Tools, Language and Text: The Serial Isomorphic Evolution of Symbolic Capacity
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Subject: virus: Tools, Language and Text Author: Joe Dees Sent: 1998-06-18 15:38 Updated: 2002-07-23
Tools, Language and Text: The Serial Isomorphic Evolution of Symbolic Capacity in Human Consciousness
by Joe Dees
Tool use and language use evolve though an identical succession of developmental structures, and the evolution of text shares most of these stages. Notwithstanding this isomorphism, these three successively abstract further and further from the unmediated action/perception gestalt contexture from which their form derives. Thus each phase of the evolution of textual representation depends upon the prior completion of the evolution of a similar phase of language use, which in turn depends upon the prior completion of the same phase of the evolution of tool use. This can be observed in child development, and archeological and historical evidence suggests that the evolution of symbolic capacity in human consciousness pursued the same course.
1) The Substrate: Perception, Recursion and Conscious Self-Awareness
Adult higher apes and infants eighteen months old and older demonstrate self-awareness as registered in the mirror test (Social Cognition and the Acquisition of Self, Lewis and Brooks-Gunn, 1979). When their noses are daubed with red paint and they are presented with themselves in a mirror, they will touch their own noses rather than the reflected ones, demonstrating that they recognize that the images are of themselves rather than of conspecifics (other apes or children). Lesser apes and infants one year old or younger attend to the reflected noses, indicating a lack of self- awareness. The appearance of self-awareness is a result of the internalization, by the infant, of the distinction between persons as material yet purposively mobile (responding to their entreaties) and physical objects as material and either inert, purposelessly mobile, or moved by persons. This internalization links the infant’s awareness – its spatio-temporal sense of a distinct position to which perceptions flow and from which actions emerge -- with its bodily location, as a unique subjectivity separate from others. As the awareness of others leads the infant to an awareness of self, the organism/environment interface is elaborated into the more complex schema of self/soma/world/society.
Why is it that higher apes achieve self-awareness and lesser apes do not? For that matter, why does self-awareness manifest when it does in child development, rather than earlier or later?
I hypothesize that this is when the number of brain cells, combined with the degree and structure of complexity of their interconnections, passes a Godelian limit. Kurt Godel proved that any system of sufficient complexity could not be both complete and completely true (1931). The reason for this is the emergence of self-reference. When System A achieves a certain complexity, it is capable of generating a self-referential Statement B, which, in effect, asserts that it is not a part of System A. If Statement B is nevertheless included in System A, then it is false, and System A cannot be completely true; if, on the other hand, it is excluded, then it becomes true, and System A remains incomplete.
When this Godelian limit is breached in the brain, the capacity for self-reference emerges in an organism which is already aware; in other words, participating in a dynamic interchange of action and perception with its environment. It becomes aware of inhabiting a unique perspective, neither identical with nor isolated from its surroundings. Perceived information provides the array from which attention, itself an action, selects and focuses upon an object, thus directing and refining its perception and setting the stage for action upon the object, action which itself will result in perceptual change. See how the feedback loop spirals? When this feedback loop is applied self-referentially (in phenomenology, not to the noema but to the noesis), that is, not to the perceived and acted upon but to the perceiving and acting of the organism itself, self-awareness results. The two conditions necessary for this are the size/complexity quotient of the brain and the conditioning of a both physical and social environment. Abstract (as opposed to concrete) self-consciousness results when entire interdependent tripartate structures - including the self, the object and the interrelational modality (perceiver-perceiving-perceived for perception, conceiver-conceiving-conceived for cognition, signifier-signifying-signified for signification, etc.) - are abstracted and perused as complex objects. This abstraction can only occur once the self has become concretely aware of itself as a perceiving, conceiving, signifying entity. One of the first noticeable characteristics about such complexes is that they are structured like three-legged stools; in the absence of any of the three elements comprising them, the others cannot stand on their own.
That this system is incomplete, that is, open, allows for creative action when presented with novel situations rather than having its responses to stimuli circumscribed by instinct alone. Jean Piaget would say (The Grasp of Consciousness, 1976) that the moments when habits fail are those which impel reflection, a recursion provoking the advent of self-awareness, and that self-construction and world-construction are isomorphic and correlative processes, evolving from the central interface between organism and environment into progressively more elaborate polar self- and world- schemas. It also entails that conscious and self- aware beings can be neither completely self-transparent nor omniscient; nor can they completely forget either their own existence or the world’s. They can be neither gods nor things; each must be its own particular subjectivity, absorbing, through experience, its own memories, and using their constituents as building blocks to create its own imaginings and to choose towards which of these to strive.
2) (How) Are We Different from Chimps?
The great apes breach the Godelian limit, but just barely. While they demonstrate self-awareness, it is, at best, at the Piagetian level of concrete operations, and most likely remains at the pre-operational level. They hand-modify objects into implements in response to the exigencies of a present need, then discard them. They neither use a tool in the manufacture of an implement, nor do they retain the implement once its immediate purpose is achieved, much less assemble a toolkit, and they rarely combine implements in action. Their gestures are likewise prompted solely by the circumstance in which they occur (Tran Duc Thao, Investigations into the Origin of Language and Consciousness, 1984). They have a limited vocabulary of mostly instinctually based calls, with at best traces of syntax. While it is true that they can be trained to some degree in rudimentary forms of communication, they have not been observed to spontaneously create or transmit open-ended syntactical systems in the wild. They invent neither composite technology, nor languages composed of arbitrary and mutually defining signs, and the creation of text systems is far beyond them. We may share 98% of our DNA with apes, but that other 2% is responsible for immense differences.
3) The Genesis and Development of Symbolic Capacity in Children
Infants engage their world first through the engagement of the caregiver and the exploration of their bodily motility. When they can begin to coordinate actions with perceptions (age three to eight months), they begin an investigation of the properties of physical objects and their ability to affect them (experiments with contingency). As they learn person permanence, self- permanence, object permanence, means-ends relationships (rudimentary causality), and the self-other distinction (age eight to twelve months), they begin to experience specific emotional states and to exhibit imitative behavior. Between one and two years of age, children undergo a rapid linguistic assimilation, a grasp of more complex causal chains and the onset of symbolic representation (Lewis and Brooks Gunn, op. Cit.). They speak in single words, then in pairs, then with progressively differentiated syntax. (The Language of Children, Mathilda Holzman, 1997). Their vocabulary grows from the most concrete generic (“cat”,“dog”) into the more integrated general (“animal”) and the more differentiated particular (“Persian”, “Siamese”, “poodle” “terrier”)(The Modularity of Mind, Jerry Fodor, 1983). They rarely can be taught to begin reading before the age of three, and generally not until the age of four or five.
4) The Evolution of Technology
This evolution emerges from the substrate of bodily action, which involves the unmediated appropriation of the object. The second stage consists of the use of unmodified implements as a means of imitative bodily extension (using a stick to reach, strike or fend off). Next comes the bodily modification of the implement to more efficiently accomplish the task. The succeeding stage, which adds another layer of mediation, is the first appearance of a true tool, in which one object (the tool) is used to modify another (the implement) for the task, and toolkits may be assembled. At this point, true creativity begins: implements begin to be fashioned which perform their designated tasks in manners other than imitative extensions of bodily action. This is the stage where brute signification of created (rather than natural) objects occurs, and their meaning is identical with (a mental image of) their use. There are, however, only a finite (and small) number of basic shapes available; these are refined into multipurpose tool types (wheel, lever, wedge, spring, etc.), where the use of the tool in the particular task is subsumed by a conceptually idealized shape that facilitates general applicability. At this point the revolution begins. The machine principle of technology is developed; objects that are useless in isolation and derive their significance solely from their use as connectors are combined with these tool types into useful composite wholes, which themselves may serve as modules in more complex constructions, as long as they obey physical constraints. Now an endless variety of machines may possibly be constructed, an unlimited diversity of tasks may potentially be performed, and the ranges of action and perception may be extended into the micros and the cosmos, although certain standard machine types will predominate. Finally, in the theoretical physical sciences (physics, chemistry, etc.), all specific applications are transcended; such abstract principles may be instantiated for application to any task.
5) The Evolution of Language
This evolution also emerges from the substrate of bodily action, and begins with calls or movements intended to elicit the attention of a responsive other. Next comes the indicative gesture, which directs the attention of the other away from the gesturer toward something upon which the gesturer wishes the other to focus. This may be seen as arising from imitative bodily extension in the absence of an implement; one is pointing at that which one would have touched with a stick had one had a stick in hand. This indirect bodily action, directed toward a responsive other, constitutes primordial communication. The third stage involves modifying natural vocalization into an imitative representation of an absent referent (onomatopoeic words probably have their origin here). A small array of primitive signals may be assembled, but many objects make no sound to imitate. Genuine creativity makes its appearance here; the advent of rudimentary but genuine sign systems, where the signs still have specific referents, but are no longer constrained to imitate them. These are refined into multipurpose signs (number names, primary color and shape names, etc.), where the use of a sign to indicate whole, single and particular things is subsumed by its employment to represent general attributes that have been abstracted from them. Still, the array of possible monosyllabic sounds is inadequate for efficient discourse. A revolution, the phonemic principle of language, is required, where sounds that are meaningless in themselves are combined into meaningful wholes, some of which are multipurpose signs and some of which derive their significance solely from their use as links connecting and relating these multipurpose signs in varying ways. These words may be combined into sentences obeying syntactic laws that must themselves, to be useful, facilitate a reliable representation and communication of the physical entities, situations and relations being described. Now an unlimited number of signs may be created, and spun into boundless streams of discourse, although certain standardized constructions will predominate. Finally, in algebra and symbolic logic, all specific references are transcended, and any referent may be abstractly represented.
6) The Evolution of Text
This evolution also emerges from the substrate of bodily action, and is initiated by the need to direct attention to others, such as predators, prey or conspecifics. It begins with mimicry, or bodily imitation (representation) of the movements of present or absent others, most likely paired with indicative gestures to indicate either the other(s) being mimicked (if present) or the direction in which the absent other(s) lie(s). Inanimate things (such as landmarks) are much harder to mimic, however, and if absent can not be pointed out. In such cases, the mimicry, or subjective bodily representation, would require external objectification into the depiction of things and maps (drawing in the dirt seems a likely first step). The picture represents by means of imitation, and is intended to evoke in the viewer the mental image of that which it depicts, or at least the capacity to recognize the depicted, when one encounters it, by means of its depiction’s remembered similarity to it. In the case of maps, the territory as a whole is the represented object. These pictures become simplified and standardized into glyphs. However, many meanings are not of corporeal entities; they are thus not subject to depiction. The glyphs therefore accumulate secondary meanings, which metaphorically refer to these undepictables. Such a glyphic vocabulary is unwieldy, however; the Chinese system has over one hundred thousand separate characters, many of which are barely distinguishable and easily confused. The phonetic principle of text overcame this difficulty. A small number of glyphs (an alphabet of letters and numerals), that have progressively lost their original reference meaning, are used to represent the phonemes of spoken language and the basic numbers. They may thus be efficiently combined into textual representations of any word or quantity, by means of punctuation (such as: ; ! ? etc.) and arithmetical symbols (+, -, =, etc.), which possess purpose solely as differing subspecies of mediations between representational groups.
7) Similarities, Differences and Dependencies
Technology and language both pass through the stages of direct bodily action, mediated bodily action, imitative action, creative action, eclipse of particularity by structure, the creation of composites, and abstract generalization. Text evolves from mimicry through depiction of types and numbers of objects to the representation of their linguistic referents, first as individual glyphs and counting marks, then as alphabetical and numeric composites. Technology involves a physical action upon objects; language involves a symbolic reference to anything conceivable. The creation of tools also created meaning not found in nature – the tool came to represent its use. Thus the first signs were tools, and technology evolved prior to and was a condition for the possibility of language. Texts are both systems of signs in their own right, and tools by means of which we represent the language upon which their present form of existence depends. Text underwent (from its divergence as depiction) an independent though structurally similar evolution to language - independent due to the differences inherent in auditory versus visual media, similar since they were referred by the same species of mind to the same world. Once the phonemic principle of language took hold, however, the phonetic principle of text, with some exceptions (not all societies are literate), followed. Thereafter, as the increasing capabilities of an expanding spoken vocabulary co-opted progressively more of the tasks previously requiring depiction, text was primarily placed (with certain exceptions, such as maps, mathematics and musical notation) in the service of language representation, and graphic depiction was increasingly relegated to the realm of art.
8 ) The Communication of Information in the Pre-linguistic Domain
Before telling (a kind of saying) became a viable means to communicate a knowing, it had to be transmitted by demonstration, or showing. This is the most intimate and concrete mode of communication, requiring the spatio-temporal co-presence of the shower, the thing shown, the showing of this thing, and those to whom it is shown. In fact, in this mode, the showing and the thing shown are only divisible if the latter is a separate physical object (pointing something out). If what is being shown is a doing, such as swimming, or a making (which is a kind of doing) such as knapping a hand axe, the instrumentality and the expressiveness of the body (or the ‘what to do/make’ and the ‘how to do/make’) are seamless. This knowing is transmitted through observation and imitation of the doing or making, and immediate feedback is available from the world concerning whether or not those shown are gaining the having of the knowledge for themselves (or whether they, too, can make/do). This knowing would most likely be best retained by routinizing the sequence of actions involved (Mind over Machine, Dreyfus & Dreyfus, 1986; The Logic of Practice, Pierre Bourdieu, 1990), a procedure easily generalizable into ritual.
9) Linguistic Information Communication
Once people possessed a common language, a knowing could be transmitted by telling, which was more flexible than showing. The teller, the telling and those to whom it was told must still be spatio-temporally co-present, but the presence of the thing told is not required. This frees events to be communicated to those absent from their occurrence, but permits lying, mistakes, miscommunication and misunderstanding, for the feedback from the world required in a showing may be omitted. One can tell another what/how to do or make without doing or making oneself; one can only show by one’s own doing or making. Telling also permits the transmission of abstractions such as theories, speculations, and ideas, which, lacking physical instantiation, can not be shown. Unlike showing, telling is a coding of the thing told. One listens to telling not as a showing is observed, as a presentation of an event, but as a string of symbols bereft of any spatio-temporality which belongs to that told of rather than to its telling. There is no environmental context, no gestalt; the knowing received through telling carries no memory. Mnemonics such as rhythm, sibilance and rhyme (Goatfoot Milktongue Twinbird, 1978, Donald Hall), used to retain the told as it was told, would naturally form the basis for early poetic epics.
10) The Advent of Text
A common written code further abstracts the knowing from any particular event. The writing must of course be co-present with the writer, but the presence of neither the written of nor the written to is required. The fluidity of discourse can be frozen like ice on a sheet of papyrus, ripped from the lived worlds of both the teller and the told, and sent unchanging across space-time to anonymous readers. Now history can be recorded and knowledge accumulated and preserved, freed from the vagaries of memory and the passing of masters. Science begins to gleam in the alchemical eye of superstition, music takes the first steps from melody to symphony, and from the synthesis of ritual and poetry, theatre may be born. Logo-centric ‘religions of the book’ may supplant prehistoric pagan rites and contend with each other, and philosophy may begin to probe both their assertions and its own.
11) A Recapitulation of Terms
Being, knowing and having are states; doing, saying and making are processes. Knowing and having are modes of being, and knowing is a having of knowledge. Likewise, saying and making are modes of doing, and saying is a making of discourse. There are other dependencies, also; one must be (although since life is involved in dynamic organism/environment exchange even when at rest, all living being is actually a becoming) in order to do, one must know in order to say, and one must have in order to make. Showing, telling and writing may involve doing or making, but are essentially forms of saying.
12) Why Technology Had to Precede Language, and the March of the Ur-Meme
The coordinated system of perception and action which humans possess took millions of years to develop, and our huge and finely articulated brains required constant selective reinforcement from the environment in order to evolve. In this sense, our quick strong bright nimbleness is a result of the pre-reproductive demise of a lot of slow weak clumsy dumb ancestors. These are individual skills; those with them have a prima facie reproductive advantage over those without them. Language, however, is social. What possible use could it have been for the first mutant to have a modest capacity for linguistic expression in the absence of interlocutors? Language facility is simply not a likely candidate for gradual evolution in the same manner as hunting and gathering skills. It is much more likely that a genetically dominant second order mutation in brain systems organization hijacked an already elaborated hand-eye coordination system and applied it to the “mouth-ear” nexus (Uniquely Human, Philip Lieberman, 1991). In this way, the social benefits could be realized in just a few generations. Once this mutation spread within a group of hunter-gatherers, its members could yell for help better and both express and apprehend more subtle emotional states – useful skills in a nomadic foraging band. Being informationally rather than biologically based, the machine, phonetic and phonemic principles of tools, signs and texts were nevertheless most likely extrapolated from the gestalt contexture of action/perception; the structures underlining these therefore appear to constitute a combinatorial Ur-meme (The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins, 1976). Genes are physical characteristics that exercise configurational control and evolve within a species by means of mutation and natural selection; they are replicated through sexual reproduction between members of that species, and are naturally selected for by the differential rates of reproduction of those who possess them (and the configurations of which they are templates) vs. those who don’t, or possess different ones. Memes, on the other hand, are mental/cognitive characteristics that exercise behavioral control, mutate within the minds of their holders, and multiply by being passed between them via communication or imitation. They are replicated by being spread from intentionally or inadvertently teaching carriers to learning recipients, who either intentionally or inadvertently select to accept or reject them, by means of communicative behaviors, such as showing, telling or writing. They evolve by means of the differential selection rates of some memetic variants vs. others (The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins, 1976). Self-conscious awareness, signification, intentionality and the capacity to actualize our intentions are required for intentional teaching and learning; only then may we purposefully attempt to direct the evolution and spread of freely chosen memes. Remember the Gaia Hypothesis (James Lovelock, 1979)? It states that the aggregate of terrestrial life tends to regulate its own environment to facilitate its own perpetuation. Now, imagine human minds as, due to the evolution of their somatic perceptual structuring of their surroundings, already favorably disposed environments in which these principles, considered as informational forms of life, or info-species, take root. They would need to protect their niches and to replicate; the first is accomplished by evolving to give the host environment a reason to have them around (much like E. Coli bacteria facilitate digestion) and the second by evolving ease of infection (transmitting/teaching the principles to others). Once tool-craft got going, tool forms would evolve to give the best selective advantage to those possessing them at the same time humans would evolve to more quickly and efficiently conceive of and produce better and better tools. Once language piggybacked onto the co-opted coordination system, it would evolve to be most easily absorbed into children’s brains at the same time it would offer a progressively greater selective social advantage to those children whose brains were most permeable to it (The Symbolic Species, Terrence W. Deacon, 1997). The evolutionary imperative is in this case exactly the opposite of that of biotic killers such as influenza, measles, and gonorrhea, which had to evolve to become less virulent to allow for their transmission before the death of the host. In their case, the more efficient lose the competition to those strains that manifest slower or less completely. On the contrary, incubation of these info-species grants a selective reproductive advantage to those infected; the evolutionary exigencies therefore gravitate towards more communicable forms with faster incubation and more global mental infestation. Rather than virulent, these memes are budding symbionts; like mental mitochondria. And so telling is more easily and widely communicable than showing, and writing more amenable to distribution than telling. So far this may seem mere speculation, but watch how it dovetails with history.
Once texts began to be created, they became more desired as the literati gained power and influence. Scholars and scribes seemed to exist solely for the task of creating and replicating libraries of texts, which seemed to exist solely to employ scribes and train scholars. Mass production of tools and texts has led to corporate culture, labor division and assembly lines, which in turn have allowed the construction of mass communications systems, and mass transit systems to distribute both the codes and their carriers. These dendritic hybrids of tool, sign and text are connecting human ‘neurons’ into a terran brain, communicating our codes by means of metacodes. Not only has the ground of past history beneath our feet been excavated by means of our textually informed gaze, but also the horizon of the future has been dissolved into the present as our televisions and telephones abolish space-time through instantaneous communication (The Spell of the Sensuous, David Abram, 1996). And we have made countless copies of them all.
13) Staring at a Screen Darkly
The advent of the Internet recombines the abolition of space-time barriers to communication with the constant and instant availability of (potentially) practically all textual knowledge, as computer aided design and computer assisted manufacture threaten to leave the proletariat with little beyond bourgeois leisure and a subsistence stipend. The underclass will be known not as the unwashed, but as the unwired. With every computer terminal a samizdat, governments (and religions) will progressively lose their ability to tell the big lies and make them stick (see Zapatista). Guerilla semioticians will increasingly ‘poach’ the icons and symbols of governmental, religious and corporate institutions and imbue them with different and frequently subversive meanings (The Practice of Everyday Life, Michel de Certeau, 1984). Authority will issue not from age, race, gender or status, but from the internal consistency, logical cogency, linguistic clarity and external coherence of one’s positions. Spoken and written language forms will continue vanishing as quickly as endangered species, as informational selection takes its Darwinian toll. The hegemony of employment over location will melt away as more and more jobs can be performed from anywhere with power and a telephone line. Global democracy will supercede multiple national sovereignty as humanity’s attachments to borders and boundaries will shrink along with their relevance to the lives of an increasingly individually sovereign citizenry (as Francis Fukuyama foresaw in The End Of History, 1992). The policy debates now occurring within electronic ‘town meetings’ will be settled by cyber-votes. The Human Genome Project will allow human beings to genetically know themselves (Socrates and Hippocrates would be pleased) and to re-engineer their codes to remove textual errors (inherited defects). If they like the result, genocopies (clones) will be possible, and there is already talk of exploiting the shared binary codes of computer language and the double helix to create DNA computers. The meme will then have traveled full circle, finding its way back to the gene. In the coming millennium, homo sapiens will be both weavers of and woven by, for better or for worse, the informational warp and communicational weft of a co-evolutionary New Web Order.
<< >I personally don't think it is sanely possible, or even desireable to hold and operate on inconsistent world views.
I don't think you're alone in your view. There is already a widely used term in the field of cognitive science for what R.B. desribes as "level 3." That term is "psychosis". From Tabers Medical Dictionary...>>
Prof. Tim has suggested to me that what I am saying is actually not incompatible with what he and Brodie share as their Level 3 theory. I don't really know.
Brodie says its about being able to hold multiple self consistent world views simulataneously. Taking a strict interpretation of what he said, I can't say that this is impossible and I alluded to a limited way that it could be possible, though Brodie has said nothing more about that allusion. If multiple self-consistent world views are consistent with each other, then it really amounts to one larger self-consistent world view if you hold them simultaneously.
What is the difference between this and just saying that you have one self-consistent world view? I guess it is just a matter of how you articulate it. That isn't necessarily a small matter, so perhaps I should drop the "just" out of the previous sentence. The act of articulating something, tends to be a linear process. Articulating a series of world views that are consistent with each other, may be the simplest way to put it for now. However, there is no reason why we shouldn't be able construct better concepts to compress these understandings in one more simply stated world view - leaving it to our minds to "explode" these concepts into their full implications and understandings.
However, if Brodie means that "level 3" folk should be able to hold INCONSISTENT world views, then I can only conclude that this is an endorsement of irrationality. And as such I think that it is more than just a faith statement. Faith means only that you are not going to subject certain representations (or beliefs) to rational criticism. Faith does not mean that you should embrace inconsistent ideas, in fact I contend that faith operates to protect people from irrationality, because by not rationally criticizing the articles of faith, people are spared from discovering inconsistencies and irrationalities. The faithful are led to be content with platitudes like "God works in mysterious ways", and "God's ways are not our ways." and so on, without digging deeper.
Holding inconsistent world views is destructive of meaning, which is the purpose of having world views to begin with - meaning. Now we are all aware of the fact that each of us may hold certain irrational positions, or may hold inconsistent ideas. Indeed it's almost unreasonable to assume that you don't. But for most of us, this remains possible because we remain largely unaware of these inconsistencies. But to endorse the idea that inconsistencies are okay, or that we shouldn't try to resolve them rationally, is to endorse the destruction of meaning, and perhaps even to open the door to full blown insanity. I mean how are you going to say how much inconsistency is tolerable, and how can you rationally defend these tolerances if you have already de-legitimized rational criticism in the first place?
Though I am not a big fan of faith, I would choose it over outright endorsement of irrationality any day. It's the saner of the two.
>>Also, my intention is not to make any judgement bout level 3 theory, but just to make an observation. I'm a new student to memetics and may not have enough immersion at this point to make any valid criticism. I just purchased "Virus Of The Mind" this weekend and am working through that. (When I can get it away from brother--who says he loves it!)<<
I have been wrestling with the "meme" for about two years. I haven't read Richard Brodie's book yet, but I will try to give a read soon. I have read the "Lucifer Principle", "Darwin's Dangerous Idea", "Thought Contagion", and consumed as much material as I can find involving ideas about cultural selection and cultural evolution, whether or not it mentions the "meme" or not.
This is my evaluation of the situation. Currently the "meme" is still just a metaphor. It is a biological metaphor about cultural evolution. It has yet to be made into a working cultural concept. I do not doubt that memes really exist. But we will never be able to understand them conceptually until we shift away from the metaphor into real concepts. One of the biggest culprits IMO of this situation is the very thing that made "memes" popular to begin with - "Viruses of the Mind" - specifically Richard Dawkin's essay, not Brodie's book - though it may be full of this "virus" thinking too for all I know. And though I loved Aaron Lynch's book as well, "Thought Contagion", I have to give it about the same assessment.
Too much biological poetry and computer analogy, mucking up any real understanding and the creation of real cultural concepts. Too much willingness to leap forward to clever "applications" that *sound* like they make sense, but are not ammenable to rational criticism, because there are not really substantial concepts underlying the fancy "applications" of what is really a metaphor at this stage. As far as I am concerned "memetics" is not a real application of anything. Right now it is really just a new literature style. A style of science fiction with heavy dose of realism that mimicks non-fiction work. Usually lacking the typical plots and character development of other science fiction and tantalizingly seductive to people who like popularized science non-fiction. I was an instant sucker for it, and I am glad that fell for it, but I am also glad that I can now recognize it for the literature that it is.
I do not doubt that "meme" is here to stay. For several months I selected books solely on the basis of whether or not they contained the word "meme" in their index. Now my strategy is almost the opposite - I look for books and articles now based on whether they are genuinely attempting to apply evolutionary thinking to culture and they DON'T use the word "meme". I now get more mileage out of this latter approach. Since Brodie is here, and he is somewhat responsive to posts, I wouldn't pass up the chance to read his book - I have heard lots of good stuff said about it. But if it is anything like Richard Dawkin's essay, and Aaron Lynch's book, I don't know how much more I feel that I personally would get out of it, because while I enjoyed reading those things, to me they are just dwelling in the metphorical. Never the less, since Brodie is somewhat willing to talk about stuff on here to me, I will give his book a shot.
Once you have enjoyed his book, I can suggest to you several other resources that I think give a good *cultural* treatment of memes or a very good evolutionary treatment of culture. Both of which I think are very valuable to moving beyond metaphor and into real working concepts.
Amazon page on a book by Gary Taylor. If you are familiar with a book called "Reinventing Shakespeare", he wrote that as well. He is a Shakespeare scholar. He also has a very good grasp of evolutionary thinking. As someone who has to deal with "culture wars" issues on a daily basis, his perspective on culture is distinctly different from those who rely mostly on biological metaphors and computer analogies.
Never once did he use the word "meme" in his book, and I think it was better for the omission. BTW, I had an EM exchange with Gary a few months ago, and he is and was familiar with "meme" through Richard Dawkin's books, which along with Gould is where I assume he has obtained some of his understanding of evolution. He and I agree on the status of "meme" - that it is here to stay, but that it is still stuck in metaphor.
and of course the one that no one should miss:
Darwin's Dangerous Idea : Evolution and the Meanings of Life By Daniel Dennet. Though I think even he is a little stuck in metaphor mode, as a philosopher he manages to stick more closely to evolutionary concepts without going. I have read his book twice now, and I can attest that it has genuinely altered the way I think about many important things.
If you check the links to Dennet and Taylor, you will find reader reviews written by me.
"Your professed beliefs will be poked and probed, and our various responses duly noted, collated and ompiled; in short, you will become a specimen.
We collect belief systems here, as objects of academic interest. The relatively strange and rare, due to their novelty, hold a special interest for us.
Your deepest, most closely held and most dearly cherished beliefs and faiths will be exposed to the klieg lights of logic and scientific knowledge (and we stay current on both fronts), and you will be categorized and pinned to a wall seven ways from sunday like some unusual insect that had the terminal misfortune to stray before the gaze of an avid lepidopterist.
The experience will ossify and ultimately fossilize you, because we will keep meticulous track of everything you and your website say, and will be perpetually vigilant for logical contradictions, empirical absurdities and factual errors. You will become an object here; an object of a superficially provocative (for the sake of interesting responses), but essentially detached, dispassionate, comprehensive and thorough group study, which will spare your sensibilities and feelings not one whit.
You will meet sympathetic, antipathetic, and inscrutable interlocuters, all of which are specifically self-tailored to provoke the fullest range of responses of which you are capable, for the purpose of plumbing your belief-structure to the point that it becomes completely transparent to us, and can be pigeonholed and placed.
Then when the apple of your faith is cored, when you have nothing new or different or interesting to say about what you believe, nothing we have not heard in some form before, you will be marginalized and discarded, will receive no responses to your entreaties, and will eventually wither and drop away."
Re:Best of Virus
« Reply #4 on: 2002-03-22 04:29:14 »
From: "Joe E. Dees" <joedees@b...> Date: Mon May 8, 2000 11:22 am Subject: virus: The Human Dialectic of Absolute Premises
The Human Dialectic of Absolute Premises: Christianity and Marxism
By Joe E. Dees
I. The Fundamental Contention
In the comparative analysis of two systems of belief, one immediately encounters problems as to the validity of one?s methodology. If the belief systems in question are not amenable to correlation, one has three choices: (1) to bias the analysis by assuming one belief system?s methodology over the other?s, (2) to render the analysis non-relational by choosing a methodology foreign to both, and (3) to beg the question by synthesizing the methodologies of the two systems prior to the comparative analysis.
Since a comparative analysis cannot take place without two distinct belief systems to compare, the question arises whether or not such an inquiry is possible. Certain pairs of systems, however, are indeed correlative and at the same time distinct. This occurs when two belief systems directly oppose one another; they are then relational as correlative opposites, and mutually contradict in their conclusions as a result of the operation of a single logic upon mutually exclusive premises. Two belief systems bearing this relationship may be viewed as thesis and antithesis and compared dialectically.
Such is the relationship between Christianity and Marxism. One asserts primordial Mind as the ground of being for the presence of matter, while the other asserts primordial Matter as the ground of becoming for emerging mind. One sees history as the temporal manifestation of transcendent intention, while the other sees it as the temporal evolution of immanent action. Both are absolutist, both are deterministic, and both accept deductive logic as valid and the principle of noncontradiction as sound.
If these are indeed systems of belief, the basic premise of each must lie outside the purview of knowledge. This means that neither premise may be undeniably demonstrable by example, nor may either be unequivocally denied by counterexample. Furthermore, induction proceeds from empirical data to statistically probable conclusions. The presence of a single measurable and repeatable datum would, due to their mutually antithetical nature, render one of the premises untrue while placing the other within the realm of probability, which is not belief, but statistical knowledge. Our two systems thus must be grounded upon absolute and not relative premises. This entails that neither premise may be statistically probable, in other words, neither may be either empirically verifiable or empirically falsifiable. This of course means that neither system may proceed from induction.
This is true of Christianity and Marxism. Our sciences, which proceed by induction according to the Verification Principle, are sciences of matter and energy. The sine qua non (condition in the absence of which they would not be what they are) of matter and energy is that they be sensorily perceivable phenomena. These immanent objects of perception are then measured by relating our perceptions of them to our perceptions of intersubjectively agreed-upon standards of measurement which are themselves physical. These quantified perceptions must then be amenable to repetition at will by means of any duplication of the conditions under which they appear. This method cannot be used to either verify or falsify the presence or absence of transcendent nonphysical Mind. Our sensuous perceptions, our technological augmentation of them, our devices of measurement, our method of repetition are all immanent and physical; they are categorically incapable of this task. We cannot prove God is anywhere, and neither can we prove that there is anywhere God is not. Induction is useless with respect to either Christianity of Marxism; the basic premise must be believed in, rather than known, and in either case, conclusions must follow by means of deduction from the basic premise, not induction from empirically obtained data. This explains why both belief systems accept the principle of noncontradiction as apodictically (self-evidently) true.
[/b]They both proceed by means of deduction from assumed a priori postulates.[/b]
What is this concept of Being, however, about the existence of which these two dogmas incessantly contend’ It is a concept of absolute Wisdom, Justice, Goodness, Beauty, Power and Unity existing both a priori to and simultaneous with the temporal universe. It is the concept of a universal Creator, Circumscriber and Subsumer who provides source, impetus and goal for every act, passion and inspiration, and in whom is found the purified synthesis of all that is, was and will be, the common essence of apparent multiplicity in space and time.
Capitalize any human virtue and it becomes an attribute of God, the Perfect Mind.
Ludwig Feuerbach’s analysis of humanity’s relationship to this concept proceeds according to the Hegelian dialectic. Declaring religion to be anthropology and its evolution to be the history of humankind, he states clearly and the three movements of this dialectic and what is being moved. They are:
(1) The animal, becoming human by becoming aware of the humanity emerging within it (which is part of it and yet still controls it), purifies and projects this awareness into an absolute and transcendent realm; emerging mind becomes crystallized in Mind, an Other Mind. This objectification of self as Other, Feuerbach contends, is necessary for the humanization of humanity in abstract terms.
(2) Now, however, nothing is left to the human. It has all been invested in the Other. Humanity finds that it has bankrupted itself by giving the Other all that was recognizable in it as more-than-animal. Humanity finds itself an object, having given its subjecthood away.
(3) Humanity now “really” emerges, or rather finally merges with itself. Seeing that it has alienated itself from its own soul, which it has called God, Humanity shreds the veil of self-delusion and reclaims its own heart from the transcendent altar-prison that it had itself built. This synthesis of animal and God becomes the new thesis, the thesis of the human.
However, the movements of the human dialectic are not at an end, Feuerbach notwithstanding. The God of Absolute and Perfect Mind has been disputed, true, and by a premise both as basic and as absolute. “God is” found itself facing “God is not”. But then, what is to be held holy? We must have some common unity or we must call ourselves nothing, and, for the great majority of us, that is existentially unbearable. But an understanding once achieved could not in good faith be forgotten, and once our eyes had been opened, we could not close them again. Personhood had been fragmented non-relational persons; what God could reclaim the altar, to replace the God whose throne humanity had usurped, the God whom humanity had conquered, and therefore lost?
The new God-concept was provided by Karl Marx, and was both as absolute as the old God-concept and antithetical to it. In fact, it was not addressed by the name God but by the name Reality. The geist of Apollo was met by the geist of Dionysius. Jesus? God was a God of Mind; Marx’s God was a God of Matter. Jesus? God inhabited our souls; Marx’s God constituted our bodies. The invisible God promising the invisible Heavens was faced with the visible God promising the visible Earth. Dialectical idealism was opposed by dialectical materialism, and contemplation by action. The doctrine of immanence as illusion was no longer an imperative, but an alternative; now another alternative existed; the doctrine of transcendence as illusion. The slave was to spend nights no longer in pursuit of a justification of slavery and the justification of self as slave in the higher order of things. Instead, both days and nights were to be spent correcting the injustice that forced the worker, the producer, and the priest at the altar of the Material God, into servitude for the sake of parasitic inferiors, the bourgeois masters.
Philosophy’s task was finished, and now its products must be implemented. There was work to be done. The thesis, Christianity, through Aquinas, Kant, Hegel and Feuerbach, had finally spawned its antithesis, Marxism.
II. The Church as State
During the first few hundred years after the life of Jesus, the thesis of God’s presence was accepted by many. These people worshipped first in secret, and oppression by a state (the Roman state) unified these believers in martyrdom and as conspiracy of clandestine religious communion. When however, Constantine the emperor of Rome accepted Christianity and proclaimed it the official religion of the Roman Empire, a unifying structure became necessary. Since the dominant structural model present at the time was monarchy, a monarchial form was adopted.
This choice fitted in very well with the idea of a sovereign God, and allowed the bishops of each area to speak for their people. Soon the bishop of Rome was recognized as Pope, and all Christians spoke with one voice. That voice, however, was many times not what many would have chosen; many times it spoke for itself and the people of Christianity were coerced into accepting the trappings of totalitarianism as incomprehensible to them, but ordained of God as the best way. God, after all, could not be wrong; God was Perfect Mind. But none of the elaborate ritual of the Roman Catholic Church, and none of its clerical hierarchy, were outlined by Jesus. It was created by the elite, and much of it for the elite. For instance, the people of the church have no say in choosing this elite; it is chosen by itself. Popes choose cardinals; when the Pope dies the cardinals choose a new one. Election and popular vote was never even considered as far as the laity were concerned; appointment by a superior was and is the method of clerical advancement. The only election is to the highest office, by those immediately beneath, and it is for life. Diplomatic ties with other sovereignties were formed with the intention of having the sovereignty of the Church recognized by the states, so that dual sovereignty was demanded of their people; allegiance to both King and Pope, and the Pope first. Vast lands and riches, the price of heaven, were amassed.
Salvation was bought and sold for what the buyer possessed, be it wealth or widow’s mite. Finally, a Pope granted himself infallibility when speaking ex cathedra, thus grounding totalitarian authority upon the declaration of the declarer.
There were difficulties encountered along the way. The Roman Empire fell. There was a great schism and the Russian and Greek churches broke away. The iron demands of conformity to the party line and subservience to the religious sovereign and his clerical nobility were refused by those who disliked what the Catholic Church had become.
Martin Luther sparked a Reformation that was actually a religious revolution; the Pope was denied sovereignty over both Protestants and Anglicans, who spurned Roman Catholicism’s claim to be the temporal arm of God. Monarchy was opposed by democracy, and conformity by freedom of religious choice. Now Christianity is a faith embodied in a multiplicity of expressions and the Roman Catholic Church, while still the largest voice, is one of many which people are free to choose to or not to heed in most areas. Only in a few countries is the manner of Christian expression not a matter of personal choice. It is significant to note that such freedom has never been given, only taken. Spain and Portugal, until recently authoritarian states welded to an institutional church, are the most recent to take such freedoms for their people, but only after the people took their freedoms from the state.
III. The State as Church
Marx, like Jesus, had not specifically outlined a form for Marxism to take. He had stated the purpose of his call for revolution, true; a communist economic system maintained for the fair distribution of the products of labor (goods and services), centrally administered and collectively owned. But the structures of responsibility, decision and communication had not been patterned out or their interrelations delineated. Jesus preached mutual love between people through mediation of Mind and Marx preached mutual service between people through implementation of Matter. Jesus assumes that upon the Apocalypse, which he expected soon, governmental forms would be unnecessary, and Marx assumed that upon the advent of communism that a temporary post-revolutionary organizing authority, the dictatorship of the proletariat, would quite voluntarily “wither away”.
The Russian Revolution took the Marxists by surprise. Marx was dead and could not lead; Lenin took command. He possessed a faith, the shambles of a monarchial system, and many millions of religious people.
He instituted a “dictatorship of the proletariat” modeled on the monarchial structure, abolished private property, purged the opposition, and installed himself as leader of a monarchial economic state. Successors were to be chosen by the majority vote of commissars that the previous leader appointed, and all members of the government were to be members of the one party allowed, the Communist Party. The Soviet government was built in the image of the Roman Catholic Church, and Lenin became its first Pope. The communist parties in other nations were required to accept the soviet party as absolute sovereign and not to be questioned. Things move more quickly these days, for thirty years after the Soviet republic was born Marshal Tito, the first harbinger of schism, appeared on the scene. Soon after, we had socialist as well as communist states, as we have predominately catholic and predominately protestant countries; the Socialist Reformation has taken place before our eyes, despite attempts by the Soviet Republic to repress same in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland. It is significant to note that communists may form parties within socialist countries, but until recently, when the issue was forced, not the other way around. This is a duplication of the Catholic-Protestant paradigm of one-way (or predominately one-way) discrimination.
IV. Church-State vs. People
Both of these systems of belief, as practiced by their dominant organs, are monarchies - but not genetic ones. They are ideological monarchies. Neither has much use for the criticisms of philosophy, which they both distrust because they cannot control it. Both have three dogmas that correlate nicely. They are: (1) the Statement of Faith (Catholic - God is, and subsidiary dogma; Communist - God is not, and subsidiary dogma), (2) the Personal Admonition (Catholic - love others; Communist - labor for others), and (3) the Acknowledgement of Authority (Catholic - the church/Pope is infallible; Communist - the Party/President is infallible). One joins them only by publicly endorsing their doctrines, and advances by being perceived by one’s superiors as passionately conforming to them. The laity of each lack the power to dictate the course of church-state actions; power issues from the apex - the crowned head of the controlling minority of the ideological elite.
Each is plagued with the wide propagation of a more democratic alternative (Protestantism, Socialism), which it regards as an obstreperous and irreverent stepchild, for although each wants the world to accept its views, each also desires the final disposition of them. Dissent is either treasonous (contra people) or blasphemous (contra God); one punishes it directly in this life, one indirectly through disposition of a believed-in next. To join either is to forfeit it your rights. One is world negating the other is other-than-world negating. Each asserts that the only way to be truly human is to embrace its faith. Both have collectively deterministic views of history; one is determined by Mind (what happens is ordained of God) and the other is determined by Matter (the evolution of the distribution of material is the guiding force of history), and both culminate in utopia. Both have a person to worship and a book to read, and both have trained experts to communicate the orthodox meaning of each to the mass herds, and to denounce forbidden concepts and conceivers. The masses of each are constrained to take their words at face value, the words of ideologues commissioned to propagate the Faith.
That such similarities should manifest themselves in the relational structures between these belief systems and their respective social masses is not surprising. Correlative opposites mutually and symmetrically define from a neutral or uncommitted perspective; us-them only manifests itself after a Leap - in either direction. Marxism would have to have a governmental system of absolute authority from below to be in good faith with itself. Lacking time and a practicable paradigm from which to develop such a system, the closest available, complementary alternative was employed - a governmental system of absolute authority from above, the model of its ideological antithesis and methodological twin, Christianity. The adoption of this internal self-contradiction festered in the heart of the Soviet system, and in the end, facilitated its demise.
V. The Social Subsumption
Feuerbach’s work was brilliant and insightful, and at first one might suspect that Marx had betrayed him by placing the God of Matter upon the throne from which Feuerbach had only recently removed the God of Mind. Actually, Feuerbach had only dealt with one side of the question, and Marx embarked upon the first movement of the other side when he crystallized Matter into an icon. That Apollo had been given away, missed, and reclaimed by humanity we an incomplete resolution of the situation; the same dialectic had to be traversed in Dionysian terms. Chaos and Order are co-primordial, and neither can be apprehended absolutely by humankind, only believed in (a major problem in computer science is the inability to construct a truly random number generator; any pattern - including the Kantian categories of space, time and causality - necessarily begets pattern). At the same instant that humanity became aware of mind, that is, when humanity began to become human, humanity also became aware of body - a body that Marx had enshrined and thus stolen from them. The thesis of Jesus, the crystallizer of Mind, had been dialectically resolved by Feuerbach; who would resolve the Marxian thesis.
It has been done, by Friedrich Nietszche. The majority of his work concerns how humanity had divorced itself from its body. Nietszche missed this body, and reclaimed it in his monumental work THE WILL TO POWER. Nietszche did not write as Feuerbach did; he wrote not with the Apollonian clarity of the dialectic, but with the Dionysian passion of the hammer.
Feuerbach and Nietszche, the humanizers of Jesus’ God of Mind and Marx’s God of Matter, the Promethean reclaimers of Order and Chaos, formulated the restated thesis and antithesis of “God is” and “God is not”, which really said “Mindgod is and Mattergod is not” and “Mattergod is and Mindgod is not”. Their statements are, respectively, “Mindgod is human” and “Mattergod is human”. Now these must be combined into the next synthesis, the synthesis not yet widely spoken but of which the world is already implicitly aware. It is this: Mindgod and Mattergod are the thesis and antithesis which are synthesized in humanity.
This can be intuited even in Aristotles hylomorphic composition of the world, although he did not apply it to humanity. For Aristotle, things are contingent phenomenal syntheses of noumenal absolutes. So are humans, but incredibly enriched! Human contingency is the dynamic and never-completed synthesis of opposing absolutes, which itself can only apprehend in contingent terms, but in two opposing yet complementary directions. There are in constant interplay with each other and their names are intuitive right-brain synthesis into unity (from Matter to Mind) and intellectual left-brain analysis into multiplicity (from Mind to Matter). In these two modes of self-consciousness, which are synthesis reflecting upon analysis (which assumes the synthetic whole in order to analyze) and analysis reflecting upon synthesis (which assumes the analytic parts in order to synthesize), the former views their human conjunction as Mind ruling Matter and the latter views it as Matter ruling Mind. Each, like Jesus and Marx, Feuerbach and Nietszche, is partly right and partly wrong, for each focused on a single aspect of the human coin. Neither rules and both do, each by consent of the other. This is the paradox of contingency, which frees history from the determinism of either side alone while still allowing for the interplay of trends, and humanity from the imperative to follow one side of existence exclusively, while still leaving humanity its humanness. The bare existence or lack of same of either absolute is nonrelational to humankind, which is free for each of its individual members to subjectively and intersubjectively experience the plenitude of contingent synthanalytic existence.
The Memetic Stance: The Position and Paradigm of a New Discipline
« Reply #5 on: 2002-03-22 05:28:58 »
The Memetic Stance: The Position and Paradigm of a New Discipline By Joe E. Dees
1. The Idea of Memetics
In 1976, Richard Dawkins published a book entitled THE SELFISH GENE, the object of which was to extend the principles of mutation via mutation and natural selection to sociocultural behavior. To solidify the parallel, he coined the term "meme" to represent that which is passed on during the process of intentional or inadvertant intersubjective communication, communication being understood as comprised of transmission plus reception. The term is a truncation of the greek root "mimeme", meaning "to imitate" (and indeed the imitation of one's behavior by another is how it is seen that a meme has propagated), and is also connected, by Dawkins, with memory. He stated that memes possess internal instantiation as memory traces, and are stored in the neural nets of their carriers. According to Dawkins, to be successful, memes must possess three attributes; longevity, fecundity, and copying- fidelity. As with genes, fecundity is asserted to trump longevity; the life span of a particular memetic token is unimportant so long as it survives long enough to replicate itself widely with descendents that will do the same. However, the longevity of the type of which any particular memetic instantiation is a token depends upon the meme type's (or memotype's) ability to perdure and maintain some kind of inhabitable niche in a changing sociocultural environment. It does so by evolving; mutational variants are produced in individual minds through adaptation to, or assimilation by plus accommodation with, the cognitive environment in which they have been received. The variants then compete with each other when their hosts attempt to transmit them; the variants that are more transmissable, that is, more amenable to reception by others, outpropagate their competitors. This entails that while a high degree of copying-fidelity is necessary for memes to reproduce, such fidelity cannot be absolute, for if all copys were perfect replicants of their promemitors, there would be no variants produced upon which selection could operate, and thus memetic evolution could not occur.
2. Various Memetic Paradigms
Dawkins proposed two models for the operation of memes; the genetic paradigm and the viral paradigm. The genetic paradigm envisages memes as passed from one person to another via communicative rather than sexual reproduction. The point at which this analogy breaks down is that of the structural character of the reproduction of memes; when two members of a species engage in successful reproduction, at least one other member that possesses some of the genes of each progenitor results, but when two or more people engage in successful memetic reproduction, the meme(s) possessed by one of them (but not the other or others) are transmitted to and received by an other or others; in other words, memetic reproduction may be one-to-many rather than being restricted to being between two, and other members of the species are not created in the process. The viral paradigm envisages memes as infecting their hosts and co-opting their behavioral capacities to produce more copies of themselves. This analogy breaks down at at least two points. First, while viruses produce copies of themselves using hijacked cellular reproduction capacities, the behaviors produced by memes are not exact copies of themselves, inasmuch as the encoding is different in cognitive neural nets, in behavior, and in behavior- produced artifacts. Second, viral infections do not compete with other viral infections in the host, but memes must compete with other memes to gain and maintain their niches in the cognitive environment. The paradigm I favor I call the species paradigm; in this paradigm, memes are analogous to species, and the cognitive environments within which they exist and between which they reproduce are analogous to ecologies, populated by other species of memes with which they must compete for their niches. The basic difference between this paradigm and its referent, species competition, is that there is not just one cognitive environment involved; each transmitted and received meme finds itself in a new cognitive ecology, complete with a different set of memes with which it must compete for its niche. The analogy to species competition would be precise if there existed many different worlds with dissemination occuring between them.
3. The Life Cycle of a Meme
Memes are comprised of internal instantiations (within minds) and external instantiations (between minds). Both of these modes are necessary for memetic evolution to occur. Internal instantiations of memes are required for the mutational production of meme variants, as it is here that competition and recombination between memes within the cognitive gestalt provokes memetic mutations that can more successfully secure and maintain their niches. External instantiations are required for differential selection to occur; variants transmitted via their encoding in imitatible actions, such as performances, communication and the production of artifacts, are more or less successfully received by other cognitive environments. Both mutation and selection are necessary for memetic evolution to occur.
4. Memetics; Hard Science, Soft Science, or Philosophical Stance?
The selfsame tokens of a memotype must be encoded differently in different cognitive environments, due to the necessity of defining their identities with respect to the differing sets of competing memes to be found there. This necessity entails that memetics cannot aspire to the hard science status of disciplines such as physics or chemistry, where all particular electrons, atoms of an element, and molecules of a compound are exact tokens of a type. This exact duplication is not necessary in soft sciences, such as sociology, anthropology, political science or economics, so memetics logically could attain soft science status. Pragmatically, however, the isolation and identification of various neural configuration in multiple brains as tokens of a particular memetic type is far beyond our current or near-term future capacities; therefore, for the forseeable future, memetice must remain a philosophical stance with soft science tendencies.
5. Memetics in Relation to Other Philosophical Stances
Phenomenology and genetic epistemology are philosophical stances in relation to the realm of the being of consciousness, while semiotics and memetics are philosophical stances in relation to the realm of conscious meaning, or that which the being of consciousness contains. As phenomenology and genetic epistemology are complementary disciplines with relation to the being of consciousness, so semiotics and memetics complement each other in relation to consciously held meanings. Phenomenology and semiotics are synchronic, or statically structural (the focus-field-fringe structure of perception is one such phenomenological structure; the signifier-sign-signified structure of signification is a semiotic structure); genetic epistemology and memetics are diachronic, or dynamically functional, developmental and evolutionary. Phenomenology does not address the question of how self-conscious awareness could have evolved, but accepts its developmentally matured structures as ground conditions to be derived and described; genetic epistemology, by studying the emergence of the structures of self-conscious awareness in the developing child, can offer insights into how such an awareness might have evolved during the evolution of the species. Likewise, semiotics does not adress the question of how symbolic capacity could have evolved, accepting its fully matured structures as ground conditions to be extracted and diagrammatically delineated, while memetics, by studying the transmission of symbolicity from the caregiver to the child and its progressive internaization by that child, implicitly offers suggestions as to how a species possessing symbolic capacity could have evolved - suggestions which I pursued in my paper TOOLS, LANGUAGE AND TEXT. Both phenomenology and semiotics aspired to the status of rigorous theoretical science, but both failed; phenomenology due to its inability to plumb the depths of sedimentation - the preconscious structures underlying the structures of self-conscious awareness, semiotics due to its inability to extricate itself from the semiotic web wherein meanings mutually define in relation to each other and get beneath the sign to anchor those meanings in actual concrete lived world referents.Genetic epistemology is considered a soft science (a main branch of developmental psychology) due to its grounding in the logical induction of successions of developing cognitive structures from the experimentally controlled observation of behavior in children, and does not have to concern itself with the neural traces which encode specific structure (or memes).
6. Memes and Memeplexes
According to Dawkins, A meme is the minimum imitatible that possesses copying fidelity; variants may differ, but must be similar enough to be recognizable as tokens of a memotype. Daniel C. Dennett, in his 1995 book DARWIN'S DANGEROUS IDEA, disagrees, viewing each variant as sui generis, and a different meme. I tend to side with dawkins in this dispute; individual people, while different, are similar enough to be identifiable as members of Homo Sapiens Sapiens; genetic, viral and species paradigms, while different, are similar enough to be identifiable as models of evolution, and each can thus not only be said to be a variant of the meme 'evolution', but also remain capable, like humans on the genetic level, of cross-fertilization. Groups of memes frequently associate into mutually assisting systems termed memeplexes when their interrelation increases the propagational chances of all components of the memeplex. Some memes may be components of several memeplexes; for instance, the proselytization meme is found in several religions and political ideologies, and indeed must be associated with other memes that can furnish it with a content it may proselytize.
7. Memes, Language and Meaning
The most obvious way in which memes are propagated in our culture is through spoken, signed and written language. It has been asserted that the search for basic memes should concentrate not on the levels of words or of phrases, but beneath them, on the level of the morpheme. While there are memetic values to many morphemes, such as prefixes and suffixes, these are in reality syntactic shorthands for ideas semantically grounded in words and phrases, such as past, present, future, lack of, surplus of, in favor of, in opposition to, beneath, beyond, singular, plural, and so on. What is important in memetics is not the syntactic form of a meme, or how it is encoded, but its semantic content, that is, its significance or meaning; this comprises the identity of a particular meme, as well as its differentiation from other memes. This is why the extraction of the structures in which meaning is presented, in isolation from the meaning so encoded, does not address memetics per se, and has more to do with linguistics or semiotics. Here certain parallels can be drawn to genetic epistemology; it is not the structure of perception (as in phenomenology) which are pertinent for genetic epistemology, but the principles they reveal, such as identity, permanence, conservation of quantities, reciprocality, contingency, causality, possibility, necessity, negation and opposition, which become progressively more apparent during the sequential succession of developmental structures. There is a bridge here between being and meaning; although they are based in the perception of the being of the world, these principles which are drawn from world-perception meaningfully inform and organize it in turn. By categorizing perception and characterizing the perceived as structured in certain ways and not others, these principles are a primordial source of the meanings recursively imposed upon being; meanings the imposition of which is valid precisely because they are grounded in and derived from that very being upon which they are subsequently imposed.
9. What Use Is Memetics?
Most of the academic empirical work that is recognizeably memetic in nature so far was done in othe fields before memetics, as a discipline, was born. This is hardly surprising, such fields as the diffusion of innovations, kinship theory, linguistics, information theiry and the sociology of knowledge have been around for quite some time, and the very term 'memetics' is only a quarter century old. Its main use in the near term most likely will be to provide a common theoretical framework within which the fruit of the labors of these far flung disciplines may be interrelated, so that the sum of this work, taken together, may provide us with insights which none of the parts, taken alone, can proffer. Its methodology will almost certainly be statistical, and it has a good chance of revolutionalizing one discipline in particular - the discipline of social psychology. The going will not be easy; the subject matter of memetics - the problems of the genesis, evolution, and communication of meaning, are, due to their complexity, some of the most intractable in the field of academic endeavor. But if the utilization of the unifying evolutionary perspective and principles of memetics serves to render merely very difficult that which has heretofore been insoluble, it wlll have more than fulfilled its promise.
virus: I have a (Virian) Vision
« Reply #6 on: 2002-04-03 13:50:56 »
Subject: virus: I have a (Virian) Vision Author: Hermit Sent: Sat Nov 11, 2000 12:06 pm virus: I have a (Virian) Vision
The last joke in this letter: Moscow News Headline: Russian Election Experts Assisted with US Elections: Putin Wins US Presidency" <snip> [Raven Black] Quote:
Of course, Hermit's proposed "vote on issues" system would be far superior for most people. I suspect I would hate it. Such a system would likely see unpopular minorities put in an awkward position. (I envision it being made illegal to get nose-piercings, for example, since a majority of people dislike them, and most people don't recognise that personal preference is a poor reason to inflict laws on others. "Free speech so long as you only say what I like.")
We've got trouble, my friend, trouble
That is exactly why I suggested that Justice needs to continue to exist as a "separate" office. Continuing your example, I suspect that right now, it could be argued that nasal jewelry is a form of expression, and that barring it would be an unwarranted and indefensible interference in the constitutional rights of the individual to express him/herself. Unfortunately it takes a judge to decide this kind of thing, and judges not being appointed by people, but by agendas, we are in the process of ending up (at least at the supreme court level) with judges that are disinterested in viewing action as anything other than as the action itself e.g. in this instance it might equally be argued that nasal jewelry is not mentioned in the constitution and thus enjoys no protection... rather than interpreting it as a matter of "speech" as I suggested above.
As an aside, I would see part of the process of getting from "here" to "there" involving the reinforcing of the constitutional protection of individuals. Part of the trouble the US has today (and, looking at their track-records, about to get far worse, irrespective of which loser ends up the winner), is that the States are only barred (at the Federal level) from certain specific actions against the individual - and these limitations of state power have not kept up with technology or society; and worse, are highly subject to interpretation (sometimes good) but once an interpretation has been made it is cast in stone (very bad). This means that government power has tended to become greater over time as they gain the ability to infringe on liberty during oppressive periods, but seldom lose the ability to encroach once granted. Thus infringements are cumulative, and as a "small restriction of freedom" is an oxymoron it means that while personal freedom is greatly discussed, it no longer really exists.
I would argue that a Dutch type constitution, where government is actively enjoined from interfering in any way with any individual unless they can prove an immanent threat (NB not just a potential danger) of "real" harm to others( i.e. quantifiable - feelings and offense don't count as harm) unless action is taken, is vastly preferable to the situation in the US today.
Personally, I wish that the US Constitution had been written to say, these are the Federal powers, these are the State powers, anything else is prohibited, full stop. It is interesting that this was undoubtedly what the founders intended, they just did not imagine how daft the country would become, because they did not envisage "big government" or "governing class" (never mind an entrenched "party political" system) taking root and superceding individual interests, in a land which had managed to free itself of government at the huge cost that they paid to do so. The founder's saw the constitution as being needed to protect the individual during periods of "temporary madness," after which it was envisaged that sane people would once again take the helm, and rectify matters - not the situation we have today, where we are living at the end of an extended period of 150 plus years of legislative excess.
Drawing a bow at a Ventura
[Raven Black] Quote:
Are Ventura's views far different from the Libertarian stand?
I think that KMO put his finger on part of it. Jesse Ventura is one potential piece of the puzzle (although his "outed" atheism will likely count against him* for a while yet), perhaps not the smartest of men, but very politically astute. I suspect that he feels similarly to myself about the Libertarians. They have a "certain reputation" that they will struggle to overcome - and a plan which might sound sensible to a few, but has little appeal other than to ardent Randites. Any successful restructure of the political system will require the support of both capable thinkers and the dimly glowing light bulbs that make up the vast voting majority. And no matter how the Libertarians attempt to repackage their message, I don't think they will find that support.
The Atheist Man The Christians hate the Muslim, and the Muslim hate the Jews The Jews hate in return, for they have nothing they can lose And the Hindu hates the Muslim, while the Muslim hates right back And the Catholic and the Protestants, stretched each other on the rack
And even in the forests, of the dark lands to the South Gods are invented, worshiped, and men run off at the mouth Your neighbor is an infidel, an evil, evil man Hate him, shun your brothers, and kill them if you can.
Ancient man and modern, the one thing they all do They seek out gods to follow, and teach themselves to rue All that is productive, everything that's good Sacrificing hope and life, because gods said they should
And all of this hate, this destruction, this war Is caused by belief, but of one thing we're sure There is one thing unites them, as nothing else can Their fear and their loathing, for the atheist man. Irrelevancy and Depression
I am going to suggest that all of the above may be irrelevant in even the short term (4 years) and medium term (30 years).
Hamilton saw that America's future would be as a mercantile and manufacturing state. He wanted a strong central government to grant the necessary stability to its great enterprises and a central bank with the power to control money supply. Jefferson saw America as a nation of freethinkers, shopkeepers and yeoman farmers. He wanted no power organizing men against their natural inclinations. History shows that Jefferson won the economic myth (but has been turned into a religious icon) and Hamilton won the war. America has become a grander, gaudier version of what Hamilton envisioned. Hamiltonians insist that the life must be organized around "big men", big enterprises and big politics. That "wiser heads" must control what is said, and that only a few strong entities can survive a shakeout. Jeffersonians insist that men (and women) are free agents, that millions of small visions are more powerful than a few great ones. In every election, and with every change in technology, the battle is joined again. Usually, when given a choice, the people stand with Jefferson. What is depressing is that the choice has not been there in American politics for a long while now - and it seems to me, as if this situation will persist for a little longer. The process began in the period leading up to the civil war, entrenched itself at its ending, and accelerated during the last depression. It seems inevitable (to me) that it will continue at least a little longer.
As you may have guessed <I hide it so well - ha ha>, I'm a Jeffersonian. But Jeffersonianism (to coin a phrase), like libertarianism, has its limits. It takes talent; you have to believe in what you're doing, and how you are doing it. You have to accept setbacks and refuse to settle for less than your vision (but you must be sure of your ground first). You have to stand up to power and (sometimes) show some courage. You must be willing to work in ever-shifting teams. You must be willing to walk away, even in the face of money, in the face of power, when your vision is challenged. You have to wear a lot of hats. You have to remember that you only learn when you change your mind. Not everyone can or wants to do this. At times of crises few wish to raise their heads, probably sensibly - but crises also give men who have something burning inside them a chance not to be sensible, opportunities to rise up and lead. I think we are about to see a series of crises. I hope we are going to see some leaders and direction come from it. Today, any Jeffersonian has a good chance to succeed in politics and in life, no matter the state of the nation, because the Internet gives any niche, no matter how small, the chance to be organized. The ability to concentrate on one piece of intellectual ground, to focus with passion on one idea or one market at a time, gives the Jeffersonian long-term advantages over any Hamiltonian counter-attack. The 'netters have learned that already. The suits, in politics and in corporate offices will learn this given time. We will be their teachers.
I think we are seeing the start of a recession; I hope (and anticipate) that we will not see a depression, but it may become inevitable given the current lack of effective political leadership. Certainly everyone that I talk to in Internet related business has seen the writing on the wall and thinks that there is a recession coming, and coming fast. All recessions have causes, and this one is no different. "It's energy, stupid". US Policy in the Middle East, including our ongoing daily breakfast bombing of Iraq made it likely (The Iraq sanctions initially caused a 1.5% to 3% shortfall in oil availability which triggered the price rise - which has nailed us despite the fact that very little of our oil comes from the Middle-East). Israel's intransigence made it inevitable, as the Gulf states are fully aware of their ability to squeeze Israel by squeezing the oil supplies - and improving their budgetary positions while doing so (And Arafat is actively seeking to deliver us some really bad news in the next week or two, despite his schmoozing with Clinton). Unfortunately, it is too late (it takes 6 months to 3 years for price changes to trickle through) to avert the recession by turn the taps back on for Iraqi oil, and the US has a long history of being incapable of telling Israel anything - rather the reverse. So short-term fixes appear non-existent. Oil and natural gas prices aren't going down, they're going up. Way up. It will take years to bring new supplies online, and the markets have been hopelessly complacent, refusing to invest more in exploration stocks on the fear that prices will collapse. There's nothing the Fed can do about this - now. Higher energy prices fuel inflation, forcing interest rates up even while growth becomes negative and people lose their jobs. There's little the Congress or Executive can do, either. (Who you gonna kill, Dubya?) The budget surplus will quickly turn into a deficit because each person left unemployed supplies a double-whammy to the books, reducing tax income while increasing unemployment insurance outflow. Crime also rises, demanding new investment in police and jails at a time when government can least afford it.
The biggest danger in a recession, however, is psychological. The rich are envied, the poor are feared, middle class people get squeezed, and a palpable funk can settle on the affected city. In some cases (see Michigan in the 1970s, and Houston in the 1980s) the result is desperation - homes are abandoned and families crowd the highways looking for work. Extremist religions take advantage, offering simple answers (it's your fault, it's their fault) to complex problems. Demagoguery becomes a real danger.
All this damage will be magnified by the sense of entitlement many feel today. The last recession was short, and occurred in 1991. The last energy crisis ended over 20 years ago. This is beyond the memory of most young people. For many, the next few years will be the most shattering experience of their lives. And that is just a recession. Few still alive remember the depression - but the scars run deep and will affect peoples' reactions. Don't forget, during the depression, people died of hunger and despair.
If a recession is as inevitable as I fear, it will take vision and leadership to avoid the progression from recession to progression. Vision and leadership that seems unlikely to come from the national government. Which means that given the "bad times" coming, there must be room for "Hamiltonian security" even in this Jeffersonian paradise. Which was one reason why I wanted Gore to win, even though this will make it more difficult to avoid the call of bigger is better. The one thing that may stop creeping government is men of vision, offering alternatives to a depression and alternatives to big government - or big business - and being believed. So let me talk about vision. Vision Unlimited
Let me hearken back to some earlier Virian discussions and talk about preparation for the future now. Because, as in voting, if we don't prepare for the future we want, the future we get may not suit us at all.
Even aside from the probability of a recession, there are much greater problems in the World today than the unpersuasive outcome in the election to determine which of two largely indistinguishable non-entities gets to run the US. The Inner cities, The Balkans, the Middle East, the Far East, the Southern ex Soviet territories, to say nothing about disaster that is Africa, are filled with hate, dislike, discord, distrust and war. We have the solutions to many problems basseting mankind in our hands - and yet we cannot deliver them. Why not? Why are we so self-destructive? So limited? What is missing, and what can we do about it? I would argue that it is a matter of "value" and "belief." People get so fired up about their "values" and the need to persuade or force others to accept them, or about their need to reject values that others offer or force upon them, that as humans, we are hardly capable of co-operating with one another at anything more than the pack (or tribal) level. Perhaps this was once useful in establishing or maintaining pack identity. Today it simply gets in the way of establishing the degree of cooperation, which is needed in a global village.
While certainly not the only tool for breaking down existing "value systems" and permitting the creation of new ones, religion and belief have played a dominant role in this process throughout recorded history. I would suggest that although religion is usually instilled, sustained and promoted through threats and fear, their operating methodology (in breaking resistance to change in "value systems") is in fact, largely because they act as inducers to change by offering stability, hope and the promise of acceptance. The question for the Church of Virus is whether the fear is necessary, and if so, whether a fear of the future - which is already driving millions into the hands of religions - orthodox and new-age (and as noted above likely to be exaggerated by economic duress) - is a sufficient fear to allow the promotion of a new "religion" founded in realizable and achievable hope for today and for our children. Can demonstrable technological and educational solutions offer sufficient security and hope to replace religion in the minds of those who feel the need for a constant something to believe in, in an uncertain world? Will the end, or at least delay, of death mean the end of fear? Will the creation of new fear of irrelevance, in a world that changes at least seven times before breakfast act as a goad towards or away from a reasonable approach?
I am going to proceed on the basis that a purely rational "religion" can achieve the goal of motivating change and progress, and that existing fears are sufficient to drive support to a group such as the CoV if it offers "sufficient" hope, and I will attempt to explore some of the problems as I see them, and more positively, potential solutions.
The root of most major problems in the US electoral process lies in the mindset that makes "issues" or "leadership" questions important, and which make it important for society to "manage" the individual. Once the mindset is corrected, I think that this problem will in fact solve itself. Yes it requires a transformation, a transformation of society, which in turn requires a transformation of the individual. A transformation that I believe is lurking just at the threshold of awareness. I see the task, for all who believe that we are metaphorically banging our heads against the wall of an intractably broken system as trying to express the transformation in such a way that everyone will wish to grasp it. If sane people start working on the problem today, rather than waiting, a solution could be found and available at the time that there is a general recognition that it is required.... which will probably be before the 4 year term, just voted for by the US, is up. This transformation may well be acceptable at that time, because the suggested "transformation" has the potential to remove most of the underlying reasons for social discord, jockeying for power and wealth and seeking security, which has caused men to hold each other back lest one advance too far beyond his peers for far too many generations.
The transformation I suggest here is simply a rough first take at a path which offers what I consider to be a much brighter and more significant future than anything I have seen coming from the political (or other systems) anywhere. This is a vision of man exploring and expanding the boundaries of vision, and the Universe instead of attempting to guard the borders of his mental hovel. If the vision described below seems worthwhile to some of you, then it may be possible to make it happen. Bear in mind that every social or structural change has to begin somewhere and that this is often the result of a vision. In this instance, I believe that the vision is one that is shared by many people, groups and organizations. A flowering of an idea in the (largely mythical) collective consciousness, which is blossoming all over the globe. I see Virus as at least a possible gardener for this vision and attempt to demonstrate that it is not only possible but that it can be made to happen.
The vision sketched here is designed to lead to a "transformation of man." This solution is partially technical but, unlike many previous technical visions (like placing a man on the moon), it is also vastly social in scope. I think that any solution of this nature needs to be, for most dreams are grounded by the fears of those who cannot understand them and so fear the consequences of fruition and oppose it. In marketing parlance, it takes about 30 supporters to counter the effect of a single opposer - so avoiding opposition in the marketplace of ideas is very much more important than obtaining support. While the following vision is so far from the realm of the average man as to seem more like science fiction than reality, I have tried very hard to ensure that everything I suggest is based on attainable scenarios believably within reach of current technology. I think that the largest obstacle to implementation is the utter lack of preparedness for change such as we could see happen via a program such as this, and that if there is to be a future even slightly like that described below, that the process will require dramatic change to the psyche of man. For the ideas that have dominated our thinking for the last few millennia are possibly about to be blasted out of relevance by the culmination of a number of technologies. And this process will need to be managed and directed, or like most revolutions, the probability is that it will lead to innumerable tragedies on the individual and social level. Personally, I believe that appropriate steps may lead to the aversion of tragedy, and that the future can be significantly better than even the most optimistic of people could possibly wish it to be. Below I attempt to discuss how. This is but a rough outline. As you read it, it may seem a little far out, and certainly, at the moment, some of the articulation is a little scattered, as I would like to get the ideas out to begin discussion and obtain the benefit of the input of the minds of a group of brilliant and at least partially like minded people, rather than waiting until a "perfect exposition" exists - a futile exercise in a changing world.
Let us begin by considering social change. Any possible transformation will have to involve:
Hope: Too many people are befuddled and worried. There is no clear path forward, and we humans react to uncertainty in very negative ways. What any organization intending to cause change has to be able to offer is a chance to compete together with an opportunity for every person to realize their own value. The solution has to lay out a path, which can be followed, and if followed can be seen to provide a better future than any alternatives.
Social soundness: My opinion is that Europe has, and is doing a lot better (in terms of education, health and quality of life) than the US in the last 15 years. This has carried a high price for the Europeans in terms of tax levels, but that is not really relevant to Joe Worker. Only to the few who succeed. I will argue that inevitable changes may well make the economics of "European-type socialism" irrelevant and leave them in a much stronger position to face the future than the US. I will also argue that any "new" system needs to build a better safety-net (health, education, pension, perhaps even (gasp) welfare and unemployment, than the US has managed to date - while persuading the American public in general that this makes economic sense... which, as I argue below, it can.
Economic soundness: The solution has to clearly improve everyone's lot over current systems - because without that, it will never even find the opportunity to collapse.
Vision: It has to be worth building and be so inspiring that people want to build it. Any proposed solution should persuade people that this solution carries sufficient benefits for them to make them want to vote for it - and care enough to make them want to vote at all - and then provide the impetus to see the solution implemented.
Money: To establish models and to pay for the campaign which will be needed to buy the required awareness and publicity that will be needed to make the transformation fly.
Honesty: Any process suggested as a rational answer to the problems of the past needs to be transparent and have sufficient checks and balances to allow everyone to see that it is fair (i.e. not partisan), that it offers everyone a stab at self and group determination and be structured so as to preclude its subversion by special interests.
Charisma: The easiest way to instill this is to show that a solution cares for individuals - which will make individuals care for the solution. Something missing from the politics of the machine.
Realism: The solution has to be believable and allow people to see that it could work.
New people: The system should incorporate people outside of the mainstream political groupings - to make it acceptable to the vast majority of people who see the mainstream political groups as a part of the problem - a system which grinds people up rather than allowing them to experience their dreams.
Communications: To persuade people that it is worth trying.
A technique to neutralize or at least limit the involvement of the "belief" in the two party system or the inherent superiority of the US and isolationism.
A bunch of good memes to get folks talking about it(?).
The system will be more easily sold if it can:
Offer protection to those who fear losing power
Offer opportunities to those who have no power
Per Ardua Ad Astra
Rather than citizens of Arizona (Bill), or even citizens of the USA (KMO), we are all citizens of Earth. We should be citizens of the Galaxy - but that citizenship is qualified and we have not passed the entry barriers. Humans have been confined to Earth for too long, and at too great a cost to the planet and currently getting to space is too expensive and too risky for it to be something that any but a few selected may have any hope of achieving.
Meanwhile, back in the dirt, we are almost certain that within 30 years, nanotechnology will have replaced most other forms of manufacture - except possibly of art or as a labor of love - as such, the manufacturing of goods will be essentially "costless" - only design, raw materials and energy will have a cost. We know that we can obtain as much energy we require from the sun - without environmental impact - if we place the collectors and industry using this energy in space. We know that Fusion is close - and that it is likely to be commercially viable within a relatively short period. Given fusion, any atoms can be produced from any input. Thus scarcity (of raw materials) no longer has meaning. So this leaves only raw materials and design as "real" cost. My estimation is that fusion combined with nanotechnology based mineral extraction, and especially sea water "mining", will change the cost of raw materials by orders of magnitude (the same goes for farming only more so). For nations this is a disaster as it overthrows many of the foundations of nationhood - not least the scarcity of goods and manufacture. For mankind, it will be a huge boon - if we manage to live through the transition. This is going to utterly change the economy of the planet in ways difficult to imagine, with consequences difficult to envisage. Just as one example, it may well lead to a population explosion that will make the 1950s look relatively constrained.
Even without the implications of this new technology, times of rapid technological shift seem to coincide with great social discontinuities and upheaval (I am not asserting causation) - which in turn frequently coincide with outbreaks of socially regressive violence. And we humans are so very good at being violent. It would be a pity if we wiped ourselves out, just as we stand on the threshold of extending our lives ten-fold or more and getting off-planet which will do more to assure our long term survival as a species than any other action we can take.
The vision I have is to build a low cost space capable system. One possibility might be the construction of stratospheric city-sized floating platforms to act as intermediate launch points. Such a lift system would allow us to use airships to move goods by the megaton (using passive lift) out of the dense soup in which we live to a height where very little energy is needed to accelerate to escape velocity. Hydrogen fuelled drive systems will take us from there into space in AXXX sized vessels at essentially no cost as all the needed energy can be produced in space - by extracting Hydrogen from sea water. In fact, Hydrogen, produced in space and shipped back to Earth can be used to transfer as much power as required to drive earth bound society until enough people move off Earth for this not to be needed any more.
Meanwhile we could easily (i.e. using today's technologies) build multi-walled, inflatable modules, perhaps in the form of 20km x 5km cylinders, designed to be inflated once in space, and the space between the walls filled with various densities of foam to create a rigid, protective cylinder. These would then be set spinning, filled with soil (combine lunar dust, sewage from Earth and water for a rich fertile mix) and landscaped. Just one of these cylinders would provide 400 km^2 (about 100,000 acres) of surface for living, industry or farming. One end of the cylinder would be transparent (or translucent) and face the sun. No predators, harmful microbes, fungi or insects need be introduced, yielding a perfect farming environment. Gravity could be adjusted to any required level and light and humidity controlled to create optimum growing conditions.
Any group of people could create any kind of community they wanted in such an environment. And living space no longer need be cause to create overpopulation and the consequent social effects. If the current modules begin to appear crowded build some more. Communications between modules would be trivial. Wide-band radio networks would work far better than they do on Earth - and fiber optic lines (and power lines for that matter) may simply be strung in space between modules. Travel between modules would also be essentially cost free - there would be no friction loss to overcome.
Pollution becomes meaningless in such an environment. Anything that was not wanted could be collected, frozen or shrink-wrapped and delivered neatly to the sun.
The ideological space so provided would allow any group to freely associate (or disassociate)... and this, in conjunction with the fact that the cost of production facilities, food, energy, transport and material goods would decline to (almost) zero, only thought and capability would be left with a value. Thus there would be no reason for any group to predate upon any other.
Earth meanwhile would become a garden. A retirement home and entertainment center. Possibly a museum. Certainly an information repository. Given essentially unlimited free power, free material and a removal of pollutant problems (other than flatulent whales perhaps) there could be no argument that this would be the ideal ecofriendly environment.
Meantime, as neither the means nor the results of "production" would have any value, only design and imagination, people could concern themselves with education and enjoyment - and working out where to go to next. For myself, the stars would beckon...
All that separates us from this scenario is to begin it, to seed it in the mind of men. I would suggest that this entire process could cost less than repairing the road system in the United States. Speaking of the United States, the reason that the US is suitable for the proposed project is that it is immensely wealthy in comparison to other countries (although it could be orders of magnitudes wealthier without too much difficulty), posses a greater manufacturing capacity than any other nation on earth (which will be important for a while yet), has a large population (not all of whom are stupid), and is compatible (at least for now) with most of our ideas of freedom. So why not do it here? Create the inspiration and begin the project and the question of whether we would prefer a Republican non-entity or a Democratic non-entity to create rules for people to live under becomes moot.
Would this transformation be a good thing? Nobody will know unless we do it. I certainly think that it might be an improvement over what we have now. Can we succeed? Nobody will know unless we try. And whether we succeed or not, trying to make it happen is a project worth of giants, a goal worth striving for and a reason for pride.
Goals worth striving for and deserved pride appear to be two of the things missing from the world today.
How can this transformation be propagated? Well, it offers some of the prerequisites we identified above: Hope, social soundness, economic soundness (although a new kind of economics), vision, charisma.
The next step is to begin the process of doing, documenting and communicating the idea in such a way that it becomes a reality in the minds of many, communicating with honesty and realism. One step is to find people who already think the same way and join them, or have them join us. If we find people with the money to start doing and communicating any of this, it would be even better, but I don't think it is a prerequisite. If the idea that a transformation of this nature is possible and achievable - in a time period which many of us will live to see, eventually people with suitable resources, not just money, will hear about it and want to become involved.
I do think that a good start would be to find the "memes" needed to get folks talking about it. After all, when we stop saying "Why?" and start saying "Why not?" the task is about half done.
Kind Regards Hermit <Questions happily answered> *I again strongly recommend http://nanozine.com/NANOHAPI.HTM. The following is a quote from that site in a letter to a Psychologist who was asking about the implications of nanotechnology. <snip> Since the gist of nanotechnology is being able to build anything one atom at a time, one will also be able to take apart an object one atom at a time. This is the theoretical basis of food replicators. A potato is disassembled atom-by-atom and the information is recorded in an outrageously powerful nanocomputer data bank. One can broadcast this information to the other side of the Earth or to a moon of Jupiter. Then, with the right feed stocks (carbon, oxygen, hydrogen etc.) and a few trillion nanoassemblers, one can reconstruct an exact copy of a potato. You can do the same with a Human! All technical objections are frankly mere details to be worked out. How do you feel about this, how do I feel about this, how will the public deal with this?
OK, that was a radical concept, but take a look at these other possibilities. Nanocomputers or nanodevices can be small enough to fit unobtrusively inside a cell in the blood stream. They can be smart enough to read the DNA and thus, keep an inventory of the cell. If a foreign invader, like a virus, waltzes in, they are immediately "86ed". This provides virtual immunity to any little "nasty". May I also suggest devices small enough to monitor brain activity in unbelievable detail. Lets talk about studying consciousness and its known and vastly unknown facets. If that's not enough, how about: "Let's grow more gray matter"! There's a lively subject! Or now that we have the tools, let's interface the brain with our outrageously powerful nanocomputers! One might want a sharp pro in attendance at these lab feats. Take one nano self-replicating Von Neumann machine, program it to reproduce itself a billion times, tell it to make a trillion nanocomputers each doing 10^14 operations per second, hook them up in a neutral network, add the right software...viola, there's the whole virgin field of designing and interpreting artificial intelligence. I'm talking machine intelligence here which is true alien intelligence. Present indicators suggest such intelligence will evolve on its own and we will need you to help understand it!
Finally, something easier to talk about in public (Oh, thank God..), future shock. Real future shock, not the buzzword in the media a few years ago. Imagine a distant planet with a combination of industrial, agrarian and even some hunter-gatherer societies. A team of scientists and engineers on that plane, after years of intensive research, manage to build self-replicating machines capable of manufacturing any consumer product without "labor" as we know it. Within half a generation they are now able to feed, clothe and house everyone on that planet and make the experience of death unnecessary. Now imagine that planet is Earth. In less than a generation, all current manufacturing processes including human labor will be obsolete. Disease and aging will be a thing of the past. People will have to deal with not having to biologically die. Consumer goods, smart as hell, will sel- assemble from materials pumped out of the atmosphere. Normal concepts of money or wealth make no sense. Gold is worthless because it can be extracted from the sea. Corporate stocks are meaningless...except for Microsoft, et al, because EVERYTHING will run on software. Space travel will be cheap, comfortable, and safe. And this is a most incomplete list!
If you took ugly, grungy, superstitious old medieval Europe and dragged it through the industrial revolution; the electronic age; and everything else this century has had to offer; and did that dragging in a mere 10 or 12 years, the psychiatric community would be mighty busy running around putting out mental brushfires. Well you are lucky because that's just the opportunity you'll have within your "normal" life span (at this point I hope the food is good at Bellevue!). Remember though, you must accommodate and incorporate these bizarre changes personally as well! On a more positive note Dr. A., if one could ask the Gods for anything one could think of, what would it be? Would one wish for an end to starvation, pestilence, disease, ignorance, or death itself? How about flying beyond the Earth? Or the reintroduction of extent species for which we have DNA samples in our museum show cases? Or, better for you, a true biological cure for mental disease? Or perhaps the greatest goal of all, intelligence enhancement? As it turns out, the Gods are kind. Enjoy!
Polyamory and Adaptiveness by Hermit
« Reply #7 on: 2002-04-20 18:30:27 »
Polyamory and Adaptiveness by Hermit
All "rights" are essentially limited to what we can accomplish and enforce. Civilized people have defined and redefined the concept of "rights" throughout recorded history. "Rights" are essentially those things that we accept that a particular society should not particularly restrict at any time, often because it could not be restricted (e.g. breeding and breathing), sometimes because it would not be in anyone's interest to restrict it (e.g. the right to ancient lights), and occasionally because some wise people made it a rule (e.g. the protection of the individual from the might of the state in the US, Dutch and Swiss constitutions). They can be altered by force (e.g. conquest, revolution), through negotiation (e.g. strikes, constitutional assemblies) and necessity (e.g. limiting the right to free expression and assembly in time of war, rationing in time of food or fuel crises). There is nothing inherently "sacred" about "rights", most rights have certain limits in the interests of society as a whole (e.g. in the late 1970s, free expression in the US was constrained so as not to include "child pornography"). As another example, the "right" to keep slaves was relatively recently denied - although only after it stopped making much economic sense.
One of the things that we require of civilized people is that they follow the "golden rule". This means that we expect, as a measure of civilization, that one persons "rights" should not impact on those of another - or why slavery is repugnant to the modern mind. Until recently we had no effective means of managing breeding despite the fact that it is self evident that the total population ultimately carries a significant part of the cost of unconstrained reproduction. This means that breeding should be construed as "permission by default" as opposed to a "right", especially given that, unlike other "rights" which we expect, it does not currently carry any constraints, yet has a quantifiable cost for others.
One of the problems which the USA shares with the third world (but not with "socialist" Europe*) is that of an expanding population, and a skewing of breeding dynamics - in that the poor and ill-educated are likely to have significantly more offspring per parent than the wealthy. In the US, the wealthy already contribute a horrendously unbalanced percentage of their income to a government system which (unlike the European systems) offers them few benefits in exchange - and this trend seems likely to continue. In the interests of equity (the golden rule again), it seems that something should be done in order to moderate this trend in order to correct this inequity**. While expanding economies may counteract the effect, this may have the consequence of reducing "welfare" resources in the face of growing demands for access to them, and their current state of total inadequacy to address the need for it.
Not being particularly fond of the realities of "A Modest Proposal", I would rather people were not born than they be left to die due to a lack of resources. Thus while I would prefer to see a "perfect contraceptive" - something like Depo-Provera without the side effects - and usable for men and women available before a program such as the following were implemented I think it needs to happen relatively soon. My suggestions would be very much along the lines of the thoughts I was alluding to earlier. My recommended structure might be to require a "performance bond" before being "licensed" to have children - which are - after all, potentially much more dangerous to the long term survival of the race than e.g. motor vehicles for which we have long demanded licenses. Perhaps everyone (man and woman) would be licensed for half a child, and could then purchase additional licenses for an escalating fee based on the number of children already produced by them. Such a fee might be established by estimating the investment required by the state on behalf of (half) an orphan and adjusted in order to manage the overall population levels according to demand. A person being sterilized without using their license should of course be permitted to sell it, at a market related rate. In the event that a child dies, no-cost replacement licenses could of course be issued. Such a program would require an immense shift in mind-set. A viable starting point to such a shift might be to consider something along the lines of the following: in order to be eligible for "welfare" people would need to show that they were sterile - temporarily or permanently as appropriate to the type of "welfare" they were applying for. People could choose to opt out of this program, but they should then become ineligible for welfare benefits. The difficulty would naturally be people who refused to play by the rules. This does imply a potential population of non-welfarable people preying on the society, which they have rejected. Perhaps, instead of a European style system we could choose a Libertarian style disincentive scheme to minimize this. For example: In the event of those "opting out" producing offspring which require "welfare" funding, while in the care of their parents, the children could be removed from them and the parents involuntarily sterilized and, or jailed.
Sound attractive to you? In case you hadn't guessed, I didn't mean the last bit. I would prefer an incentive based scheme and European style schooling and medical care (which I really think might be a lot cheaper than the current US fiasco). Perhaps a highly differential tax rate based on the total number of offspring produced and a sliding scale of benefits inversely based on the number of children produced and halved if the parents are not sterilized would work. If we assumed that this would be based on providing a better than current "welfare" level for a base set for parents of two children, increasing with fewer children or sterilization and decreasing for more children or the potential of more children. This would rapidly correct the disproportionate number of "poor" vs. "wealthy" children while not punishing children for the errors of their parents. How could we pay for this? Dropping the "Drug War" and reducing the number of prisoners to that seen in most European nations (where more than 70% of prison sentences are for crimes of violence, where in the US the number is reversed) would have the effect of releasing three times as much money as the entire current "welfare" program has available. Fewer people would "need" to resort to crime to survive, and as European experience is that treating addicts costs 1/30th or less of attempting to prevent drug traffic, and legalization reduces the number of abusers anyway (the Millennium UK Police Chiefs Conference - I don't have the URL handy but the essence was that the UK Police Chiefs recommended abandoning the "failed" American model of drug prevention, and focusing on European models of abuse management) drug problems and the number of incarcerates should drop. Spending the released money on much higher salaries for teachers in many smaller (and much freer) schools together with (relatively cheap) local clinic facilities would (if European experience is worth anything) ensure a long-term decrease in welfare and prison spending. Makes you think, doesn't it?
This is not idle mental-masturbation. I am spending a lot of time these days considering the costs, benefits and effects of genetic engineering. We have, almost in our hands, the ability to create an "ubermensch" (one immune to many diseases, free of genetic defects, potentially much more intelligent, with a much lower tendency to crime, and of course, with a very much greater than present lifespan). This is very probable quite attainable within the next 30 years. And, the social effects will be fairly interesting. Un-enhanced Homo Sapiens would simply not be able to compete effectively with such a race, which might choose not to have much of anything to do with the un-enhanced because of the dangers of disease in their offspring (true racism). This may well have the consequence of removing the genes of those who elect not to participate in such a program within a relatively short period (a few generations).
Unfortunately, if lifetimes and breeding periods increased, and breeding continued unchecked at current levels, populations would skyrocket as would poverty. While a Libertarian approach would suggest that we reserve this technology for the few who can afford it, this reckons without the Luddites who would press to bar this technology and maintain the status quo. Thus a purely "economic" approach would be an almost certain way of ensuring that it is outlawed or at least heavily restricted. As I would prefer to see it widely promoted and adopted as the next logical progression towards man's self-determination (using directed evolution) the approach I am suggesting offers one way of funding the enhancement programs (for everyone), while managing population growth. Both IMO necessary prerequisites for success.
So, for those of us who look forward to an improved future, I believe that it behooves us to consider and promote a new breeding paradigm; along with ways to sidestep, or overcome, the inevitable resistance from religion. Avoiding a backlash from an embittered, poverty-trapped and excluded mass who cannot hope for a better future for their offspring; and even considering the resistance we will probably see from an excluded and even more bitter, aging population concerned about their pensions and knowing that they lived just to late to benefit much from the coming revolution in genetics are other urgent tasks which will take generations to accomplish in a society where politicians think that long-term means until the next elections and most of the population doesn't know what a gene is, is convinced that man was made by gods and believes that the government is suppressing stories about UFOs. A big task indeed.
An urgent task too. We need to succeed in changing the anti-science climate before the necessity is upon us, and the opposition realizes exactly what is in store for Homo Sapiens, if we hope to minimize resistance to this potential future. The challenge is real, and the challenge is for this generation. My thinking above may or may not have merit, I'll let the CoV gnaw on it. But I think that something is needed, lest an alternative altogether gloomier future not much different from the present may become inevitable. One where mankind is largely barred from these benefits. Largely, but hopefully not exclusively. There will always be ways around regulations for the motivated and the wealthy.
*The "socialist" systems of Europe seems to me to have done a rather good job of almost eliminating poverty there - and in consequence has reduced the birth-rate until it is effectively negative, in all but the Southern Catholic states which are still anti-contraceptive e.g. Portugal, Spain, Italy. It should not be a surprise that
**It really does not matter what other things there are which are spending "public money" (once in government hands, money should be burnt or given away - preferably on unprofitable things as fast as possible - and it turns out that governments are quite good at doing the latter... ), this in no way justifies people who can't afford to support themselves breeding, creating children trapped in poverty and foisting the cost of attempting reduce their misery on more responsible members of that society.
Re:Best of Virus
« Reply #8 on: 2002-07-11 05:53:32 »
A Short Philosophy of History
By Joe E, Dees
I. An Improved Theory of the Past
There are many existing philosophies of history, and each has its own elements of truth, insofar as they authentically explicate an understanding of past events and the reasons for them. However, either by not following through with their premises to deduceable conclusions or by actual error in such an attempt, all of them are in some respects incomplete. This, of course, is a reason for their multiplicity and diversity. The theory to be expounded here is to the greater degree a decanting of the elements of each which, from our present perspective, can be said to possess some validity. To a lesser degree, it draws from the synthesis of these elements further conclusions as to both a structure which may be consistently applied to history, and both empirical observations and logical deductions which lend support to its perceptual soundness and conceptual validity. Before we proceed any further, a disclaimer must be made. In no manner do we intend this theory to be construed as either final or complete. The evolution of historical conceptions is a staircase of successively more broad and profound conjectures which shall only end with the end of humanity when this unfortunate yet eventually inevitable event occurs. This theory only proposes to be another step; another synthesis of preceding views which itself is destined to be subsumed by a more inclusive view. In addition, any theory, by the very definition of the term, is necessarily restricted to the realm of probability; any theory asserted absolutely is irretrievably mired in self-contradiction. This is true of any theory; however it is doubly true of any historical theory; it is impossible to either fully recapture the significance of the past as it appeared as a present, or to a priori apprehend and interpret as yet nonexistent future events. Even dealing solely with a hypothetical "present", it is practically impossible to empirically verify all logical consequences of any given theory, including a theory of history. With these necessary limitations firmly in mind, we shall attempt our synthesis... What, however, is a philosophy of history, or to put it more succinctly, what are we here attempting to do? Any philosophy is a theory; a theory seeks to discern patterns and regularities within its object (or subject) of perusal. History itself is a succession of more or less purposeful actions or events occurring within the experiential realm of a perpetually changing cast of human agents of change. For example: the view that God moves history with an "invisible Hand" is empirically unfounded; otherwise, the hand would have to be visible to the theorizer, and this is self-contradictory. However, no one can reasonably deny that the idea of God in the minds of human agents has had a profound effect upon the evolutionary direction of events. Thus a philosophy of history seeks to discern regularities within this perceived temporal succession, as a philosophy of personhood seeks such regularities within the individual, a philosophy of the perceived world seekssuch regularities within the universe, etc. In addition, a philosophy seeks logically coherent reasons for such patterns as may be discerned, and a philosophy of history is no exception.
II. The Synthesis
Spengler is correct (as were his predecessors) concerning the multicyclical nature of cultural rise and fall; he was incorrect in his assertion that nothing passes on from fallen cultures to succeeding ones, and Toynbee corrects this error. Neither of them noted, however, the combination of successively greater pinnacles of achievement and successively shorter spans of duration to be found within temporally successive cultures. Cultures do fall, but not to the point that nothing is left (that possibility is uniquely ours); however, neither do they advance unimpeded. The actual progression is somewhere in between. Toynbee did not realize the true force of Spengler's (and Sorokin's) raison d'etre for the falls. For both of them, the denigration of the unifying cultural belief in the face of the counterexample of knowledge fragments the culture. This contention, synthesized with Toynbee's position that each succeeding culture begins with both more breadth of knowledge and more depth of same than its predecessors, suggests that within each succeeding culture the advance of knowledge to a position contradicting belief is accomplished in a shorter time span. Therefore, although greater syntheses are produced by succeeding cultures, they also suffer successively shorter life spans. We called these (at first) dolphin oscillations; we now tend to call them pre-adolescent culture traumas. We state that the anthropomorphization of a cultural identity is both useful and veridical, because cultures are collections of people sharing common ground perspectives. We then explore the parallels between the infancy of a culture and the infancy of a composite human, a la Piaget. Piaget states that the infant is egocentric and mentally matures in the direction of socialized thought. The infant early on believes in a magical and animistic lived world of relatively small dimensions which is directed towards the fulfillment of childish needs and desires. This is not a conception; the child actually perceives the world in this way. All things seen together are connected by syncretistic logic “ this is known as assimilation. The world is juxtaposed by means of this assimilation, which follows the rule of "intellectual realism"; the world "is" as the child believes because it "must be", and this world-view colors the child's perceptions to agree. The sun and moon follow the child around, the road rises to meet him/her, the birds sing because the child is present to hear, the scent of the flowers is tailored to please, and all of this is managed by a noncognitive, magical and mystical animism whose only reason for being is to please the child. As the child matures, this magic fades. When the child must interact with others, the necessity for developing both concepts by which to communicate and consistent logic with which to persuade progressively manifests. The child is no longer the absolute; his/her position must be justified to the other. De-centering occurs. The sun and moon follow others also, therefore they follow no one; the road stays put, the birds sing and the flowers bloom for everyone to see and hear and smell. In short, experience is present at hand to be taken up by all and is no longer directed exclusively towards the now maturing person. The living presence fades from perception as the child's world-view is socialized. It must therefore (for the child) be culturally preserved. In the same manner, a culture is primordially egocentric and believes that the universe is somehow magically ordered for its benefit. Such beliefs are, to some degree, necessary for the perpetuation of the culture, but many are not sufficient. This is why many cultures die a- borning for lack of the belief's production of the Camusian byproducts of human dignity, industry and community. These cultures which survive their birth, however, eventually come into contact with "other" cultures. Whether they subsume, are subsumed by, or coexist with the other(s), intercultural socialization begins. This process results in the realization that the belief system is not a given, but must be justified in relation to alternative beliefs which perform the same perpetuating functions for their cultures. (In the same manner, "laws" of quantum mechanics mutually justify each other without any one of them occupying a central or fundamental position.) Also, such belief systems and their empirically testable consequences must agree with the ever-expanding perceptions of the world. This imperative is akin to both Kant's dictum that concepts must be grounded in percepts, and Merleau-Ponty's view of reality as inter-subjective. Together, these two necessities provoke the evolution of the bridge between individual and societal perceptions. The foregoing also explains both T. S. Eliot's observation that culture and religion are symbiotic and Toynbee's contention that advancing cultures are accompanied by successively more complex belief systems, this last to accommodate successively more inclusive and detailed perceptions. However, the belief system ultimately fails, because of both its absolutist dogmatism and the inherent inability of animistic-mystical belief systems to keep pace with demythologizing explanations proferred by the dialectic of scientific progress and technical advances. In other words, the expansion of scientific knowledge and technical efficacy within a culture proceed according to an involution-evolution multicycle model of periodicity 2. Models to account for reality first expand to cover the range of our perceptions; they then concentrate upon details. However, the greater mastery of the material world that efficacious models allows permits the technological augmentation of perceptions and actions, which, when applied to scientific experimentation, leads to the arising of perceptions that cannot be accounted for within the axiomatic systems used to construct the models. A paradigmatic advance is then made which, while accounting for the stubborn perceptions, expands our experimental range beyond its original range, allowing new stobborn perceptions to arise, while the previous models are subsumed as special cases, and the process repeats. According to Stephen Pepper, animistic world hypotheses fail due to inadequate precision (common-sense fails). They tend to anthropomorphize magical presence into authoritarian spirit, which is crystallized into infallible, but, alas, all-too-fallible, authority. This authority breaks down under successively more central, supportable and precise criticism. Also, mystical world hypotheses fail due to a lack of scope. Their view originates with the acceptance of a "central fact". The entire universe is interpreted, whether it fits or not, as absorbed within this "fact". Where this absorption is implausible, the offending contradictory observations are denounced as unreal. The adherents of such "facts" are emotional and reductionistic. They believe themselves to be the vessels through which the "true fact" must be promulgated according to a dogma of certainty. Both "certainty" and "infallibility" are illusions produced by inadequate world-views. What opposes them is useful truth. The pragmatists argue that the a priori of truth is utility and the existentialists argue that the a priori of utility is truth. The precedence chosen depends upon the referential frame of the chooser, and we tend to view truth and utility as co-primordial, symbiotic and mutually grounding. However, when useful truth unmasks by counterexample of the world hypotheses' conclusions the fallibility and uncertainty of their premises, these premises inevitably crumble. Our beliefs have, for better or worse, chosen us long enough; it is now time to reasonably choose our beliefs to avoid such contradiction. Culture has never matured (except for the perceptual side in the Orient) before in world history; we can end all hope of its maturation in the future or ourselves be the first culture which successfully matures.
...After September 11, writing fiction seemed a pointlessly indulgent exercise. ... [Hermit: Martin Amis]
[Andy Brice] September 11 was only one of many, many incidents in which innocents have been deliberately slaughtered. A few others spring to mind: year zero in Cambodia, the rape of Nanking, the Holocaust. They all dwarf September 11 in number of innocents killed.
[Andy Brice] If fiction was "pointlessly indulgent" after 11 Sept, then it was pointlessly indulgent before 11 Sept.
[Andy Brice] Unless, of course, its only dead Americans that count.
Whether or not you believe in the paranormal may depend entirely on your brain chemistry. People with high levels of dopamine are more likely to find significance in coincidences, and pick out meaning and patterns where there are none.
Peter Brugger, a neurologist from the University Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland, has suggested before that people who believe in the paranormal often seem to be more willing to see patterns or relationships between events where sceptics perceive nothing.
To find out what could be triggering these thoughts, Brugger persuaded 20 self-confessed believers and 20 sceptics to take part in an experiment.
Brugger and his colleagues asked the two groups to distinguish real faces from scrambled faces as the images were flashed up briefly on a screen. The volunteers then did a similar task, this time identifying real words from made-up ones.
Seeing and believing
Believers were much more likely than sceptics to see a word or face when there was not one, Brugger revealed last week at a meeting of the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies in Paris. However, sceptics were more likely to miss real faces and words when they appeared on the screen.
The researchers then gave the volunteers a drug called L-dopa, which is usually used to relieve the symptoms of Parkinson's disease by increasing levels of dopamine in the brain.
Both groups made more mistakes under the influence of the drug, but the sceptics became more likely to interpret scrambled words or faces as the real thing.
That suggests that paranormal thoughts are associated with high levels of dopamine in the brain, and the L-dopa makes sceptics less sceptical. "Dopamine seems to help people see patterns," says Brugger.
However, the single dose of the drug did not seem to increase the tendency of believers to see coincidences or relationships between the words and images.
That could mean that there is a plateau effect for them, with more dopamine having relatively little effect above a certain threshold, says Peter Krummenacher, one of Brugger's colleagues.
Dopamine is an important chemical involved in the brain's reward and motivation system, and in addiction. Its role in the reward system may be to help us decide whether information is relevant or irrelevant, says Françoise Schenk from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland.
There are three schemas for the human creation of Deity as an idea in the mind. This is not to assert either that such a deity does or does not in fact exist; it is simply to show that such a Deity's existence is not an a priori for the presence of a God-concept in the human mind. God's existence or nonexistence is independent of the presence or absence of these beliefs. These three schemas are (1) psychological projection, (2) confusion of apprehension with imposition, and (3) social ground for elevated communication. Psychological projection - The self-conscious individual projects this self-consciousness directly into the world as an anthropomorphization. This is a projection into immanent perception (animism) which is later transcendentalized. The necessary and sufficient conditions for this to occur are a world to be perceived and a self-referential perceiver. Confusion of apprehension with perception - this is the belief that order is apprehended within a designed universe rather than imposed categorically by the ordering mind of the believer. Either or both may be the case, but neither absolutely (with the exception of microphysics - see Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle). The assumed Deific imposition of such an order leads the believer to further assume a self-conscious Deity; this is an unwarranted anthromorphic limitation of the concept. Social ground for elevated communication - this schema requires the presence of an other; it is thus social and a suppot for T. S. Eliot's discernment of religio-cultural symbiosis. Heidegger states that objects are related to each other through the subject (as tools); reverse this and it may be seen that subjects may be related through objects in their shared perceptual field (as imposers/apprehenders of meaning). The subject is also object, however (mind manifests by means of body), and humans seem to equate their bodies with objects as the "lower" part of their presence in the world. Thus, communication occurs mediated by a "lower" ground (and a subjectively inadequate-seeming one). A pure subjectivity is therefore intersubjectively postulated to satisfy the desire to communicate on a "higher" ground. The moment such abilities and attributes are ascribed to Deity, however, it also becomes an object. The basic misconception is that of an anthropomorphic God. We both observe and are participatory parts of the universe - it is not subsumed in us. The whole is not a reflection of the part; it is vice- versa. Infinite regress is possible both spatially and temporally within the "known" universe. The universe may be seen as spatially infinite or temporally eternal if we see ourselves as the same and admit infinite regress. It may also be seen as spatially finite and temporally bounded if we see ourselves as the same and deny infinite regress. The choice is at this moment arbitrary, but in either case, the universe is spatiotemporally finite in relation to ourselves. We can also choose to believe in eternal pre- and afterlives if they are transcendent. Immanent organized eternity is contradicted by a periodicity of universal collapse. The undifferentiated aesthetic of F.S.C. Northrup survives this; specific differentiations do not if they are immanent. We here have the choice of accepting human finitude or of asserting human infinitude by means of transcendence. We must continue to make distinctions between knowledge, belief and untruth. Knowledge is probable and statistical; it is demonstrable by example. Belief is possible and astatistical, and should not be assumed in either the case of possible example (this makes it knowledge) or of possible counterexample ( this makes it untruth). Either God is or God is not. In either case, we cannot say what God is without limiting the concept. Therefore, we should not try to tell each other what God is, for we cannot; we may merely assert our belief in God or lack of same, and describe the form this belief takes for us. It is up to the other whether or not to accept such an assertion in whole or in part.
BELIEF IN OURSELVES
We are part of the universe and our apprehension of it is equivalent to the universe perceiving itself, a la "self-thinking thought." We give meaning to the universe as our home and the universe gives us meaning as its beholders. Our meaning is to be found within this interrelationship of ourselves with each other, within our common home. We give each other meaning through our interrelationships - humans are as symbiotic as humanity and cosmos. Rather than depend upon transient myth to ground and perpetuate us, we must recognize the values of human dignity, community and industry directly. (1) Human dignity - (Self/universe)-consciousness is a rare thing in the universe, as far as we know. Regardless of whether or not there was a conscious giver, such a gift is to be prized in ourselves and respected in others. (2) Human community - We are all different people, but we are also all people. McLuhan's global village and Sagan's giant terrarium are facts; we are all in this together, and should act accordingly. (3) Human industry - We become ourselves and care for others through our actions. The human experience is our life-project, and we should act in the service of human dignity and community. Whether or not we survive physical death, this opportunity is not to be exactly repeated - we should, to be in good faith with ourselves and others, say yes to life. Our means must justify any end we decide to choose. But - what about the future of society? Where is our young culture heading and what is civilization evolving into?
THE ABSOLUTE EVOLUTION OF HUMAN CONSCIOUSNESS
My contention is that consciousness evolves in absolutes. 0 = unconsciousness (matter), 1 = consciousness (life), and we, the recursively self-conscious, have the (ideal) possibility of infinity before us. this contention is mathematically proveable. Self-consciousness is consciousness of consciousness (2). However, if we are self-conscios, we are conscious of this fact (3). This may be expressed as "if 2 then 3". But it is obvious that we would be conscious of our consciousness of such a fact (if 3 then 4), and in fact, for any state achieved, awareness of (and therefore transition to) the next state is (ideally) possible. I have therefore proven "if N then N+1. These two premises together (if 2 then 3 and if N then N+1) lead to the logical conclusion that if 2 then oo (infinity). Thus the evolution of consciousness (ideally) proceeds in absolutes; 0>1>oo. Ego would occlude one level, for one can only view a level of consciousness from an ego-position outside that level; Zennists maintain, however, that one might be able to egolessly experience the multilayered totality. Why would such a thing be difficult or impossible in reality when ideally it is feasible? For three reasons: the finitude of the brain, the anchoring of perception, and the ego-epistemology of partial knowing. (1) The finitude of the brain - there are a vast number of neurons and synaptic/dendritic connections in the human brain, but nevertheless this number is finite. To assert that such a finite mechanism is capable of grasping an infinite number of states is to commit a caegory error. Our self-conscious awareness isnecessarily both existent and partial; the recursive snake of self-consciousness must bite its own tail, but cannot swallow its own jaws. (2) The anchoring of perception - our conceptions are grounded in our perceptions, and recurse to inform them. The farther away we get , in levels of consciousness, from our perceptions, the more tenuous this connection becomes, and the more sterile and less referential the resulting cognizance. (3) The ego-epistemolgy of partial knowing - we are trapped in the ego-epistemology between egoless apprehension of nothing (matter) and egoless apprehension of all (omniscience). In other words, we are always on the way to omniscience, but can never arrive. Our path, therefore, is clear; we must discover as much about the universe as we can (and this includes about ourselves), while adhering to two rules: (a) All should be permitted to possess all freedoms they care to enjoy so long as they do not interfere with any of the same freedoms possessed by others; when these freedoms inevitably come into conflict, such conflicts should be resolved by equal and proportional compromise. (b) The universe is to be experienced and understood rather than defaced or destroyed.
Meanwhile, somewhere in Florida...
« Reply #12 on: 2002-09-15 22:30:52 »
Due to Joe Dees' self identification with the character portrayal in the cartoon and his consequent feeling that (despite it apparently reflecting his repeated assertions in the once public "Serious Business" section of the BBS) it was somehow insulting, and his consequent request that it be removed from the Best of Virus Thread, the post in question has now been moved from the Best of Virus to the Humor section of the BBS.
FAITH, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel. (The Devil's Dictionary Ambrose Bierce)
Speaking as a scientist, and as an engineer, and having delivered "Philosophy of Science" courses at a post-graduate level (albeit in an Engineering Faculty), I find the discussion here vastly stranger than it needs to be. Faith, belief, trust and related concepts have no place in good science. In contrary to some of the things stated here, we don't need to "believe" that the entire universe has certain characteristics including "constant-space linearity" to perform good science, in fact we have good reason to suppose it does not uniformly have this characteristic. What we do have, is a hypothesis that the universe is consistent within the ambit in which we perform our research, and we can hypothesize that the results of our experiments are applicable to the more general universe except under fairly unusual circumstances.
<humour warning> A good scientist knows that the universe is out to get him <humour ends>, and if he makes any untested assumptions, then it is probable that something in that untested assumption will come back to bite him (just ask Pons and Fleischmann about that).
Good scientists (and engineers) are very aware of the "conflict" between the utilitarean knowable and the theoretically elegant hypothesis. But in fact, from a theoretical perspective, the discoveries of modern physics do not oblige one to embrace any particular philosophical position, whether it be mystical organicism, dialectical materialism, or anything else. In the last resort, all such interpretations can be rejected by an astringent "positivism". This being so, Ockham would suggest that we discard them as foundations until such time as some blend of "positivism" and its offshoots fails to achieve a rational world view. In which case it will need to be discarded until a more useful tool becomes available. We can demonstrate this through a simple thought experiment.
There is nothing fundamentally wrong from postulating that the universe is a strange, unknown and unknowable environment except in our immediate vicinity. We can then analyse the environment in our immediate vicinity and develop a rational system to describe our immediate environment. We can then make the inductive step that all of the universe works the same way as our localised model. As and when we discover phenomena which confute our hypothesis, we simply modify our model of the localised universe to bring it into alignment with this new information. As anyone with a smattering of exposure to science will recognise, this is the very basis of the scientific method. As anyone with a slight exposure to the philosophy of science will recognise, this is the basis of the philosophy of science. As anyone with common sense will recognise, this does not take "faith". There is no presumption that all of the universe can be described in this fashion, but in our experience to date, nothing in the substantive universe has proven unamenable to this approach.
Examining an example, modern physics posits the existence of "quarks" and "electrons". We speak of them as "things" as if they have an existence. In fact, from a theoretical perspective this is not necessary. A scientific theory may be regarded as a formal structure, in which theorems are derived from a limited number of axioms, and in which some of these theorems are interpreted by so-called "correspondence rules" as statements about things which it is possible to measure or observe. In this way, one theoretical structure may co-ordinate a whole range of empirical laws. However, the terms in the axioms are not in general "directly interpreted" by being linked to the reports of observations or the results of measuring operations. "Quarks" and "electrons" on this account are theoretical terms which do not correspond to any directly observed entities. The nearest one gets to "direct observation" is with phenomena like the tracks made in a bubble chamber, but here of course, it is strings of bubbles which are being observed, and not the "particles" which supposedly produce them. In other types of apparatus, the direct observation may be the results of examination of a field via a scanning tunneling electron microscope, or a sequence of sparks, or the movements of a pointer, or the readings of a counter. So do the theoretical terms refer to any kind of "entity" ar all?
The positivistic interpretation of the question "Do electrons exist?" is "Does electron theory make correct predictions?" Thus charecteristically positivism sees no difference between an "instrumentalism" which argues that talk about "electrons" is just a fiction for co-ordinating the results of observation, and a "realism" which declares that "electrons" really exist behind the observations and independantly of our theories. So far as positivism is concerned, both "interpretations" agree that the theory is successful, and that is all that can be said. No need for "faith", no need for "trust", and no need for "belief". <humour warning> In fact, a firm expectation that instruments lie, variables won't and constants aren't is a prerequisit to experimental success. <humour ends>
We all posses a great deal of practical knowledge about the physical and social worlds and not even the most surreal post-modernist would be able to survive without it. Much of this knowledge is enshrined in recipes for doing things, set in frameworks of largely unarticulated assumptions, which may or may not be consistent with one another. People learn to "get by" without necessarily developing sophisticated theories. You can buy and sell without being able to expound a theory of money, and you can use a television without being able to say anything about the nature of the electron. This body of knowledge is both flexible and pretty robust. Because it is not co-ordinated in precise and explicit theory we tend to hold it in low esteem, even though everything else we do depends on it.
Scientific activity, in contrast, is explicitly theory guided, but this is not to deny that it is underpinned by the same kind of practical recipes. A physicist will learn how to wire up a circuit, how to use an oscilloscope, how to bend an electron beam by a specific amount. Theory itself may be construed simply as an instrument of prediction and control, and in one sense, to have such knowledge is indeed to "know what the world is like." A strongly positivistic interpretation of theory generates an "instrumentalist" account of science, and implies that attempts to integrate the results of science into frameworks of wider significance are scientifically and literally meaningless. Thus positivism can function as a professional ideology, appropriate for defending the territory of a technical puzzle-solving community, which is confident in its own expertise and contemptuous of amateur attempts to meddle in its practices. Now to say that positivism,in one or another of its gises, cna function as a professional ideology is not to refute it. As I am using the word here, an "ideology" is a system of "beliefs" about people, society and the world which serves the interests of some group or other. Whether the "beliefs" are true or not is a seperate matter. IMO the trouble with positivism is not that it is an ideology but that it reduces science to a rudderless cargo of techniques, and while this is by no means a disproof of positivism, it certainly limits its appeal.
Science's inherited images of itself conflict with arid instrumentalism. It has a pantheon of heroes, populated with the good and the great, all discoverers of some aspect of "The Truth". These figures serve as mileposts, signposts and guardian angels on the route to "Man's Unending Quest For Knowledge." These heroes, their quest and the truths they have found, have all come to play a role as cultural symbols. Thus science is seen not just as a means to other ends, however socially useful they may be, but as an end in itself. Science is pictured searching for the "Key to the Universe," hidden somewhere just beyond the frontier of current theory. Thus the advances made in fundamental physics by their very existence proffer a justification for the social milieux within which they were produced.
Scientific progress may be variously claimed as a justification for a "free market in ideas" or for "scientific materialism" or for "tough-minded positivism", but everyone (almost) agrees in seeing it as a pinnacle of human achievement, integrated into a scheme of social goals and values. And such considerations may provide a strong motive to those who commit themselves to a scientific career. Those who have interpretted twentieth-century physics have often been motivated by the desire to promote some value-laden world view (or meme).
Now "values" can enter science in a number of different ways. So far as scientific practice is concerned, value-commitments such as "telling the truth" are essential to it. It is also clear that ethical considerations may prohibit certain kinds of investigation; such knowledge is, as it were, "taboo." It is also evident that the choice of a problem for research depends explicitly or implicitly on value-judgements. But while such decisions may affect the "neutrality" of science by making it the servant of particular interests, they do not affect its "objectivity." Indeed, the value commitments intrinsic to scientific activity are designed to safeguard science's objectivity. Sometimes, it is true, scientists distort the evidence, but if this is done deliberately then they risk expulsion from the scientific community: fraud is a "mortal sin." However, as I have argued, all evidence is mediated by theory-laden descriptions and to that extent its acceptance must be provisional.
Theoretical commitments are inevitable and mean that the kind of objectivity sought by empiricism is unattainable. Of itself, however, this does not mean that science cannot be impartial and critical and thus "objective" in a different sense. Still the evidence shows that outside influences on science can go deeper and affect not only the interpretation of the significance of a theory, but the way in which it is presented and even the criteria which govern whether it is acceptable.
This conclusion may seem close to heresy; have we not been taught that physics and mathematics give us a knowledge of a kind which is absolutly hard, secure and objective? Morever, if we are to believe science's heroic legends, all atttempts to mould it in the service of some ideology have led to disaster, and it can hardly be denied that the process of scientific development is, to a large extent, driven by problems and goals set internally by the scientific community's own endeavours, rather than laid upon it as external obligations. But this does not mean that the scientific community is wholly cut off from the rest of society. In the case of mathematics, its special status as the supreme exemplar of objectivity in knowledge is a little curious. The truths and proofs of mathematics do not depend on the evidence of the senses, and in consequence some have postulated that they depend on "transcendant objects", accessible only to Reason. But, as in the case of moral and political authority, invoking a transcendendent realm to underpin a set of social institutions and practices may simply be a way of disguising the fact that they are grounded on a social consensus. Mathematics, after all, is a human invention.
In physics, the situation is obviously different: after all, there is a "real" physical world for physics to be about. Nevertheless, a similar misrepresentation can arise, for one can come to think of one's theories and concepts as themselves possessing the characteristics of the physical world which they purport to describe and explain. Thus one is tempted to speak of knowledge as "rock-hard", "solid" and "real", and to think that when something is "obvious" that it is the facts which have spoken rather than ourselves. When we speak, however, we draw upon the cultural resources of a language which reflects particular interests and ways of seeing the world.
What then of the idea of "Absolute Truth"? Obviously, except in the dreams of some post-modernist religionists, there is no transcendent realm of concepts and theories which rest forever in perfect correspondence with the states of affairs to be found in the world, and quite independent of all human conventions. Concepts are "social institutions" forged by a language using community, not "things" whether transcendent or otherwise. "Truth" we may grant is a relation of correspondence between what we say and the world, but it follows that a "truth" has both an objective and a conventional pole: it depends both upon the implicit rules governing particular concepts and upon what the world is like.
There could be (and are) many systems of concepts capable of being used to describe the world "correctly" according to their own implicit criteria. Greengrocers classify strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and loganberries together as "berries". Students of elementary botany are taught to say that they are wrong, and that berries are fruit like bananas, cucumbers, tamatoes and - as luck would have it - gooseberries. They learn to say that a strawberry is "really" a swollen receptacle covered with achenes, and that raspberries and blackberries are "really" clusters of drupes. But this criticism of greengrocers is a piece of gratuitous academic imperialism. Greengrocers and their customers have different interests from those of botanists: they are concerned with taste, appearance and whether you eat them with cream: it matters not at all for the practice of "greengrocing" that some vegetables are tubers or rhizomes rather than roots. There is no sense in asking which system is more "correct".
This does not mean that all systems of concepts are equally good. Evidently some systems of concepts are vastly superior to others, relative to certain kinds of pursuit. Science is one kind of pursuit, or perhaps one should say, a family of more or less related pursuits. However, to say that the goal of physical science is an "understanding" of the "laws of nature" is not particularly helpful. It suggests "tuning in" to theories "laid up in heaven", but it does not offer any criteria which might guide scientific practice. The instrumentalists insist that the goal of science is "prediction and control" (which fits some fields of science more happily than others), and this provides a means for comparing the relative fruitfulness of different theories. A falkse physical theory, employing "mistaken" concepts, can then be defined as one which fails to generate successful predictions, and we judge the concepts to be mistaken because of the failure of the theories within which they are embedded.
As we can see in the history of science, the criteria by which a theory is judged acceptable may undergo changes. Of particular importance here are what we may term the "regulative principles" of a science, and in the "big" scientific revolutions it has been such principles which have been overthrown. Thus the mechanical philosophies of the seventeenth-century expunged sensory qualities and purposes from the vocabulary of physics, replacing them by matter in motion and causal action by contact. The success of Newton's theory of gravitation, however, required another change of viewpoint: good theories need not embody a plausible "mechanical" picture, but they must contain a mathematical formulation of the laws governing the forces acting in a system. Nineteenth-century field theory implied that "action-at-a-distance" theories were not really intelligible after all, and reinstated action by continuous contact. The aether theories offered to explain all in terms of picturable mechanisms once again, but when special relativity triumphed it gave priority to "invariance" over "mechanism". And when quantum mechanics was born, to Einstein's horror, it required abandonment of the age-old ambition of calculating with certainty every detail of the behavior of any system and reintroiduced the concept of "spooky or strange action at a distance". In each case, the transition involved a change in the ideals of scientific explanation: across such discontinuities scientists themselves may stand in mutual incomprehension. The "convert" needs to accept not only new evidence, but a new way of looking at things.
<Memetic Flag> A "worldview" presents both a picture of the physical world and an account of human values in a co-ordinated fashion. It is sufficient for people to believe that there are connections between moral and physical concepts for changes in scientific theories to be taken to have wider significance. As we have noted, many people hold that our whole conception of a moral order would founder if it wwere to be shown that the behaviour of human beings were mechanically determined. Newton and the followers of the "corpuscular philosophy" insisted that matter was "passive" and was capable of generating neither order nor motion of itself. Thus not only did their physics enable them to invoke the "divine intelligence" in accounting for natural order, thus underpinning the values which sustained their social order, but it gave them an anology for the "proper" governance of the land under the aegis of the civil authorities and the established church. The late-nineteenth-century aether theorists saw connections of a different kind between their worldview and their theories. Of course, you may argue that such connections are "extraneous", and that the "real content" is given by the equations and the experiments. But this too is an interpretation, and one which is particularly adapted to the professional scientist, intent on getting results for the journals. <End Memetics>
Science has the goal of bringing its knowledge under a small unified set of postulates. Thus it differs from "common-sense knowledge" in being systematic, and from the systems of the metaphysicians (such as those found on the memetics list :-) ) in that its unifying postulates can, albeit with difficulty, be brought under empirical scrutiny. It is this striving for a logically consistent unified set of postulates, which can be judged for their predictive success or otherwise, which leads us to say that science is an organised "search for the Truth" (capitalization intended).
This way of organizing knowledge focuses attention on those parts which may seem to be the most speculative, since they are of the greatest generality. The highest level of axioms is regarded as the foundation: it is here that work is said to be most "fundamental", where the deepest "secrets" are being "unlocked". This way of speaking, however, is misleading. A house collapses if you undermine its foundations; not so our knowledge of the physical world. Even if special relativity were refuted, radio, television and nuclear weapons would still continue to work. You would not hesitate, philosophically, before turning on the light switch. Paradoxically, the "foundations" of physics are insecure points at the summit of its theorizing. Most of the accumulated knowledge of the scientific community lies not up Olympus, but in its repository of technical knowhow. And every good scientist (and engineer) is fully aware, even if it is usually at a subconcious level, of the lurking instability in the basement. This is what allows a scientist to view the overthrow of an entire theoretical basis for his work if not with equanamity, at least with resignation. This is also the reason why "faith" in a system is not only not required, it is a positive hindrance to any scientist interested in pursuing original work.
Even granted the importance of of successful predictions, there is an ineradicable plasticity in the interpretation of physical theory. A tough positivism will seek that interpretation of theory which is most "economical" in dealing with experience (thank you William of Ockham). Those whose worldviews embody some account of the nature of things will find room amongst the conventions deployed in physics to structure an interpretation in conformity with their metaphysical preferences. Who knows whether one of these interpretations is "right"? The growth of knowledge of the world is shown in our increased practical competence, but all of our theories are entwined with conventional elements which reduce their testability. To make these conventions explicit is to reveal the extent to which our theories can tell us nothing for certain about the world.
Faith in such uncertainty is not only foolish. It is misplaced. And the "Truths" which seem so self-evident and perpetual to the metaphysicists are perceived as being transitory and ephermal by the physicist. Thrive on chaos, the world is not only stranger than we can imagine, but the strangeness metamorphises every time we approach it, as perception of "truth" self-modifies our worldview.
U w1LL APPAER $MURT & U-BER L33T IF U D0 THEEZ THEENGZ:::
Excessively use quotes belonging to and throw in names of prominent historical philosophers, making certain to spell their names incorrectly.
When quoting (in)famous works of literature, always spell their titles incorrectly as well. (ie. "Main Kampf")
When you first join a stimulating on-line congregation of intellectuals, make sure your first sure-fire attention-grabber is to insult one of the most long-standing, well-respected and intelligent members of the aforementioned group.
Clarify the obvious as much as possible. (ie. when translating "I think therefore I am.")
Simultaneously feign affection and superiority.
Spell the word "intelligence" wrong.
Ignore all traces of irony completely, even if it is slapping you in the face, fellating a midget, and giving a steamy lap dance to the beat of Michael Jackson's "Thriller".
Be sure to mention Hitler somewhere in your post, even if it makes no sense and is completely out of context. There is no such thing as a proper flame without the mention of Hitler somewhere therein.
NOW GO FORTH AND FLAMETH!
« Last Edit: 2003-06-14 11:45:32 by David Lucifer »