inessential by Brent Simmons


I don't like the word "meme."

The English language has so many more specific words -- idea, ideal, belief, creed, law, ethic, moral, rule, code, philosophy, conceit -- why not use them?

Specificity is a virtue in writing and speaking.

Yes, the word "meme" does remind one of the viral, Darwinian nature of ideas. Like wildflowers and gypsy moths, they spread, they die out.

But everyone knows that. That's an insanely boring thing to have to be reminded of every time.

What's worse, it's just a metaphor. The world of human thought and behavior doesn't really work that way.

Think of how we always have metaphors for how the Universe works. It's a clock, it's a billiard table; God does or does not roll dice. None of those are true, they're just metaphors.

I don't have any hope that my complaint will catch on, but I have to try.

Cats must think of us the way we think of elephants: huge and gentle, but imperfectly aware of where our feet are.

As much as I dislike the word "meme," I triply hate the word "memetics." Ugh.

The automatic reaction of every liberal intellectual -- and I'm one of those -- is to say, with some self-righteousness, that a situation is more complex than other people think it is.

I do this all the time; I know all about it.

But, to be scientific, we have to allow for the possibility that a situation is exactly as complex as other people say it is.

Or, which happens sometimes, allow that a situation may be less complex than other people say it is.

I'm not making a statement about the situations of today. I don't know enough.

But we have to allow for the possibility of simplicity.

With all due respect to my co-worker John Robb, I have an intuition that the singularity will mark the death of poetry and beauty.

Machine intelligence, intelligence without a human aesthetic sense, is... is I don't know what, beyond ugly, horrifying beyond sense. I resist it.

I'm in a contrary mood.

The post-modern era ended the other day.

When something bad happens, ideologues always blame the people they always blame.

Falwell blames gays; liberals blame the CIA and our foreign policy leaders.

I don't see a difference between the two. It's the same thing. Both are irrational, gut reactions.

I'm sick of dogma. Let's try to see reality.

John Donne:

No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involed in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

Another thing I don't like about the word "meme" is the look of it -- me-me -- and the sound of it. It sounds so infantile, a word made up by children in diapers.