Re: Meme supremacy

Eric Watt Forste (
Thu, 31 Jul 1997 10:27:27 -0700

First a disclaimer: among the few things I disapprove of are
sanctimony and racism. Now that we have a nice little
double-bind framing this discussion such that sides cannot be
chosen without contextually incriminating oneself as either (a)
sanctimonious (den Otter's charge) or (b) racist (Broderick's
charge), I'd like to keep my own name out of the heart of this
particular debate. (Now I will no doubt be identified as (c)

However, I do want to pick at a flaw in one of den Otter's
central arguments.

den Otter asks:
> Now about the meme thing: do you honestly belief that "all memes
> are equal"? If so, why aren't you over at Christian chat or
> Commytalk? After's all the same thing.

All memes might very well be equal without that fact causing any
desire in me to slurp up the tasty memes of Christians and communists.
These memes *might* just be well-suited to their current hosts
while remaining virulently poisonous to me. Even the historical
effects of these memes on host populations over long periods of
time is, as they say in investment circles, no guarantee of future
performance. Although the hardcore individual Christians and
communists may try to fight the processes of cultural evolution,
Christianity and communism are not under anyone's control, and they
are no more fixed and static than any other set of living memes.
The socialists took over the word "liberal", which has not yet lost
its pleasant ring to my ear, even though I can no longer self-apply
the word without guarding against being misunderstood as a socialist.
And a socialist is, to my way of thinking, the very opposite of
what the word "liberal" meant in the first full flowering of world
liberalism. Perhaps the word "Christian" will undergo similar
strange transmogrifications over the next century.

The inequality of people is not as significant as the champions of
the idea of inequality would make it seem, because people cannot
be readily ranked into bins, and attempts to stratify society along
these basis always develop into ridiculous fictions. A superintelligence
who recognized eirself as such at the age of, say, seven years,
might profitably hide the fact from the perception of others, the
better to reshape the world into eir heart's desire. Any attempt
to seriously consider possibilities of this sort rapidly veer off
into the sheerest of plausibility arguments. I do think it is
important that human inequality be recognized to allow us to continue
to resist the eternal attempts to punish the skillful for the "crime"
of being skillful, a la Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron.

I think each person ought to be allowed to make eir own assessments
of the relative "value rank" of other people, so I am generally
opposed to antidiscrimination legislation. But as long as powerful
governments, permitted by social assumptions to use force against
individuals, share this planet with my friends, I will resist the
idea that the relative value rank of individual human beings can
be reliably and objectively measured. And as a matter of taste, I
will continue to avoid the company of those who believe that there
are any shortcuts to the assessment of the general worth of a human
being that can be explained in a paragraph.

Eric Watt Forste ++ ++ expectation foils perception -pcd