Re: virus: UTism and Media Memetics

Dan Plante (
Thu, 17 Jun 1999 14:48:21 -0700

At 01:49 PM 16/06/99 -0700 Tim Rhodes wrote:


And it's that simple. As long as we reward UTism and polarization we'll only get more of it. As soon as we start penalizing politicans for over-simplification and demagogery they'll change; adapting to their new environment like any good replicator will. We just need to work on skewing the selection pressures toward thoughtfulness and away from simplicity.

Tim, I realise that your suggestion is to subtly influence the path of evolution here, but this just isn't the way I understand evolution (in its broadest sense) works. As I've come to understand it, a change is introduced into an environment that, when interacting with other existing things in the environment (whether the environment is a single cell, a proto-stellar system, a uranium isotope or a culture), manifests a new dynamic (i.e. expresses a trait) that will either endure or be suppressed, depending on the selective pressures determined by all the other dynamics introduced by all the other things in that environment.

In other words (at the risk of getting bogged down in anthropomorphisms) the incremental change uses, or takes advantage of, things that already have some effect on the environment.

UTism and polarization (i.e. fear or suspicion of the unknown), it seems to me, would be ideal things for a meme to co-opt, creating a different, more beneficial memeplex for humanity by shifting attention (meme-processing resources) away from petty, localized interpersonal or intercultural conflict. This meme could be something like "wandering radioactive gass clouds + nearby nova/supernova explosions + meteor/comet impacts + gargantuan solar flares = DANGER! Danger to me, my loved ones, everybody!". This memeplex, when expressed, manifests the following trait: "We've got to get together and spread out into space, we're a single, easy target and a sitting duck! We've got to go out there and control our near-space environment to protect ouselves from it, the same way we did on earth to protect us from the Earthly environment!". Using UTism in this way diverts the focus of emotion (motives) away from damaging and inefficient internal conflict, while at the same time addressing a real threat. Get people to fear (and hate) the vague, dark bogeyman "out there", and you get less conflict and more security for the human race at the same time. A win-win scenario.

This is how I understand evolution to operate. Everywhere. In every system; self-reproductive or not. I wonder if we have as many concepts of evolution (a fairly pivotal idea in CoV) as we have members? Probably.