Re: Coercive Transhuman Memes and Exponential Cults

From: John Stick (
Date: Tue Jun 12 2001 - 12:22:25 MDT

To sum up the arguments explicit and implicit responding to Durant Schoon's

1)Some coercive memes and exponential cults (as the terms seem to be used in
this thread) are necessary to rational interaction and the development of
transhuman intelligence. Is English grammar and vocabulary a coercive set
of memes? The Academie Francaise certainly thinks so! Is algebra? It is
remarkably successful at self-replicating, and many people who learn it at
first would rather not, but come to enjoy it after being changed. The
exponential cults started by Euclid, Gutenberg, Newton, Einstein, and Turing
can be rather frightening to the uninitiated.

2)If coercion and cult are redefined to keep a pejoratively evaluative
connotation, its much less clear they will flourish in a transhuman
environment. Assume the first approximation of "coercion" as applied to
information is that information is coercive when it alters an AI's behavior
without being mediated by the AI's intelligent reflection. (Paradigm
example: direct involuntary change in AI's own source code.) Intelligence
just is life's defense to such coercion. (Between the stimulus and the
response falls the shadow.... of thought). The more intelligence develops,
the more defense the individual has. Compare an AI to your desktop PC,
vulnerable to viruses it cannot intelligently examine. Coercion, from the
environment or other intelligences, can never be eliminated, but a sphere of
potential volitional activity expands as intelligence expands.

3) Most of the examples discussed involve coercion by trick, not direct,
forceful coercion. But the kinds of tricks proposed become much more
difficult in a transhumanly intelligent environment. First, I suggest the
value structures of a person will in general become more stable as
intelligence increases, so conversions become more difficult, especially
conversions unrelated to the progress of scientific theories. (The string
theory cult may prosper, but Astrology will have more and more difficulty in
propagating as anything other than a set of literary symbols.) Second, Bill
may be able to use tainted information to induce Charlie to change vis value
structure (isn't this what was meant by "volitional structure?") in ways
unforseen and unwanted by Charlie, but Dan and Ellen, seeing the results,
will be harder to fool. (And again, as intelligence increases, so will
general knowledge of the social space, so that all the Dans and Ellens are
more likely to become aware of each transhuman equivalent of scams, chain
letters and cults, that arise.)

4) In general, meme talk, with its Darwinian overtones and selfish gene
metaphors, becomes progressively attenuated as intelligence develops. The
point of meme talk is to abstract from the mechanism by which ideas are
evaluated and adopted. The point of AI is to understand, model and improve
the mechanisms by which ideas are evaluated and adopted.

5) This is not to say that incidents of coercive behavior of all types will
not persist as intelligence develops, just that the fear that coercive memes
and cults will necessarily propagate like kudzu is overstated, and that
intelligence generally provides defenses to coercion slightly more quickly
than it provides new means to coerce.

John Stick

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