RE: virus: Kow?

Richard Brodie (
Fri, 28 May 1999 16:14:08 -0700

Tim wrote:

[I disagreed with Tim's assertion that my neighborhood was 50% populated with blue-haired people with body piercing.]

<< actually, that kind of is the point. Your perceptions are framed by
were you go and who you see. Your focus is also a blinder for you. The world you think exists around you--even in your own neighborhood--is limited by your selection criteria.>>

True enough platitudes. Are you saying that you find me especially guilty of this form of unconscious self-sabotage? If so, what undesirable results am I producing as a consequence?

[RB] >All true. But there's no shortage of memes.

<<...really? That is interesting. Do you think every social group has
to the same pool of memes to draw from? You're aware of the differential development of memes in one localized environment as compared to another, correct? And with the specialization that happens in small groups? Would a dip into every meme pool bring forth the same ideas?>>

Well, people certainly have POTENTIAL access to a wide variety of memes. The problem most people have with being programmed with harmful memes is that they are unconscious of the whole process. You are dead on that many social groups have intense mutual reinforcement of certain memes, many of which are harmful to the individuals involved from a certain perspective.

<<...have you ever wonder why you've never read anything from the great
investment banker-poets of our time? Or why you seldom get good stock tips from artists?>>

Actually I have several friends in business and finance who exchange wonderful haikus with me. Many of my friends at Microsoft write and even record and publish music. As for stock tips, being an artist isn't a problem as long as you've got a winning portfolio. I always raise an eyebrow when I hear about people who listen to professional "financial advisors" whose net worth is less than their own...

[RB] >The problem is selection. My heuristic for selection is to model people
>with lives I like.

<<...and you'd be the first to admit that this choice of who to model--and
your acts of selection spawned by it--are a limitation for you in some regards. (Or, at least would hope you'd admit that.) I'm sure it's a limitation you've come to willingly accept as the price for surrounding yourself with a certain type of lifestyle memes, but it is a limitation I'm sure you're aware of nevertheless.>>

Not at all. The attitudes surrounding unhealthy lifestyles are a seductive disease. Nothing is more fun than just following your curiosity and sense of adventure into the web of people who live for the short term. I spend probably more time doing that than I ought. But without extremely disciplined consciousness, it is all too easy to absorb those self-sabotaging attitudes that pay off in mutual approval and UTism. I do not view my heuristic as a limitation in any sense. It's an antibiotic.

<<...but an important question here is this: Are the memes about how to live
ones life the only ones out there worth selecting for?>>

Yes, by definition. Whatever, upon reflection, you choose to value in life, is what is worth selecting for.

<<...would you only expose yourself to or utilize the memes that come from
individuals whose lives you might model? (This would seem a bit limiting, IMHO.) I'd be like only talking to women you would date--while it may increases your likelihood of finding a mate, but it does so at the expense of a great many wonderful conversations never started. Selection always comes at a price, as you well know.>>

No, I agree with you here. Exposure isn't the problem for anyone with a degree of consciousness; it is selection. However, would you agree there is a point of diminishing returns?

<<...Are you aware that there are developments in memetic technology being
created by those who lead the kinds of lives which you might never wish to emulate? Are you missing out some important memetic diversity as a result? More importantly, would you--could you--even know it if you were?>>

No, I am not aware of this. What is an example?

<<...myself, I've learned quite a lot from the lives and works of
drug addicts, suicide victims, criminals, etc. Even obsessive workaholics or Republicans can have something offer if you're willing to listen. :-) >>

Well, I doubt you've had many conversations with suicide victims, but I would generally not advise consciously adopting attitudes of people whose lives you do not admire.

<<...Do you boldly seek out new memes, from new civilizations, that you
boldly go where no Brodie has gone before? Would that include the strange little civilizations nested within your own neighborhood? If not... well, why not?>>

I do seek out new memes, but I want to see the result first. I have no interest in modeling the alcoholics and day laborers who congregate on my block, regardless of how worthwhile they may be as human beings. Can you understand that?

<<...I don't expect you to even be aware of what you're missing--the example
of your perceptions of Belltown make that point clearly enough. Like they say, you just won't find what you don't expect to see.>>

That's vaguely insulting and, I think, wildly inaccurate. If you really have statistics on Belltown demographics show them to me.

<<...or in other words: Your original comments may have spoken volumes, but
could have summed up my response in a much tidier package with just: "Hey, old man, that white East-coast upbringing of yours is showing again!">>

I appreciate your sticking up for the right of people to be different. You are doing them a disservice, however, by belittling my message.

<<...and, yes, while it is the responsibility of the speaker tailor his
message to the audience, nevertheless, some of the seeds will always fall on rocky soil.>>

And so your point is that presentation skills don't make a difference? You couldn't be more mistaken. Results speak.

Richard Brodie
Author, "Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme" Free newsletter!