Re: Public Relations? (a memetic view)

Anders Sandberg (
06 Jan 1998 14:59:13 +0100

Just some further, rather abstract, thoughts about the memes we share.

I recently read the paper "Cultural r/k Selection" by Agner Fog in
Journal of Memetics

Fog suggests a memetic analogy to the r/K strategies in biology. An r
strategy occurs when there are good opportunities for expansion but
also considerable dangers (such as predators or natural hazards). Then
it will be advantageous for a species to breed as fast as possible and
spend little resources on each offspring. If the population is limited
under scarce resources rather than predation, then a K strategy
emerges where there are few offspring, but much resources are invested
in them. Mice and insects follow r strategies, humans and other large
mammals tend to follow K strategies.

Fog then applies this to memetics, suggesting that the same strategies
apply to memes. Memes that can quickly spread but also are in constant
danger due to predation from other memes, unreliable vectors or
attacks from opposing memes would follow a r strategy, something Fog
calls a regal strategy. Regal memes tend to emphasize the importance
of proselytization, defence of the memetic in-group and homogenity of
belief - it is more important to spread the meme than liking it. K
strategies among memes (called kalyptic by Fog) appear when the meme
cannot easily expand into other meme-pools and there are little danger
for it. In this case it becomes more important to keep the hosts of
the meme interested in it, so selection for positive effects of being
infected will occur, there is little need for keeping the variants of
the meme similar etc. Fog then goes on analysing cultures with this

Note the similarity between "movements" and regal strategies, and
traditions/idea currents and kalyptic strategies. A movement seeks to
expand its base, becoming more able to influence more people. They
often seek to retain something of an ideological purity (which often
results in them splintering into mutually competing sub-movements). An
idea current has no real drive to expand, it spreads to hosts that can
accept the meme and have little need for orthodoxy. If Fog's model is
correct, then we should expect movements to appear in memetic niches
where it is possible to gain many converts, but there is also plenty
of opposition, and idea currents in memetic niches where it is not
easy to gain new converts, but little opposition.

By now I think it is fairly clear that extropianism is more of a
kalyptic strategy than a regal strategy. Our memes are directed
towards making our lives happier, more efficient and futuristic, often
being based on cooperation with other, related memes. While there are
plenty of people to persuade about extropianism, only a relatively
small subset are likely to become extropians which suggests the need
to invest more energy in creating convincing and useful

If extropianism could somehow find a form that is easily transmitted,
this meme would likely evolve towards a more regal strategy with less
allowances for unorthodox thinking, becoming a typical movement.

Note that neither of these strategies is any "better" than the other
in some moral sense. Kalyptic strategies tend to allow more freedom,
but they are not evolutionarily stable against invading regal
strategies. Regal strategies are able to spread quickly to a large
population and in the lack of any outer enemy gradually becoming
kalyptic (and hence vulnerable to unexpected new regal competitors). A
regal form of extropianism might not be entirely in accordance to the
current ideals, but would be able to amass the strength to get a lot
of practical transhuman work done (if it was lucky), the current
kalyptic form is pleasant but often not very practical.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y