atheorist (atheorist) wrote,

opposite of a meme

So memes, genes, and chain letters are a kind of thing, a message of some sort that may in the right host environment provoke a chain of events that yields more copies of that thing.

Individual humans are partly descendents of memes; I've previously argued that we should not identify solely with our genetic heritage and neglect (more chronologically rapid, but vastly higher-bandwidth) our memetic heritage.

There doesn't seem to be a word for what aspect of a human is entirely non-memetic - meaning also non-genetic.

All of life exists only outside of thermodynamic equilibrium - we are mostly powered by the sun, but if there were a thin layer of mucky fluid in between a slightly hotter surface and a slightly cooler surface, then life could evolve to take advantage of that heat flow. If the surfaces were the same temperature, but they were moving steadily relative to one another, then life would evolve to take advantage of that form of energy.

There are other non-equilibrium dynamics that have some qualities of life - convection cells or vortices (basically the same thing, just the direction you're looking at it from). Storms are powered by the earth's surface being hotter than the sky, and a cell is a column of rising hot air that spreads out and falls in a circular curtain of cool air. Cells have "metabolism", and they're autocatalytic - self-creating, as well as catalyzing the formation of nearby cells. So the opposite of a meme might be a vortex, or a stand-alone metabolism.

I think corporations have a metabolic aspect. If you take the complexity of a corporation to include the complexity of the humans working for it, they're of course more complicated than single humans. But if you take the complexity of the framework of corporate policies that would stay the same if somehow there was very high personnel turnover for a short burst, and every employee and owner swapped out for someone else, then they're complicated (among the most complicated things that we humans have ever built), but they're not impossibly complicated - comparable to a medium-large piece of software, perhaps.

If we take Star Trek as a starting point, and imagine that spaceships correspond to businesses / metabolisms / autocatalytic storm cells, and that the people beaming in and out of the starship correspond to memes, what kind of vision of the future do you get? One difference is that beaming isn't a kind of motion - it's a kind of copying. Essentially every time someone is beamed, they're duplicated. Another aspect is that people do not really grow or change - memory is probably something that the starship as a whole has, not a meme. A message stays the same message, even if (by combining it with some other premise) you reach a conclusion which is distinct.

A major activity of the starship might be critical thinking - accepting some visitors who beam onboard, and generally trying them out. Some of these visitors might be manipulative or deceiving - trying overtly or subtly to harm the starship as a whole. Others of these visitors might become valued members of the crew.

This analogy meshes with Greg Egan's vision of a polis (in his novel Diaspora), but makes it a little more clear that the primary reproductive entity in this future is the starship / polis, not the memes that inhabit it - they don't really know how to autocatalyze on their own.
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