Re: virus: UTism and Media Memetics

Tim Rhodes (
Fri, 18 Jun 1999 09:58:57 -0700

Dan Plante wrote:

>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.

Well, I suspect that most higher-ups in the Republican party didn't think their `98 House and Senate losses were "subtle" by any definition I know of.

>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.

This is not how I understand evolution. What are you counting as heredity in star systems or radions? The prevelence of stable forms is not the same as evolution.

And I've been taking about employing directed selection--like a dog breeder might use--in the political arena and what traits it would be good to breed for. Since voters (and their moneys) are THE selection pressure upon politicans I don't really need to be too concerned about what form variation takes between acts of selection.

As long the selection pressure in constant it will change the system. The system may tend to move back towards the middle when the selection pressure is removed (i.e.: mutts instead of pure-breeds), but if the pressure itself becomes a social tradition--an established meme--your going to quickly see politicians allying themselves with it further perpetuation the process around a different basin of attraction.

>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.

Complexity builds on complexity. Is that what you're saying here?

>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

This is the "Lathe of Heaven" theory--override the minor US/THEMs by creating a larger THEM. But it doesn't work long term. At best it sublimates the smaller UTisms for a time, but it doesn't ever remove them. And they come back just as soon people have ajusted to new framework.

For instance, did WW2 end the "THEM" statis of African-Americans, Native Americans or Asians when they all banded together to fight a common enemy? Or did it simply side-step the issue in some branches of the service until that particular crisis was over? (Not that it even "side-stepped" it that well at the time, to be sure.)

>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.

Seems that way. Mine definately would seem to differ from yours.

-Prof. Tim