RE: Yudkowsky's AI (again)

Lyle Burkhead (
Wed, 31 Mar 1999 22:27:51 -0800

Dan Fabulich writes,

> I'm not familiar with that abbreviation. What's the ur-meme?

The Random House Dictionary says ur is "a combining form meaning earliest, original, used in words denoting the primal stage of a historical or cultural entity or phenomenon."

For example, linguists have tried to reconstruct the original Indo-European language, the ur-language which gave rise to all modern Indo-European languages.

The ur-meme refers to the first meme that became aware of itself as a meme in competition with other memes; the first one that appeared in the form of a book that instructed its readers to read it, teach it to their children, build a community around it, and propagate it everywhere; the first one that incorporated the idea of one unique God (or one unique reality); the first one that introduced the idea of a messiah who would renew the world.

This original meme has since mutated into many forms, some of which are secular and have no obvious connection to their source. But most of them have the idea of a messiah, whether it be Jesus, Lenin, John Galt, or the AI that will emerge from our computers and save us from ourselves.

When I mentioned the ur-meme, I expressed myself in a deliberately elliptical fashion, hoping that Eliezer would get my drift and no one else would ask for an explanation. But Dan did ask, and I am writing this because he asked a fair question and deserves an answer. However, I never intended to return to the list. I promised myself two years ago that I would never again get into a desultory e-mail discussion where people come and go and the discussion drifts from thread to thread, aimlessly.

A few days ago it came to my attention that some nit-brained newbie had mentioned my name with disrespect, and I thought I had better make a comment. Now that thatís done, I am going to keep my promise to myself. I note that Billy has started a new thread about Geniebusters. I have no intention of getting into a flame war with him. If anyone on the list cares enough about the calibration meme to defend it, fine. If not, thatís fine too. The calibration meme will find its way in the world on its own merit. Iím going to get back to work.

One final note to Eliezer: if you spent your time writing software instead of reading the Extropian list, you wouldnít have to worry about raising money.