Re: MEMETICS: Good/Bad Restated

Michael Lorrey (
Tue, 21 Jan 1997 10:00:44 -0500

James Rogers wrote:
> My statement regarding "good" and "bad" memes has been somewhat
> misinterpreted on this list, and possibly mistated by me.
> There are a number of ways to look at this. First, you can define
> "goodness" in either an absolute or relative sense. I chose absolute.
> Second, you can observe a meme either from the perspective of that meme or
> from the perspective of the memetic host.
> Now for a more detailed explanation of my theories on memetics:
> The difference between a bad meme and a good meme is the difference between
> a parasite and a symbiote. In a relative sense, a bad meme may APPEAR to be
> a "good" meme to the sentient host (i.e. human), but a bad meme is *always*
> bad in an absolute sense. Much of the RELATIVE "goodness" in an ABSOLUTELY
> bad but relatively "good" meme is superficial at best. In fact, much of the
> "goodness" is also not absolute in any sense. Example: If you are a poor,
> ignorant, unhappy redneck, you are very likely go to church. Why? Because
> it makes you feel better about being poor, ignorant, and unhappy.
> Nonetheless, you are *still* poor, ignorant, unhappy. An absolutely good
> meme would be for the poor, ignorant, unhappy redneck to put forth the
> effort to become educated and pursue higher ambitions, or whatever would
> reverse his pathetic condition.
> Notice some fundamental differences between good and bad memes (absolute
> sense). Good memes attack the cause, bad memes attack the symptoms. People
> are more likely to propagate RELATIVELY good memes because they can more
> closely identify with symptoms than causes. The feedback loop is *much*
> tighter for relatively good memes. An absolutely good meme is only likely
> to propagate if it *also* fixes the short-term symptoms as well (i.e. is a
> relatively good meme). Therefore, the *key* to memetic propagation is
> relative goodness.
> A meme is a non-moral agent. It's attempts to propagate are morally
> neutral. Moral value should only be attached to the ideas encapsulated
> within the meme. Therefore, the "good"ness of a meme should only be
> evaluated from the perspective of the sentient host. Analogy: It is like a
> mosquito (which is neither good or bad) which may propagate malaria
> (obviously bad). There is nothing absolutely bad about a mosquito following
> its nature, and the same applies to a meme. We don't view a mosquito as bad
> because it is a mosquito, we only view a mosquito as bad because it contains
> malaria.

THis is understood, however, a meme's "capsule" is not separate from the
content, they are homogenous. THus the subjectively moral "goodness" of
a meme will have the greatest influence on its success as a meme.

While a meme of the greatest level of broadly based perceived purity of
subjective goodness will take a relatively longer time to propagate
widely, due to its relatively greater level of purity than the existing
memetic mean, due to its advanced state, it will perpetuate itself for
the longest amount of time, as it will continue to be perceived as
advanced, worthy of adherence, etc for a greater amount of time than
morally weaker memes that are quickly outmoded and seen as primitive or

In this we can look at the Christianity meme as a model. Granted that it
is seen as outmoded or corrupted at this point in time, however in its
days of origin, and through most of its history, it has been seen as TOO
HIGH of a moral standard for mortal men to achieve. IMHO it is due to
this unreachable expectation that has ensured its longevity, and bodes
ill for extropy if our goals are achieved too quickly.


Michael Lorrey ------------------------------------------------------------ President Northstar Technologies Agent Inventor of the Lorrey Drive

Website: Now Featuring: Mikey's Animatronic Factory My Own Nuclear Espionage Agency (MONEA) MIKEYMAS(tm): The New Internet Holiday Transhumans of New Hampshire (>HNH) ------------------------------------------------------------ Transhumanist, Inventor, Webmaster, Ski Guide, Entrepreneur, Artist, Outdoorsman, Libertarian, Arms Exporter-see below. ------------------------------------------------------------ #!/usr/local/bin/perl-0777---export-a-crypto-system-sig-RC4-3-lines-PERL @k=unpack('C*',pack('H*',shift));for(@t=@s=0..255){$y=($k[$_%@k]+$s[$x=$_ ]+$y)%256;&S}$x=$y=0;for(unpack('C*',<>)){$x++;$y=($s[$x%=256]+$y)%256; &S;print pack(C,$_^=$s[($s[$x]+$s[$y])%256])}sub S{@s[$x,$y]=@s[$y,$x]}