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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Mortality, Memetics, and Me-ness

I was wondering about the nature of love, of why we seek it intellectually (separate from primal reproductive urges), and why it should "feel good" in the first place.

My evolving understanding of love is as a sharing of souls between multiple beings; where "soul "means the pattern of thought that characterizes that entity. Minsky talks about the euphoric feeling of love as "switching off your critic-selectors" so that one ceases to make judgment about the object of one's affection, which would be consistent with the Hofstadter notion of bringing the patterns of the other into one's self.

So why should this feel good? Why should we seek love? Or rather: to love and be loved? The reciprocation seems important, especially if we want to consider the phenomenon from an "evolved systems" standpoint. Could one say that a symbiotic or co-operative strategy develops among memes that says "take on parts of me, and I'll take on parts of you" thus propagating the survival of both? Could this be an example of a "level crossing loop," where part of the meme's strategy is to trigger the "pleasure centers" of its host, so as to reinforce the behavior?

I think there is application for this idea outside of romantic relationships as well: consider other areas of life that people get passionate about: from visual art, to music, to theater, to even (and maybe especially) the commonplace pedestrian popular culture of sports and gossip. People get passionate about all these things and many more. Why? could it be that by taking on those patterns of interest, they are letting the "soul" of the creator live in them, in whatever small fraction? To focus on the artistic examples above: why are dramatic performers so enthused about their art? Could it be a result of the embodied nature of their art, they emulate the artists soul to a greater extent than someone who merely reads a play? How great is the emulation, and is it great enough to be autonomous? And is it the author's own soul that's living in the thespian, or that of the character the author created? Could it be said that the character is an autonomous fragment of the author's soul? Do such actors and actresses carry with them the souls of all the characters and their authors that they've portrayed? And finally, from an evolutionary perspective: could this be a reason that certain pieces of art survive over the centuries? The authors' own soul is living and encouraging it's collaborators to continue it with good feelings?

A rather romantic view, eh? It allows people involved with the creative arts to see themselves as part of a great, potentially everlasting organism of pure thought. The same could be said for scientists. What of popular culture? I think perhaps that it offers a similar feeling of being "part of something," but that something is much less long-lived, and much more the product of unconscious mixing of ideas rather than individual acts of creation.

But then, whats the difference? One could say that they're equivalent on the memetic level. The artistic creation seems to be much more the product of memetic evolution in a single person's mind, the product of an individual's will, whereas popular culture is the product of will-less evolution. Or, if one were to insist, a the product of a "meta-human" (species level) "will."

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