More kemes (was: Re: We luv the guv't)

Craig Presson (
Tue, 20 Jan 1998 23:34:01 -6

On 19 Jan 98 at 6:10, Damien Broderick wrote:

> I wonder from time to time whether memetic meta-organisms might not be
> running an entire slow, massively distributed and time-sharing kind of
> ecology inside human brains/minds
> Perhaps this is just a restatement of the basic meme postulate, but I
> have a hunch that it might be more than that. But then I can only
> suspect this while I'm being run by a mind-parasite that wants me to
> think so...

In the early 80's, before he had heard of memes but while computer
viruses were getting their first media exposure, my friend Steve
Robsky at Data General (aka Dirty Genitals Corporation) came up
with the following:

Steve: "Suppose there were ideas that were like viruses, so that once
you hear them, they take over your mental processes and you can't
stop thinking of them?"
Me: "I think there are plenty of ideas like that."
Steve (conspiratorial whisper): "Right! And further suppose that the
idea of a mental virus was one such ..."


It's possible to view the output of any identifiable group of
organisms, including humanity-as-a-whole, as a computation which is an
emergent property of the group's functioning (cf. Tipler [there's more
to Tipler's hypothesis, of course] and Douglas Adams, not to mention a
lot of half-remembered early posts to this list). These computations
vary in their degree of directedness and efficiency. Seems to me the
efficiency of all but a few of them is ~0, especially since the
"results" aren't recorded anywhere or recognized as such. Surely part
of the appeal of cyberspace (and eventually upload space) is the
potential for raising that ~0 to a usable fraction.

So far, =0 of this is new. OK, suppose there are a number of diffuse
computations that are timesharing our nervous systems, mostly at levels
we're not conscious of (because if we were conscious of them, as good
capitalists, we'd be looking for a billing address, neh?). Maybe a
lot of our undirected, inexplicable behaviors are I/O operations in
those computations. It is then also possible that as we expand our
awareness and control of mental functioning, a side effect is that we
disrupt a number of these parasites. Maybe those of us who eventually
upload shed all of the old organic ones ...

... and find a new set of much more efficient parasite programs running
around "up" there ... <evil grin>. This says I should definitely keep
working on data security, I'll always have work! Just imagine the
disaster recovery plan for a Jupiter brain ...

-- (Freeman Craig Presson)