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Are guns using us to breed them? 
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Post Are guns using us to breed them?
If you learned that 50 percent of the people around you (supermarkets, sporting events, traffic, bars, etc.) were carrying concealed firearms, would that mean to you that you should carry one? Why, or why not?

Apropos of this question, are guns proliferating by using humans as hosts? Should we think of them as particularly virulent memes?

And, whichever way you answer that one, do you think we should consider computer viruses to be parasites?



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geo
Mon Mar 11, 2019 4:09 pm
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Post Re: Are guns using us to breed them?
Harry Marks wrote:
If you learned that 50 percent of the people around you (supermarkets, sporting events, traffic, bars, etc.) were carrying concealed firearms, would that mean to you that you should carry one? Why, or why not?

Apropos of this question, are guns proliferating by using humans as hosts? Should we think of them as particularly virulent memes?

And, whichever way you answer that one, do you think we should consider computer viruses to be parasites?

The more people carrying guns, the greater the threat from guns becomes, is the way I'd perceive the situation of 50% of people in public carrying them. There would be a contagion at work, not of a real threat of aggression needing self-defense, but of the belief that such a threat to life exists. My first thought would be not to contribute to the contagion. I think the dangers of citizens acting as armed vigilantes have been adequately documented.

If I change my outlook and suddenly perceive an immediate threat to my life or that of my family members from bad guys with guns, then, yes, I suppose I'd have to arm myself. But we have good data showing that for most of us, being murdered by gunshot is a very faint danger. The danger isn't so faint in some urban areas. But in such areas, how those murders usually happen would indicate that being armed might not help really protect that much.

Your second question reminds me of one someone asked in a different context. Was it Noah Yuval Harari? I forget. It's a mindbending question that I instinctively answer "no" to, just from feeling that garden hoses aren't using us as hosts, either. We perceive a need to use hoses to keep our plants or grass from dying (although I'm all in favor of my grass dying--it just goes dormant and comes back with rain).

Computer viruses as parasites--I would see them as somewhat worse than agents that live at the expense of a program, although the mechanism of how computer viruses work is probably close to how parasites work in biology. I see computer viruses more as active disease agents.



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Tue Mar 12, 2019 9:37 am
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Post Re: Are guns using us to breed them?
Harry Marks wrote:
If you learned that 50 percent of the people around you (supermarkets, sporting events, traffic, bars, etc.) were carrying concealed firearms, would that mean to you that you should carry one? Why, or why not?

Apropos of this question, are guns proliferating by using humans as hosts? Should we think of them as particularly virulent memes?

And, whichever way you answer that one, do you think we should consider computer viruses to be parasites?


Thanks, Harry.

Are guns proliferating? I would assume they are, but the data paints a complicated story. Apparently about 25-30 percent of Americans own guns but the vast majority of guns in America are owned by a much smaller percentage. So most guns are in the hands of a very small percentage of Americans and the vast majority of Americans don't own any guns at all.

Likewise, the number of Americans carrying concealed firearms is growing, but it remains a tiny, tiny percentage. Nothing close to the 50 percent in your thought experiment.

To live in a household with a gun actually increases your odds of dying (or being injured) by gun. And I would assume carrying a concealed weapon carries a similar risk. But there may be a magic tipping point. If, say, 50 percent of people around you are carrying concealed weapons, the environment you live in has just become dangerous enough that maybe you should carry a gun too.

I believe DWill is right. It was Noah Yuval Harari who suggested that domesticated animals like cows and pigs and goats and sheep can be seen as being very successful by simple virtue of being our food. But since guns are inanimate objects, I don't think there's the same kind of correlation.

I think absolutely there are a number of gun narratives circulating that they can be classified as memes. A “meme” isn’t necessarily bad. There are good memes that promote positive behavior. And besides gun narratives, there are also many false narratives or simply bad ideas that become memes and are thus passed from one person to another like an infectious disease.

With regard to your last question, I think computer viruses are probably almost exactly like animal viruses, but a parasite is defined as a living organism. So, no, I do not believe computer viruses should be considered parasites.

Here’s a question back at you. Is it necessarily bad if a person forms his/her identity around guns? Is it worse than, say, someone who forms his/her identity around creationism or flat-earthism or being anti-vaccination?


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Post Re: Are guns using us to breed them?
The question raises the logical problem of agency and causality in evolution.

Richard Dawkins argued in The Selfish Gene that we can regard genes as the agents of evolution, simply using individual humans as hosts. Each gene has a stable lifespan far longer than any individual person, continuing to exist as it is transmitted from generation to generation.

Part of the problem here is that we think of agency in terms of conscious intentional decisions, but evolution just does not work that way. Evolution is measured by actual success of reproduction, a measure for which deliberate intent is only a small factor. So the question of what evolves, the species, the gene or the ecosystem, can reasonably be answered in different ways.

Guns also certainly evolve, having improved their adaptivity and power markedly over the centuries since their invention. This is an example of how the laws of evolution apply to memetic technology just as much as to genetics, even though technology has more varied capacity for mixing memes than genetics does for mixing genes.

The problem with the question is the term "using" which definitely involves deliberate intent. Guns are not conscious, so are not capable of scheming, making plans, manipulating or any other such active mental process.


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Tue Mar 12, 2019 7:01 pm
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Post Re: Are guns using us to breed them?
Robert Tulip wrote:
Richard Dawkins argued in The Selfish Gene that we can regard genes as the agents of evolution, simply using individual humans as hosts. Each gene has a stable lifespan far longer than any individual person, continuing to exist as it is transmitted from generation to generation.

Part of the problem here is that we think of agency in terms of conscious intentional decisions, but evolution just does not work that way. Evolution is measured by actual success of reproduction, a measure for which deliberate intent is only a small factor. So the question of what evolves, the species, the gene or the ecosystem, can reasonably be answered in different ways.
Good analysis. Obviously Dawkins imputed a kind of "pseudo-agency" to stir the pot -- to draw attention to the odd nature of the causality in operation. As far as I know he never crossed the line to claiming actual agency, and of course to sociobiology it makes some sense to talk about, for example, "struggle" between female genes and male genes in the success within offspring. For example, male genes have some incentive to "overuse" the gestational resources of Mom, since they can still succeed by exploiting a larger number of host Moms.

Still, such coy abuse of language can easily lead us to pay too much attention to the rhetorically interesting effects and to, quite literally, anthropomorphize the genes. It's how mythos happens in the modern world, and I suspect it would be sensible to break some of those myths.

Like a lot of rhetorical twists, I think it also opens up interesting questions about the way to think about our own thinking. If we perceive a certain mindlessness about the freakish power of arms races to turn humans into idiots, might not a good metaphor bring some of the unconscious forces into consciousness? Most people of my generation can divide their life into "before" and "after" for how their understanding of the world was changed by seeing "Dr. Strangelove." For all of its goofiness and exaggeration (though Stanley Kubrick claimed every individual plot development is based on some true events of comparable insanity, right down to the Doomsday Machine itself) the movie hammered home the insanity of the nuclear arms race like no other story ever did, including "On the Beach" and "Failsafe."

So if humans are not the puppets of the guns, what explains their bizarre power to override our rationality?

And if markets merely respond to demand, without actually shaping it for the purposes of commercial manipulators, what explains the evolution of the NRA position from absolute opposition to guns in school, in the 90s, to straight-faced advocacy of arming teachers (students will eventually be targeted, but not yet) as a "solution" to the problem of shootings in schools? At some point you begin to perceive the insanity of the gun companies themselves, and you have to ask the nature of the forces they are in the grip of.

What, in other words, have we done to ourselves? And what failures of self-understanding lead us to double down on the insanity of the path we are on?



Sun Mar 17, 2019 10:54 pm
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