Re: Major Technologies--Memetics

Anders Sandberg (
25 Jan 1999 21:51:15 +0100

"Billy Brown" <> writes:

> James Ganong wrote:
> > OK, we've gone over several physical technologies so far, but
> > what about memetics?
> > Could it ever be developed to the point of being an actual
> > technology/engineering discipline?
> Of course it could. IMHO, you don't even need nanotech brain surgery to do
> it. People actually seem to be pretty easy to influence, as long as you
> approach the problem the right way. The hard part would be developing a
> technique for testing the effectiveness of competing approaches in an
> objective fashion. Once you have that, experimenters can begin building a
> sound base of knowledge in the field. Once you have enough empirical data
> to be able to say you know how to do some limited set of things reliably,
> you have an engineering discipline.

You mean like the psychology of persuasion/attitude change or advertisement psychology? Both are areas where quite a bit of serious reasearch is going on. But most of it is non-memetic, i.e. relies on direct exposure rather than spread from other people.

> > Why or why not? What could happen if it were so developed?
> That's the catch. Memetic engineering would could benefit us all by making
> it possible to build better mental immune systems, weed out false memes more
> reliably, and so on.

Actually, this is an interesting angle to add in the above fields, how to create a mindset able to resist these methods. There are publishable research papers in it :-)

> BTW - This is one reason why some of us are so nervous about the idea of
> confronting an SI. Circumstantial evidence seems to suggest that humans
> have very weak mental immune systems. An entity a great deal smarter than
> we are might well be able to exploit those weaknesses to manipulate us into
> doing just about anything, just by engaging in conversation that leads
> subtly in the desired direction.

Note that this is a skill that hinges very sensitively on being able to participate in human social contexts, judging reactions from small cues and modelling the reactions of a human. SIs are only dangerous in this respect if you believe that intelligence is completely general, and not specialized (which is becoming a more and more common view among psychologists).

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
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