Re: virus: UTism and Media Memetics

Tim Rhodes (
Sun, 20 Jun 1999 14:25:12 -0700


I'm still thinking about this. (A long post.) I can see where you're coming from and think our views may be more similiar than dissimilar. But have yet be able to put that into words.

-Prof. Tim
-----Original Message-----
From: Dan Plante <>
To: <> Date: Saturday, June 19, 1999 4:51 AM
Subject: Re: virus: UTism and Media Memetics

>At 09:58 AM 18/06/99 -0700 Tim Rhodes wrote:
>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
>A blip on the chart. The ability to detect patterns, sub-patterns and
>meta-patterns, is supremely sensitive to the depth and breadth of the
>survey we make of our world, in percieved function as well as structure,
>even in how we approach boiling the pot of obfuscating detail to extract
>the essence of the common relationships hidden therein.
>>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?
>How would you describe the role of "heredity" (in its very basic, generic
>sense) in a system that you _do_ see as evolutionary? As the "memory"
>component of the variation/selection paradigm? Maybe as the "causal links"
>in the chain of observed changes over time? This is one of the approaches I
>use when looking for underlying patterns in the system or systems that I
>ponder. Another approach I use is to take these resulting fundamental,
>irreducible dynamics/relationships and use them as a kind of "cut-out"
>pattern, holding them up against other observed systems to see if something
>in there fits inside the pattern. It is this process that led me to the
>realization that evolution is, at its most fundamental level, simply
>variation and selection. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. There are
>some caveats to this, of course, but they don't change the final equation:
>evolution = variation + selection. Period.
>Seen in this light, it quickly became apparent that this described the
>essential character of many other dynamic complex systems. Take "radions"
>for example. The pre-existing state would be a high-temperature flux of
>electrons and positively charged nucleons (plasma) during a supernova
>explosion. The _environment_ would then be comprised of the aforementioned
>components in the plasma, plus the basic physical forces (strong & weak
>nuclear forces, gravity & electromagnetism) plus the physical laws
>operating on the quantum level (yes, there's some overlap and redundancy
>here, but you get the idea). Variation manifests itself as random
>collisions within this plasma that create an enormous number of different
>nucleon weights and compositions (fusion). As the ambient temperature drops
>slightly, these positively charged nucleons attract and hold free
>electrons, resulting in a wide variety of elements, and a further menagerie
>of isotopes of these elements. Selection happens when the aforementioned
>aspects of this environment "weed out" isotopes that are unstable (i.e.
>unfit). The rest endure (have very long half-lives). But some isotopes of
>these remaining elements (uranium 238, for example), although long lived,
>have weaker nucleonic bonds than the other remaining elements. Again, other
>selective pressures in its environment (in this case high speed neutrons)
>tear it appart (fission). It was not as fit for this particular
>environment, so the number of other elemental isotopes remaining will far
>surpass it after a while. Random variation and environmental selection. Or
>simply "variation and selection", since "random" and "environmental(or
>"natural") are implicit, and so it kind of "goes without saying". There is
>a more fundamental reason for the simplification, though.
>Anyway, after applying this "conceptual template" against system after
>system, and finding them all to be evolutionary in nature (as described
>above), it became apparent that evolution is literally universal; that it
>drives everything. Evolution (as the logical description of a distinct
>process) is responsible for all the complexity and order in the cosmos, and
>has been the driving "force" in all order and complexity since the
>beginning. At this point I kind of sneered at myself and said "Well of
>course, you dork! How could it possibly have been any other way? Did you
>imagine that evolution was only some Johnny-come-lately organising
>principle that only decided to start acting in the cosmos when "life", as
>defined by Humans, decided to come onto the scene? What do you imagine was
>driving all the emergent order and levels of complexity in the cosmos
>_before_ then? Evolution's apprentice? Something like evolution, but not
>exactly like evolution? Give your head a shake!"
>Then I thought about what I knew about the beginning, and realised that
>evolution, as the engine of order, has to be _the_ ultimate "force", or
>"guiding principle" in the "multiverse", since it would logically have to
>"pre-date" the big bang because, based on any and all of the currently
>competing theories (including M theory), there had to be some selective
>regimen that, when confronted with the massive variation embodied in the
>(presumed) quantum flux singularity that errupted in a deluge of
>probabilities for the characteristics of the new universe, only some would
>survive (i.e. 17 dimensions - 13 of which are folded in on themselves,
>etc.). But then I figured I should stop there because I realised it was all
>getting _very_ speculative, but not before I wondered about the "pre-bang
>selective regimen", and realised that it was "logic". Plain, simple logic.
>Then I had to wonder "why?". What is it about the fabric of reality (even
>"outside" our particular instance of existence) that demands logic -
>including very simple logical processes such as evolution? I don't know
>why, but this kind of gave me a bit of the meta-physical creeps at the
>time. Then I laughed, and thought "So much for 'Homo Technicus'. That
>cowering little ape is still just under the surface. Jesus Christ........."
>The prevelence of stable forms is not the same
>as evolution.
>Are you absolutely sure about that?
>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
>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?
>Well, no. Not really. Evolution builds on complexity. That process creates
>more complexity (on average, over long periods of time and expanses of
>space). Complexity itself doesn't _do_ anything, especially not make more
>complexity (or order). Complexity and order are states, not processes. I
>was simply trying to condense the example about a variation co-opting
>UTism, into a simpler, generic "rule". I may have been rather obtuse about
>>UTism and polarization (i.e. fear or suspicion of the unknown), it seems
>>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.)
>Remember how evolution manifests itself. For every new, successful systemic
>paradigm, the trail is littered with billions of systemic "corpses". What
>you described could be seen as one of the corpses. On the other hand, there
>is one successful example I know of: Canada. Probably the most pluralistic,
>multi-ethnic and multi-cultured country on the planet. As a matter of fact,
>WASPs comprise about 48% of the population, if I remember correctly. Not to
>mention all the different religions, sub-cultures and ethnicities. A couple
>of hundred years ago, the different groups actually were trying to kill
>each other off. Wars between the French and the English, between the
>English and the native population, between the French and the Metis,
>Anglican and Catholic, Upper and Lower Canada, Lower Canada and The
>Hudson's Bay Co., etc, etc. Proto-Canada was tearing itself apart. Then the
>U.S. attacked. That's all it took. Canada got together (a bit) and won (too
>bad - I'd rather be living under the US constitution right now), but from
>then on, there has existed at the grass roots in Canada, a vague but
>powerful notion of strength in plurality, and an almost knee-jerk
>abhorrance to any sort of intercine violence within the border. Today, the
>initial fear of physical attack from the Excited States of America
>(Canadians "term of endearment" for the USA), has given sway to an equally
>vague (but equally powerful) fear of cultural assimilation. The cultural
>organism needed something to replace the cohesiveness afforded by the old,
>fading fear. A random event provided it, in the form of an up-and-coming
>young politician named Lester B. Pearson, who used the Chicken-Little ploy
>wrapped around the idea of American cultural assimilation (something no one
>thought much about back then) to incite fear, then political support, and
>an eventual job as Prime Minister.
>>This is how I understand evolution to operate. Everywhere. In every
>>self-reproductive or not. I wonder if we have as many concepts of
>>(a fairly pivotal idea in CoV) as we have members? Probably.
>Seems that way. Mine definately would seem to differ from yours.
>-Prof. Tim
>I'm used to interpreting your posts as emminently logical, even insightful,
>on average. I think if we wanted to, we could find a definition somewhere
>between you and me that was also correct, not just egalitarian. On the
>other hand, I'm not sure I care enough to invest the time. Do you?