Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Choices?

Susan Blackmore at TED;
"Cultural evolution is a dangerous child for every species to let loose on this planet. By the time you realize what's happening, it's too late to put it back into the box. We humans are the Earth's Pandoran species. Mimetics is founded on the principles of unversal Darwinism. His idea was so simple, and yet it explains all design in the universe. What Darwin said was something like this: if you have creatures that vary, and if there is a struggle for life such that nearly all of these species die, and if the very few that survive pass on to their offsprings whatever helped them survive, than these offsprings must be better adapted to these circumstances than their parents were. You just need those three principles: variation, selection and heredity. If you have those, you MUST get evolution, or "design out of chaos without the aid of mind". What's this to do with memes? Darwin didn't know about genes, but the principle of universal Darwinism is that everything that's copied with variation and selection will evolve. Information that's copied from person to person is information copied with variation and selection. That's a meme. A meme is not an idea, is "that which is imitated", information which is copied from person to person. If you copied an information from someone else, it's a meme. But why do they spread? They are copied if they can. Some because they're true, useful, beautiful. Some even if they're not. Here is a curious meme: you go to your hotel, check into your room, go to the bathroom, and what do you see? A folded end of the toilet paper. It's a meme that spread all over the world. What is that about? it's supposed to tell you that somebody cleaned the place. Think of it this way: imagine a world full of brains and memes using them (you and me) to propagate. Why is this important? it gives us a completely new wiew of what it means to be human. All these things that make us unique -- language etc -- are based on genes. But there are two replicators now on this planet: from the moment our ancestors began imitating, there was a new replicator, the meme, alongside the gene. And you get an arms race between the genes (which want a smaller, efficient brain) and the memes (which want a bigger brain). All other species on this planet are gene machines, we only are meme machines. We need a new word for technological memes, let's call them temes, because the processes are different. Our brains are becoming like temes, faster, etc. We are at this cusp now to have a third replicator in our planet. But it's dangerous: temes are selfish replicators, they use us to suck up more resources to produce more computers and more things. Don't think we created the Internet, that's how it seems to us. How to pull through? Two ways: one is that the temes turn us into teme-machines, with implants, merging of humans and machines, because we are self-replicators. The other: teme-machines will replicate by themselves. In that case, it would not matter if the planet would no longer be liveable for humans."
Interesting and paradoxical line of imitating (not thinking) considering the cultural evolutionary bottleneck in which we presently find ourselves.....,