Lyle Burkhead (
Tue, 10 Dec 1996 04:06:32 -0500 (EST)

I wrote

# Suppose someone wants to bring about some event, and as a means
# of doing so, propagates a meme. What kind of causality is supposed
# to be at work here?

to which Eric Watt Forste replied

> Rhetorical causality. The same kind of causality that was used to
> establish the United States of America, for instance.

That's not how the American Revolution happened. There was no
concept of memetic engineering. No one thought, in the 1750s, "If we
get that revolution meme (or idea) out there, a revolution will occur."

The idea of memetic engineering implies a self-conscious manipulation
of public opinion by someone standing apart. Jefferson, Adams, Paine,
and the others advocated certain ideas and initiated certain actions.
They didn't stand off to the side and throw memes in front of the
public. They *participated* in the events leading up to the revolution.

What puzzles me is the concept that if one "promotes extropian ideas,"
for example by producing a calendar with pictures of space colonies,
that this will somehow cause something to happen that would not have
happened otherwise. This reminds me of those cartoons about "people
who aren't clear on the concept."

On December 5, Eliezer Yudkowsky wrote

> there [are] no less than eight separate and distinct phenomena
> that could arguably be called "causality", and philosophers still
> haven't untangled the four types they know about - computational,
> platonic, thermodynamic and cognitive causality.

Leaving aside the fact that philosophers have discussed many other
kinds of causality, the question I want to raise is:
When someone tries to get the extropian meme in front of the public,
and expects this to have an effect, upon which type of causality is this
expectation based?

Incidentally, Eliezer's statement

> I scored astronomically high on the SAT ... but have a
> relatively normal IQ of 143, and I do causal analysis,
> so the SAT apparently tests just that.

is a non sequitur.

(As long as we're bragging about SATs, my scores were 721 verbal,
793 mathematical. A few weeks ago people were posting their ages;
it would be interesting to post SATs as well.)

Eric Watt Forste adds,

> It's funny watching the people who are wholly on one side or the
> other of Snow's boundary running around acting snooty and superior
> to the people on the other side.

I never bought into the "two cultures" bullshit. I majored in math
and minored in classics. But this has nothing to do with the point about
causality. I don't know why Eric has chosen to bring private business
onto the list.