
lie written by the few programmers who would build the network' do a
Web search for the Cyc project. Apparently their detailed lie is good
enough that Lenat's getting $500k a pop for /corporate investors/ to
buy in and apparently he has enough options to be choosy.]

> I know this analogy sounds pompious, but I'll say it anyway-- it's a bit
> like building a disneyland ride of Ancient Greece and then escavating it
> for archeological information on Ancient Greece.

My, that /is/ pompous. Also, by that line of argument Newtonian
physics is just completely no use in understanding relativistic
physics. Patently false, by observation, the /reasons/ may have
changed but within reasonable tolerances at the macrocosmic level,
Newtonian physics describe what we see happening perfectly well.