Re: "friendly" humans?

From: Wei Dai (
Date: Thu Jan 01 2004 - 19:43:53 MST

On Thu, Jan 01, 2004 at 06:51:14PM -0500, Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:
> What does "better" mean when you say type A memes will do "better"?

Better means having more copies of the meme in existence.

> And
> why would they do better? Memetic fitness and evolutionary fitness are
> not the same reason. Carrying meme A might contribute to reproductive
> fitness, but it's not obvious to me why meme A would do better
> memetically.

You're being unexpectedly dense here. If meme A contributes to genetic
fitness, and memes are mostly transmitted between relatives, then the
increased genetic fitness implies more relatives for carriers of A and
therefore also helps increase A's frequency in the meme pool. On the other
hand, if memes are mostly transmitted between non-relatives, then the
increased genetic fitness does not help A's memetic fitness much. Instead,
type B memes do better because their carriers spend less resources on
childcare and more on propagating the memes in other ways.

> Also, why hypothesize a gene that discriminates childcare
> promoting *memes* as such and promotes greater susceptibility to them,
> rather than a gene that makes people like children, and hence (as a side
> effect) memes that tap into people's liking for children?

There's no reason why these genes can't both exist, is there? I see plenty
of memes that try to promote child rearing as an obligation and also memes
that try to promote it as an enjoyment, which I count as evidence that
both of these kinds of genes exist.

If you think it's not plausible that a gene can discriminate between a
type A meme and a type B meme and promote the former, consider the
hypothesis that the earlier in life that you encounter a meme, the more
likely it is to be a type A meme. If this is true (and I think it probably
was in our environment of evolutionary adaptation, because in childhood
your parents tend to keep you away from type B meme carriers), a gene can
promote type A memes simply by making the brain credulous in childhood and
then increasingly skeptical as one grows older.

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