comment by Gram_Stone ·
2015-02-13T20:00:52.082Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
The idea for a set of posts on 'Rationality and Memetics' popped into my head this afternoon. I figure that's pretty important if you want rationalism to become a common thing. I'm reading the Sequences in chronological order and I just got to the meat of the posts that were later reorganized into the 'The Simple Math of Evolution' minor sequence. I want to get this out there in case I'm wasting my time, but nevertheless I'm really not ready to write it quite yet because:
1) I want to know more about the existing works on memetics, and of course, evolutionary biology and psychology, so that I'm not making amateur mistakes (I expect that I've made a ton, I know next to nothing about these subjects);
2) I want more time to see if there are places where the 'rationality as cultural adaptation nearly on a par with the evolution of human intelligence' analogy breaks down, as I suspect that such places exist, especially since more is probably possible;
3) I feel like I might think of more content or of better titles; after all, I thought of all of these things in a few hours; and,
4) It looks to me like I have more than one definition for 'adaptation/adaptive.' I need to tease out the difference between memes that are representative of reality, memes that satisfy lots of preferences for people that have them, memes that satisfy lots of preferences in societies where their frequency is high, memes that are memetically reproductively fit, and memes that increase the genetic reproductive fitness (or just their ability to survive; i.e. life extension and no preference for children) of their 'hosts,' as they are sometimes called.
Sort of like lukeprog's No-Nonsense Metaethics, I feel like all of the posts that would be in this sequence are all largely unthought knowns, and I wouldn't be the first to think them up, so much as the first to write them down and frame them in this way; or things that have already been written down but haven't been framed in this way. Once again, I'd also like to know if this seems like a waste of time, or not that important.
Here's a preliminary outline:
Rationality as Adaptation and Convergent Memetic Evolution
Rationalist memes cause adaptive behaviors. (Here, in the sense of satisfying the person's preferences, rather than in the sense of reproductive fitness. This is the problem with multiple definitions that I talked about. Something for the future.) Rationalist memes are likely to arise spontaneously and repeatedly because they are more entangled with reality than other memes. Related to rationality as systematized winning and Schelling points).
Adaptive Non-rationalist Memes as Repurposed Adaptations
Although memes with non-rationalist origins can also be adaptive, they are sometimes less so than rationalist memes. Where complex non-rationalist memes are not the product of simpler rationalist memes, their continued fitness advantage can be rationally justified, in the same way that adaptations for aerodynamic jumping can lead to flight without the blind, idiot god ever realizing that flight is possible. Related to everything ever about how epistemically irrational beliefs can be instrumentally rational. (Not sure about this one; technically the function often remains the same.)
Non-rationalists as a Threatened Species (I don't like the sound of this title. I am not seeking to exterminate people who don't share my beliefs.)
Rationalist memes exert selection pressures on existing memes that fill rationality's niches, which may be intolerably high in the long run. Examples: astronomy, cosmology, biology, etc. (Side note: How come linguists never get any flak for falsifying the Tower of Babel hypothesis?) Related to Religion's Claim to Be Non-Disprovable.
Bayesian Rationality as Complexity Threshold
Complex memes about rationality can't be understood without simpler memes about rationality. Memes about rationality tend to correct their own errors. 'Bayesian' rationality may be a complexity threshold in that it serves both as an excellent error-correcting mechanism and is a 'simple' adaptation that allows for the existence of more complex adaptations; 'Bayesian' rationality greatly shifts upward the equilibrium of adaptive complexity. Related to Evolutions Are Stupid (But Work Anyway).
Sequencing Memomes for Fun and Profit
A memome is the set of all memes that an individual possesses; compare to genome. To figure out how to splice the memes that code for rationalist adaptations into non-rationalists such that they express the adaptations correctly, we have to sequence their memomes and see what enabling memes they're missing. Related to inferential distance.
Fake Meme Splicing
Some people really are too stupid to understand ideas of a certain complexity, just like no matter how hard we try, we could probably never make a chimp conceive of how or why skyscrapers come to be. However, it's unlikely that humans have reached the end of their cultural evolution (without cognitive enhancement), and it's quite likely that you have not tried hard enough. Partially inspired by a recent incident in which I was able to inform where others failed to, not because I was the most knowledgeable, but because I was the most persistent.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality as Well-replicated Memeplex
(Be forewarned: I haven't actually read a word of HP:MoR. I think I can still infer things about it. I might read some so that I'm not flying blind.) Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality has been far more successful than the Sequences in spreading rationalist memes. This is because it represents knowledge more efficiently, isn't missing the simpler memes that are necessary to understand the more complex memes, repurposes the Harry Potter memeplex for rationalist adaptations, and is reproductively fit in other ways than causing adaptive behavior. There is much to be gleaned from the success of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.
Hopefully there's at least one useful thing here.