Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Mega memes and the great conspiracy

I was really hoping to be able to pull this all together in an eloquent grand finale, but it's just not working. So rather than keep everyone waiting I'm just going to do this the awkward way:

1. Classical reality is not metaphysical reality. But treating classical reality as if it were metaphysically real is a useful working approximation in day-to-day life. Analogously, what I am about to describe is also not "really" metaphysically real, but is (I believe) a useful working approximation yadda yadda yadda.

2. Likewise, there is every reason to believe that we don't "really" have free will (because free will is not consistent with a deterministic universe, even a quantum one) but the illusion that we have free will is so powerful and the consequences of descending into fatalism so unpleasant that accepting the illusion of free will and living our lives as if it were real seems prudent.

3. Information reproduces in systems that process classical information like DNA, computers and human brains. The reproduction of information obeys the laws of Darwinian evolution.

4. Some of the information that reproduces in our brains is accessible to us on a conscious level in the form of ideas. But our intuitions about what we think we know can be wrong. Not only do we not know what's really going on around us, we don't know that we don't know.

5. Information influences the physical world through a variety of mechanisms. These include 1) the expression of genes as proteins, 2) the control that brains have over the bodies they reside in, including voluntary and autonomic responses, and the placebo effect.

6. Systems of brains can store and process information in ways that is not possible with individual brains. Companies, for example, have "corporate knowledge" that resides in a distributed fashion in the brains of its employees. In a large company no single person has complete knowledge of how all of the processes in the company work. And yet they do. This is one of the great achievements of modern civilization.

7. If individual brains can have memes living inside them of which they are not aware (c.f. point 4 above) then the concepts encoded in a multi-brain system like a corporation (or a religious group, or a political party) might also not be accessible on a conscious level to any of the component brains that contain it. In fact, it is more likely that a concept resident in a multi-brain system be inaccessible consciously because it is further removed from the mechanisms of consciousness than ideas residing in an individual brain.

8. The mega-memes residing in multi-brain systems reproduce according to the laws of Darwinian evolution just like all other information. They also exert physical influences on the world, i.e. these mega-memes have a phenotype. The computer you are using to read this is an example. No one human being knows how to build a modern computer. The mega-meme that created it resides in hundreds if not thousands of brains.

9. We like to think of ourselves as the masters of ideas, that we create ideas to serve our needs. The Great Conspiracy is the hypothesis that ideas -- and in particular mega-memes distributed in large numbers of brains -- are actually using us humans to serve their needs. The internet did not come into being because we chose to build it, it came into being because the Internet is an idea that reproduces extraordinarily well.

10. Not all ideas that reproduce well have consequences that align as nicely with our human aspirations as the Internet. For example, the idea that one ought to have a lot of children is an idea that reproduces well, as is the idea that one ought to adhere to social norms and not question authority. But the consequences of these ideas might not be so benign.

11. The reason that the Great Conspiracy resembles a conspiracy is because mega-memes reside in multiple brains, and the more brains they reside in the more successful they have been and are likely to continue to be. The reason they don't need to expend resources to remain hidden is that they can hide in plain sight. Any brain that realizes what is going on and rebels is simply cast out of the memetic complex (by, for example, the "phenotype" of the adherence-to-social-norms meme).

12. So one of the predictions of this theory is that no one will pay any attention to it, and I will become socially ostracized for advancing it. :-)

Whether or not you buy this, I hope it's a little clearer now why I had such a hard time rendering this idea into words.

BTW, when Dawkins introduced the concept of memes way back in the 1970's he talked about "viral memes" and the kinds of characteristics that a meme might have to reproduce well. For example, the idea that "God will reward you if you spread this idea" reproduces well because it has this "hook". The Great Conspiracy goes one step further and says that mega-memes resident in multiple brains are actually the central driving force in most human activity. Groupthink is not an aberration, but rather the primary dynamic driving the advance (for now) of civilization.

33 comments:

Tony said...

I guess you read some Dawkins already, but for the basics, I can recommend Dan Dennet:
"Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life"
by Daniel Dennett
(I guess you already know some of it, but he nicely wraps it all up)

You really need to read this:
- "The Robot's Rebellion: Finding Meaning in the Age of Darwin"
by Keith E. Stanovich

Ok, here it comes. This GC MegaMeme has a name: Society. Read some Marx. Then some more. Best start with "A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right"

And don't go mad. You are not alone - we humans are all in it together.

Tony said...

BTW: It should be enough to read the introduction to "Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right" to get a first grip on what Marx has identified as the root of all humanity:

To be radical is to grasp the root of the matter. But, for man, the root is man himself. The evident proof of the radicalism of German theory, and hence of its practical energy, is that is proceeds from a resolute positive abolition of religion. The criticism of religion ends with the teaching that man is the highest essence for man – hence, with the categoric imperative to overthrow all relations in which man is a debased, enslaved, abandoned, despicable essence, relations which cannot be better described than by the cry of a Frenchman when it was planned to introduce a tax on dogs: Poor dogs! They want to treat you as human beings!

Ron said...

I have read The Robot's Rebellion, but it was a while ago. If memory serves, that book only looked at the situation from an individual point of view.

One of the predictions of the Great Conspiracy is that any mega-meme that has within it the idea of "individual human rights" or "thinking for yourself" will be at a severe competitive disadvantage. This is one of the "experiments" I alluded to in the opening allegory. So the GC predicts the ascendancy of religion and radical right-wing politics. This is the main reason I found this conclusion so disturbing.

I have not read Hegel, but I can't think of any philosopher who has been more thoroughly refuted by history than Marx. In fact, the fate of Marxism -- and even the extent to which misunderstandings of Marxism have contributed to that fate -- is all evidence for the Great Conspiracy. Educated well adjusted people thinking for themselves are not fertile breeding grounds for mega-memes. Mega-memes will therefore tend to develop traits that cause such people to be marginalized and ultimately weeded out of the population.

Mike said...

Some very quick thoughts (I'm falling-down tired at the moment):

I don't see the relevance of point 2, but I'd strongly disagree; insofar as the notion of "free will" makes any sense, I absolutely believe that we have it.

Otherwise, there's nothing here that's going to get you locked up with the TimeCube guy, but equally I'm not seeing the metaphysics, I'm not seeing the conspiracy, and I'm not seeing the promised evidence.

What you've laid out is a way of looking at things, in the same sense that "computer viruses are alive!" is a way of looking at things. Computer viruses aren't a metaphysical concept, and nor IMHO are your mega-memes.

For evidence, I think you'd need to come up with examples of highly successful ideas which can't be explained any other way, e.g. by the self-interest of some subset of the host meatbag population, or as the unintended consequence of some earlier more reasonable meatbag choice or evolutionary psychological trait. I don't think your examples of "the ascendancy of religion and radical right-wing politics" are at all inexplicable in this sense, so it's hard not to reach for Occam's Razor.

Jared said...

Points 6 and 8 reminded me of this article, I, Pencil: "not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me." So "the mega-meme under evolution idea" of course cross-sections into economics. Of course Marxism's central planning had this (efficiently distributing expertise, cf. Adam Smith) going against it from the beginning. (The "Invisible Spleen" instead of Invisible Hand?)

Re: point 8, over the last several years I had begun to realize that despite my increasing knowledge of how computers work, I could never make one from scratch if I traveled back in time. This saddened me, but it's good to see it explicitly articulated. College CS professors should just drop this bomb on day one: you can't bootstrap all this CS/EE stuff from nothing and you don't need to.

And finally, a thought to leave you with regarding Moore's Law:

Carver Mead explains: "[Moore’s Law is] really a thing about human activity, it’s about vision, it’s about what you’re allowed to believe. Because people are really limited by their beliefs, they limit themselves by what they allow themselves to believe what is possible." *** Finally, in a another reference, Mead adds: “Permission to believe that [the Law] will keep going,” is what keeps the Law going.

If slow computers are being selected against, the GC is "winning" evolutionarily speaking (it's making the internet faster at copying).

Ron said...

> I don't see the relevance of point 2

That we do not "really" have free will matters because if we "really" had free will then we could "defeat" mega-memes simply by becoming aware of their existence and choosing to no longer do their bidding. But we do not "really" have free will so this tactic won't work. We might think that we're choosing to rebel, but we aren't because we can't. We can *feel* as if we're rebelling. It can be a very convincing illusion, as convincing as the illusion of classical reality itself. But it is not metaphysically how things are.

> I'm not seeing the promised evidence

I'll get to that. Bear with me.

> Computer viruses aren't a metaphysical concept, and nor IMHO are your mega-memes.

Whether or not computer viruses are a life form is a metaphysical question. Whether or not mega-memes are "real things" or just a figment of my imagination is a metaphysical question. This is the reason I set the stage with quantum mechanics. The question of whether classical reality is real is clearly a metaphysical question. And there is a clear answer: it isn't. But it is useful to suspend disbelief and carry on as if classical reality were real. Analogously, it may be useful (according to some TBD quality metric) to suspend disbelief and carry on as if mega-memes were "really" real.

> it's hard not to reach for Occam's Razor

Fair enough. I'll try to expand on this in future posts. But in the mean time how about:

> If slow computers are being selected against, the GC is "winning" evolutionarily speaking

This is an excellent example. We keep making (and buying) faster and faster computers. We put extraordinary effort into this. Making faster computers and coming up with ways to use them is a major human activity. But take a step back and ask *why* are we doing this? Is this *really* the best use of these resources? Are Facebook and Twitter really making us better off and/or happier? Or do they just make it easier for ideas to hop from brain to brain? How often do we even stop to think about this?

Mike said...

I don't think your idea of what "free will" needs to be (to deserve the label) is coherent, but that's probably a whole other discussion.

>> If slow computers are being selected against, the GC is "winning" evolutionarily speaking

> This is an excellent example.

We also keep devising ever more abstruse financial instruments, and building ever taller skyscrapers, and developing ever more realistic videogames. Those probably aren't the best use of resources either, in this rhetorical world where "resources" are perfectly fungible. Is that the GC at work too? Do these technologies somehow assist the propagation of ideas? If so, how? If not, why assign a special conspiracy explanation to one particular niche, like a Newtonian addendum that specifies different equations for the gravitation of bananas?

> Are Facebook and Twitter really making us better off and/or happier? Or do they just make it easier for ideas to hop from brain to brain?

This is a false dichotomy.

Dennis Gorelik said...

1) As usual you did not give us anything actionable.

2) Yes, behavior of an organization is more complex than behavior of a single individual.
Yes, individual does not have to understand his/her purpose in the grand scheme of things in order to deliver on that purpose.
It's true now, it was true in the past.
So what?

3) Even if our world is fully deterministic it does NOT mean that we don't have free will.
Free -- is not the same as random.

Ron said...

> 1) As usual you did not give us anything actionable.

What is it with this sudden obsession about giving you something actionable? Most of my posts aren't actionable (whatever that means).

There is a recommendation coming at the end of this process, but it will be a while before I get there. The title of this blog is not a pun on random ramblings for nothing.

> So what?

So there are features of that additional complexity that are 1) interesting, 2) not readily apparent to a casual observer and 3) potentially harmful (depending on your quality metric of course). The GC is not a fully fleshed out idea. You're watching it develop in real time. Cut me some slack, OK?

> 3) Even if our world is fully deterministic it does NOT mean that we don't have free will.

Sigh. I was really hoping to avoid this argument. It doesn't *matter* whether we "really" have free will or not, just as it doesn't matter if classical reality is "really" real or not. The illusion of classical reality is so compelling that for the purposes of the GC it makes sense to accept classical reality as real. Likewise, the illusion of free will is so compelling that it also makes sense to accept free will as real even if it is not. If you want to believe that free will is metaphysically real that's fine with me.

Let me try this: whatever our metaphysical status w.r.t free will is, mega-memes potentially have the same status. If we have free will, then so could they. One way or another, our free will doesn't allow us to escape their influence even if we (as individuals) become fully aware of their existence.

Dan said...

My initial reaction was to say that a mega meme shouldn't completely marginalize educated people because they could be valuable in creatively and intelligently advancing it. I'd like that to be true, but it's easy to believe that it isn't. I'm imagining the set of all ideas an individual human brain could have, and the set of all ideas that a multi-brain could have. If I understand you correctly, you say there are ideas that a multi-brain could have that an individual couldn't (Point 6). But it also seems like the individual-brain-ideas are strictly a subset of the multi-brain-ideas; there is no thought an individual could have that a multi-brain couldn't.

Realizing that made me feel really expendable and like my initial reaction was merely wishful thinking.

I have actually had very similar ideas to what you expressed here for a while but rather than using the terms meme and multi-brain I thought of them merely as corporations. (More like the phenotypes of point 8) This seems especially relevant in light of recent legal changes giving corporations the rights of individual citizens. There are a lot of value functions a corporation uses to measure its success, but they usually amount to making more money or at the very least selling more inventory or occupying a larger segment of their market. The people running the corporation whether it be the CEO or members of the board or a factory worker have the illusion that they can choose to do whatever they want and control the corporation to varying degrees. In reality if anyone changes the course of the corporation in a way that negatively impacts its value the rest of the members of the corporation will remove the offending party. Whether it's the board firing the CEO or the floor manager firing a factory worker. I imagine that (especially at the biggest corporations) even if all the board and the executives decided to avoid a certain course of events that would make the corporation profits because it was morally wrong the corporation itself would punish them for it. Either it would cleanse itself of them and replace them with people who would better maximize its value or it would be weeded out by natural selection by other companies that already had more compliant executives.

So I've been thinking that about corporations and how they're built and self-regulate and have what are effectively immune systems; I feel like your ideas here are a more pure formulation of the same thing allowing for application to much more than just corporations and digging deeper into the underlying processes. Thank you for writing this.

Does the corporation example seem applicable?

Part of point 5, "the control that brains have over the bodies they reside in, including voluntary and autonomic responses" almost seems to contradict point 2 about not having free will. Is there such a thing as a voluntary response of point 5 or are you referring to what we label a voluntary response as part of the illusion of having free will?

I'm still digesting points 10-12 and will possibly have some feedback for them.

Dennis Gorelik said...

1) "Actionable" article is a sign of usefulness.
Good theory is actionable too.
That's why the obsession: it allows to pinpoint what your recent articles are missing.

2) Our civilization is getting more complex.
But that additional complexity does not imply conspiracy. These are two unrelated things.

3) I'm failing to understand why you brought up free will.

4) What is the difference between "illusion of reality" and "reality"? Why "reality" is better than "illusion of reality", assuming that "illusion of reality" gives robust and useful model of how to interact with the world?

Ron said...

> 1) "Actionable" article is a sign of usefulness.

Ah. It is far from clear that the GC theory is useful. It may not be.

> But that additional complexity does not imply conspiracy

I've said before, but I should probably reiterate, the Great Conspiracy is not a conspiracy. It just looks like one. The participants in the GC are not aware that they are part of a conspiracy. That is one of the things that makes it such a good conspiracy. ;-)

> 3) I'm failing to understand why you brought up free will.

Could very well turn out to be a red herring.

> 4) What is the difference between "illusion of reality" and "reality"?

Illusions fail if you examine them closely enough. Classical reality fails if you look at small enough things. Free will fails (some would argue) if you look hard enough at what "free will" actually *means*. The GC will fail if you examine it closely enough. The mega-memes will vanish in a puff of reductionism, along with free will and classical reality. Metaphysical reality, by definition, never fails. But metaphysical reality is, at the very least, quantum and we "are" classical for value of "are". The point here is that you can refute the GC by moving the goal posts, but shifting the criteria for what you will accept as truth. The counter to this is that if you move the goal posts far enough you will reject some things that are fundamental to being human. Deciding on whether or not the GC is "true" is therefore not *merely* a matter of doing an experiment. It also depends on what perspective you choose to take. Does Borat exist? (Is Darth Vader Luke Skywalker's father?)

Thanks for asking!

Ron said...

> If I understand you correctly, you say there are ideas that a multi-brain could have that an individual couldn't (Point 6)

Worse even than that: a multi-brain can have ideas that a single brain might not be able to *conceive* of. A multi-brain is, potentially, a completely alien entity, as different from a single brain as a spleen is from a human.

> But it also seems like the individual-brain-ideas are strictly a subset of the multi-brain-ideas; there is no thought an individual could have that a multi-brain couldn't.

No, that's not right. There are ideas that a single brain can have that a multi-brain can't. Subjective experience is, again by definition, inaccessible to multi-brains. (Well, that's not quite true. Multi-brains might, if they achieved self-awareness, have their own kinds of subjective experiences.)

> Does the corporation example seem applicable?

Yes. Corporations are part of the phenotype of a particular mega-meme.

> are you referring to what we label a voluntary response as part of the illusion of having free will?

Yes. Exactly.

Dennis Gorelik said...

1) "It is far from clear that the GC theory is useful. It may not be."
What's the point to keep useless theory?
Any theory adds up to complexity to our world. Complexity without any benefits is a bad thing.

4) Any model fails under close enough scrutiny.
That does not mean that models are useless.

Ron said...

> What's the point to keep useless theory?

I said it *might* not be. Do you think it's pointless to pursue, say, theoretical math just because a practical application is not readily apparent?

But OK, try this: if I'm right, civilization may be in grave peril. Civilization is part of the phenotype of a mega-meme, which competes with other mega-memes for scarce resources, including human brains. It has certain characteristics that are beneficial to humans but that might ultimately prove to be competitive disadvantages in the evolutionary environment of mega-memes (like, for example, encouraging people to control their fertility). This could lead to the demise of the civilization mega-meme if something isn't done. Personally, I'm a fan of civilization. Civilization has been very good to me. I feel like I owe it something.

So I have come up with a plan that might prevent this fate. Part of the plan is to convince people that the danger is real in the face of an adversary that is very powerful, wishes (to the extent that a mega-meme can "wish" something) to remain concealed, and will do everything within its considerable power to advance its own survival by, among other things, attempting to discredit me and this idea, including mustering people to point out that the theory has all the earmarks of a paranoid conspiracy. (What a coincidence. I have already inoculated myself against this argument by *admitting* that my theory sounds like a paranoid conspiracy, while at the same time planting some seeds of doubt that this actually *is* a paranoid conspiracy by setting myself apart from the sort of people who normally advance paranoid conspiracies. Isn't that interesting?)

Is that "actionable" enough for you?

> 4) Any model fails under close enough scrutiny.
> That does not mean that models are useless.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Dennis Gorelik said...

1) Developing a theory without any hint of practical application is a waste of resources.
Even more: developing a theory without _obvious_ practical application is highly likely a waste of resources.
There are so many practical problems that need to be solved. So working on something that is not in high demand is very likely a prioritization mistake.
2) Imagine an ant, who believes that elephant nearby may step on his anthill. So the ant starts thinking about how to prevent the elephant from stepping on the anthill.
In order to do that the ant tries to get other ants attention to the Elephant Conspiracy Problem (ECP).
So not only the ant stops working on building the anthill, but he also distracts ants from building it too.
The end result:
- Ants spend lots of time on ECP.
- No useful theory is developed.
- Anthill is a mess, because ants don't take care of it.
- Elephant does not care about anthill one way or another.
May be the elephant would step on the anthill, may be it will not. In any case it's outside of ants control.

Dan said...

Dennis,
I disagree with you on your assertion that it's not worth doing anything that doesn't have an obvious practical application. You state this as if it were a fact, but it's really your opinion. Taking that opinion to its logical conclusion I think people would wind up in a local minimum of scientific advancement. It would also make my life less interesting. I imagine it would leave no room for things like reading fiction or playing games, it would also mean (as Ron talked about) that people would avoid doing research on differential calculus which would have prevented physics from describing relativity. People worked to understand the math before such physical applications became apparent. Are you saying that they shouldn't have?

It's fine if this is your opinion, but not reasonable to expect everyone else to share this view.

If this were just a story Ron was writing for entertainment purposes would you complain in the same way? Do you really think that the marginal cost of spending time thinking about this is so great as to threaten our entire civilization? To me that sounds more paranoid than anything Ron is saying.

I'll also echo Ron in saying, I don't understand your demand that posts here be "actionable" either. Ron's travelogues are not actionable, but they're still a fun read and a good way to keep up with what he's doing.

Ron said...

> people would wind up in a local minimum of scientific advancement

To say nothing of never having any fun.

It's pretty clear to me at this point that Dennis is trolling. Either that or he's been GC'd :-)

Dennis Gorelik said...

Dan,

1) You distorted what I said a little bit.
You took these two statements:
=======
Developing a theory without any hint of practical application is a waste of resources.
Even more: developing a theory without _obvious_ practical application is highly likely a waste of resources.
=======
and incorrectly combined them together into:
"it's not worth doing anything that doesn't have an obvious practical application."

2) If you are enjoying doing something -- it has at least one practical application: enjoying your life.
That's why playing games could make sense.
Another reason to play games -- is to practice some skill.

3) Digging into a theory without any hints about how I can use it to improve my life is not really much fun. And it only marginally improves my skills.
Digging time would be spent much more efficiently later when theory would have some clues about practical use.
the theory can turn out to be

Dennis Gorelik said...

Dan,

> If this were just a story Ron was writing for entertainment purposes would you complain in the same way?

Entertainment could be valuable by itself.
Non-actionable theories are fun only first few times. But there are so many of them, that it's getting dull pretty quickly.

> Do you really think that the marginal cost of spending time thinking about this is so great as to threaten our entire civilization?

Reading initial Ron's posts in Global Conspiracy series -- is a marginal cost.
Spending time on further digging -- is not marginal anymore.

> Ron's travelogues are not actionable,

They are actionable. They affect my decision to travel by answering such questions as: "should I travel?", "where/when should I travel to?".
+ there is some other actionable learning from these travelogues (about how world works/people think/etc.).

So far I cannot extract almost anything useful from Global Conspiracy Theory.
but they're still a fun read and a good way to keep up with what he's doing.

Dennis Gorelik said...

Ron,

I'm not trolling.
You think I'm trolling, because the idea that "abstract math without practical applications is premature/suboptimal use of resources" is so alien to you.

But let me finally do some trolling:
===
Ron is an agent of Global Chaos and playing against Civilization Meme by adding useless complexity to civilization's knowledge base.
In order to to do that Ron invented Global Conspiracy theory which not only adds complexity, but also covers up his tracks and blaming someone elses for the problem.
===

Ron said...

> the idea that "abstract math without practical applications is premature/suboptimal use of resources" is so alien to you

It is not alien to me. I just don't agree with it.

> Ron is an agent of Global Chaos and playing against Civilization Meme by adding useless complexity to civilization's knowledge base.

If my goal were to defeat civilization, I'm pretty sure that there are things I could be doing that would be much more effective towards that end than writing this blog.

Dennis Gorelik said...

1) Here's my backing of the idea that "math theories without visible practical applications are useless":
Say we have an important theoretical calculus problem. Let's call it "Zeo-problem".
To be precise, Zeo-problem is not important just yet -- it will be important 20 years later, when technology would allow to build Zeo-transmitter.
What's the point to spend resources on solving Zeo-problem now, when you can spend these resources 19 years later when zeo-transmitter looks like very likely near-future reality?
Developing Zeo-theory in 2039 would be:
- Faster, because of other new theories would contribute into it.
- Would have clear goal (building/improving Zeo-transmitter).
- Would have more certain return on investment.
- Would be cheaper, because same size investment in the future is less expensive than in the past due to capitalization (compound interest rate for 19 years).

2) Trolling mode:
==
Writing complicated theories is the most dangerous weapon in your hands. It's hard to understand and therefore is hard to detect bad intentions.
If you try to use more "efficient" ways to destroy the civilization you would be quickly detected and placed into prison or mental hospital.
==

Ron said...

> Zeo-problem is not important just yet -- it will be important 20 years later, when technology would allow to build Zeo-transmitter.

This is very much like the hypothetical ethical dilemma: if you knew that someone knows the location of a bomb and they will only reveal the information under torture, is it ethical to torture them?

The problem with both of these scenarios is that it is not possible to know that someone knows the location of a bomb. It is also not possible to know that they will only reveal the information under torture. (Indeed, torture has empirically proven to be a singularly ineffective means of obtaining reliable information.) Likewise, it is not possible to know ahead of time when a theoretical result will turn out to be useful.

> Writing complicated theories is the most dangerous weapon in your hands.

The GC theory is not particularly complicated. If it's complication you fear then this should be your worst nightmare. Especially this. ("A two-cocycle on the group of symplectic diffeomorphisms." OMFG, we are doomed.)

> If you try to use more "efficient" ways to destroy the civilization you would be quickly detected and placed into prison or mental hospital.

That is far from clear.

Dennis Gorelik said...

> it is not possible to know ahead of time when a theoretical result will turn out to be useful.

Correct: it's hard to predict what discovery would be useful.
However the chances of theoretical result being useful are much higher if the theory is developed as response to a practical demand.
Developing theories without practical demand has much lower ROI than playing in casino.

Ron said...

Fair enough. But I actually think that GC *is* a response to a real and very serious problem. I've outlined why above. You may disagree with me, but let me ask you: do you really think that arguing with me about this is the best use of *your* time?

Dennis Gorelik said...

1) I'm struggling to understand what is the core of your Global Conspiracy Theory.
Is it that "ideas use humans to compete with each other"?
That's no news to me.
Yes: ideas, civilizations, governments, religions, etc use humans to compete with each other.
So what?

2) Probably the main reason this discussion interests me is that I wanted to re-test (in discussion) my theory that "it makes little sense to search for solutions for problems that do not have practical demand to be solved".

But since I'm not getting additional arguments against it -- further discussion would likely be a waste of time.

Ron said...

> So what?

The interests of mega-memes may be at odds with the interests of individual humans. For example, a planet completely under the control of one fundamentalist doctrine or another may be an evolutionarily stable strategy for the fundamentalist mega-meme. If that doesn't worry you, fine. But as an individual human who would rather not live under fascism or sharia law it worries me a lot.

Dennis Gorelik said...

> The interests of mega-memes may be at odds with the interests of individual humans.

It's possible, but highly unlikely.
Mega-memes that depend on humans are almost always interested in long-term humans survival.
That's the main reason why religions are useful to people.

Anyway, why do you choose to worry about highly unlikely outcome (that mega-memes would want to hurt people)?

Ron said...

> Mega-memes that depend on humans are almost always interested in long-term humans survival.

Long-term survival is not the only interest that humans have. This is one of the things that distinguishes us from, say, bacteria.

> Anyway, why do you choose to worry about highly unlikely outcome (that mega-memes would want to hurt people)?

Because I think it's actually a very likely outcome. In fact, I think that mega-memes *do* hurt people, have hurt people, will continue to hurt people. And one of the reasons they can do this is because most people don't think they exist, or that they don't influence our lives.

Dennis Gorelik said...

1)
> Long-term survival is not the only interest that humans have.

All other interests of humans in the end serve the same goal of long term genes survival.

2) What are your reasons to believe that mega-memes are likely to hurt people?

Underspecified said...

Fascinating stuff.. I got as far down the comments as "civilisation might be in trouble" .. think you might have the wrong end of the stick there: as a mega-meme infected multi-mind looking after the interests of its memes, what currently passes for civilisation is likely ok under your hypothesis - what's more likely to suffer is individual humans. Tongue only slightly in cheek.

Ron said...

@underspecified:

> what's more likely to suffer is individual humans

Yes, I think you're probably right about that.

(Love your user name, BTW.)