Re: memetic war

Lyle Burkhead (
Mon, 19 Apr 1999 23:36:09 -0700

When I posted my retraction last night, I had not read Greg Burch's comments.

I wrote
>, for example, is in debt. There is no money to be made in
> propagating memes. That's the wrong business to be in.

To which Greg replied
> Tell that to Ted Turner, Pablo Picasso, Oscar de la Renta, James Cameron
> or Oprah Winfrey.

Well, I called all those people and told them that. Most of them didn't know what I was talking about. I had to explain what a meme is. Oprah said "I'm an entertainer. I wouldn't be where I am today if I talked about memes. My career would never have gotten past square one." Picasso said "I'm an artist. I don't give a damn about memes. I just paint what I see." Ted Turner did know what a meme was, but he said "I'm a businessman, first of all. I want money, power, fame, and beautiful women. I do have an agenda, of course, and being in my position I can push certain ideas and not others, but that's not what my career is about. The idea that somebody would devote his life to propagating memes _as such_ is bizarre. It reminds me of those cartoons about 'people who don't get the concept.' Memes can take care of themselves. Get a life."

Greg continued,
> No one expects to get rich propagating transhuman ideas or extropian
> per se.

Well, per se is the problem. If somebody wants to make money, it is rational for him to promote the idea that wealth is a good thing and should not be confiscated for socialistic reasons. But when someone has no intention of making money, but tries to propagate the capitalism meme and the rational selfishness meme, per se -- if his main goal is for people to think the right thoughts about these issues -- I just don't know what to make of this. It reminds me of something C.S. Lewis said, "It is more important that heaven should exist than that I should get there." I never understood Lewis's statement, and I don't understand the idea of propagating memes as such, for their own sake.

In today's economy, there are so many opportunities I have to chase them away with a stick. I'm not saying ExI is useless in its present form, I'm just saying what others have no doubt said many times before -- that there is no reason for it to conceive itself as a propagator of memes, or a networking group, as opposed to an organization that actually sets forces in motion and makes things happen. Nevertheless it is what it is, so let's see if there is an alternative.

> We are entering the age of memetic competition. What kind of meme can
> create a phenotype around itself that has the strength to survive and
> become immortal? An ism? A corporation? or some new kind of meme?

> I would answer your question by saying "All of the above."
> How would you answer it?

As everyone knows by now, I go back and forth on the question of whether we even need to think in these terms at all. The computer industry didn't need a meme to bring it into existence, it just happened, and biotech is happening by itself too. The technology of immortality will come into existence just like personal computers came into existence, as the natural outcome of economic forces. Nevertheless, sometimes I do think we need a meme that can create a phenotype around itself. This will have to wait till tomorrow.