[extropy-chat] Humans--non-rational mode

Lee Corbin lcorbin at tsoft.com
Fri Mar 10 04:15:31 UTC 2006

Keith H. writes

> [Lee writes]
> >  It seems to me that the *concept* of "us", for example, is clear.
> It sure isn't for me.
> >  It merely [sic] needs to be internalized that what is good
> >  for us is not necessarily the same thing as what is good for
> >  our genes or memes.
> I can't even set up a hierarchy.  Our hardware was shaped by genes.  We 
> don't yet and may never appreciate how deeply this influences us.  What 
> would we be without memes?  Not even as well off the chimpanzees.

So far as *genes* go, here is what I submit "us" means: "we" are
defined by our most carefully articulated wishes. Example: our
New Year's Resolutions are about *our* goals; what we really end
up doing, of course, can easily be what the genes want. Thus I
am able to clearly distinguish between me and my genes. (Hey, that
was easy!)

So far as *memes* go, I concede the question to be VASTLY more
difficult. But let me take a swipe as follows.

The point boils down to this: can we meaningfully say that a given
person was harmed when he contracted a certain meme or set of memes?
Operationally---although we might require a time-machine to determine
it with any certainty---I think that it *is* meaningful:

Step 1: we identify the person *with* the state he or she was in
        just prior to the meme infestation.

Step 2: we record the change in circumstances and state of the 
        person that follows (in other words, we record a history
        of the person during an appropriate time interval
        following the infestation)

Step 3: we take this history back in time to before the meme
        onslaught, and compel the person to spend a great deal
        of time evaluating the transformation, and get him or
        her to make a careful assessment of its value.

If the person's verdict is that this was good for him/her, then
that's what we must go with.

Inapplicable example: a person is raised on a certain set of memes,
and so in principle there is no "prior person" to consult, at least
without doing great violence to the notion of the person's identity.
Thus, for instance, a fifty-year-old Hare Krishna who came down with
those memes in his early teens cannot be distinguished from them.

Thanks for the very thought-provoking way you've put the question.


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