Re: virus: Re: sociological change

Alex Williams (
Mon, 30 Dec 1996 10:25:06 -0500 (EST)

> I don't recall claiming to have an enlightened point of view-- only
> cultural texts which, by your own arguement, are variable.
> I also understand that my going there will "enlighten me" only to the
> the way the Cherokee "really are" but will tell me little about my Haida
> and Mountain Cree friends. Those experiences are different.

I brought it up only to point out that the read implication that we
are `enlightened now so white actors playing indians is pathetic' is
headed toward elitist thought, quite possibly elitist thought with no
cause to be.

I'm all for justifiable elitism.

> Because that's when a lizard will have it's first meme? Well... that's
> kind of my point alex. Animals don't have memes now. So you can't study
> them now.

Because that's when lizards will have evolved forward enough to have
more clear-cut cultural basis. Lizards would be /awfully/ hard to
study memetically; a map of their memesphere would turn out looking
something like the code for a finite-state automaton. Of course,
lizards are some of the least evolutionarily advanced creatures on the
planet. Of course they're going to be simply alien in memetic

Now, if you were to observe a pack of wild dogs or, if that's too
difficult to pick apart for you, gorillas in the plains, and begin
deriving memetic maps of them from their behaviours, then you're well
on your wat toward serious grant money.

> I don't do anything that isn't a reaction to what I recognize. But I
> recognize things that are invisible and imaginary and abstract-- like
> democracy, what I think someone else thinks of me and what I think other
> people are thinking even though I have never met them or even seen them.
> I recognize these and react to them.

My cat hisses at empty corners of the room, occasionally. We don't
have discussions about democracy, however, because his memetic
structures are really too alien to comprehend something so rooted in
human common experience (or is it? We still have major disputes when
discussing issues of democracy and other intangibles, don't we?). I
don't know if my cat has such complex intangible ideas in his head; he
probably doesn't since his culture has never had need for them, but
what would I understand them with if we could communicate them?

> So how can you trace individual memes when you can't even find the
> landscape to which it belongs?

Oh, we know /where/ the landscape is, we just don't know the specific
features beyond some of the very obvious peaks. `I'm hungry.' `I'm
happy/pleased.' Beyond that would take study and research.

> Well, they kind of do. or to be more accurate- you have to have a body
> of information vast enough, rapidly repeating enough and accessible
> enough,that the only way you can iunderstand it fully is to think of it
> as a mess o' germs flying around and infecting your brain.

I disagree, elementally. As I made reference to the lizard's
memesphere being dead simple, I don't think you have to /only/ be able
to explain the complexity of a idea-mass as a set of interelated
competing structures, I think the abstraction is a suitable one all up
and down the complexity spectrum. Last weekend I ran into a project
at MIT on autonomous agents that looked, to me, like a simplified
model of memetic interaction. Certain elements competed with others
for resources and once they reached a threshold, they were executed
and reset. What more do you need than that for the very barest bones
of memetics?

> I never said that you are not a natural animal period. We share common
> characteristics withh all creatures, with all life... we just don't
> share memetics with them.. like we don't share clothes or alkaline
> batteries. That makes us very different from animals.

There's a difference between memetics the technology and memes the
element of cognent thought. We probably do /not/ share the
abstraction of memetics with them, but do we share the possession of
memes? I'd say yet, as a theory for understanding all forms of cogent
thought. You say no, considering abstract thought to be a purely
human technology. So what of the chimpanzee that uses tools?

> You have made me feel bickery by your prejudice. I could say that you
> are the one who is religious: ascribing human qualities to animals.

I'm not ascribing them qualities so much as using a common abstraction
to describe all classes of cognitive mind. Some of those qualities we
have in common simply being animals across the board.

> Again you use my arguement. Except that I would say apples=memetics
> oranges=behaviour.
> BTW memetics is not a study of behaviour. It is a study of information.

You can't seperate memetics from behaviour because memes interact,
they're active in the matrix of the mind (even if that activity is as
a passive reference for another meme). A meme that never impacted
behaviour, even indirectly, and never will may as well not exist in
the memesphere. One can look at memetics from the purely information
theoretic PoV, but frankly there are better purely IT techniques to
use than memetics.

> Information is a technology spawned by bhaviour. Cars are made of metal
> but metalurgists don't necessarily study cars.

Information isn't technology. Information exists in the world with or
without behaviour. Cars are made of metal and metalurgists don't
study cars but car designers study metallurgy. In 1000yrs,
metallurgists may very well study cars just as geologists today study
Roman concrete.

> So what dog discourses do you want to bring to the list? I'm assuming
> your canine cultural informant can't type so the text will have to be
> mediated by you.

Mostly he keeps babbling on about wanting to go out, liking the moon,
wanting to be fed ... that sort of thing. I never said animal
communications were interesting, in the same sense that the CoV ML is