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How to test theories of memetics
Idealists vs. Paretians
There are two general trends in historic thought regarding how information interacts with the flow of power. These two schools of thought have taken on numerous names; they may be called Moscaite and Paretian, idealist and materialist, blank-slatist and essentialist, or constructivist and realist.
The first of these, the idealists, claim that information precedes power, that it is through the spread and absorption of information that power (credit) is established and altered. They are biased into believing that the distribution of power can be changed by an internet pundit, that it shifts according to the flow of information. Information becomes the tool through which players can assert, maintain, and disrupt the distribution of power. This view centers education, media, and thought in general — the tides of history are explained by the rise of ideologies, the publication of books, the infiltration of academia and will be changed by the truth-tellers.
Paretians, on the other hand, assert that words cannot be taken at face value. People are liars — if their beliefs don’t pay rent, they’re just signaling to fulfill genetic and economic incentives. In Pareto’s language, they are generating derivations to satisfy their residues. Power is related to information, but, roughly speaking, it demands loyalty signals and the suppression of information which enables efficient material rebellion. Because people are pragmatists in the pursuit of their natural tastes, inculcating them with harmful information is ineffective.
This is why, for instance, Google doesn’t lie about black crime statistics. Thinking that relaxing is safe is costly and reality will soon rebut that belief. This is probably why white liberals do white flight at the same rate as white non-liberals.
Idealists typically attempt to add epicycles at this point, but generally speaking they consider genuine belief in black equality to be causal in the rise of “Woke.” Paretians, on the other hand, doubt the genuineness of Woke and suspect signaling, genetics, and economics are at play. We Paretians correctly predict the white flight data.
But is this data enough to confirm the Paretian position? The problem is that while the Paretian position predicts it, it could also be due to other factors, which idealists might use as their epicycle. We therefore have a need to rule out or reduce the probability of the other factors.
We don’t need to imagine what those other factors could be. We can just iterate this test to try to show inductively that, generally speaking, costly, absurd political beliefs are signals and are not genuine. Reality is more point deer make horse, less genuine “mind virus.”
We can justify this proposed experiment method with an explicit mathematical model. In a previous writing, a proposed that people are Bayesian updaters about reality, but that they also have a parallel “public beliefs” thought module that contains the proper signals for their social environment. Introducing the idea of utility maximizing into this model, I propose that communication is an action, and that the utility results of any action are maximized as follows:
Mu are priors, your genuine beliefs about the world, and a is your chosen action. If speaking is an action, then people will lie about their beliefs if that is expected to maximize their utility relative to telling the truth about their beliefs.
How does someone update their priors? It’s done with Bayes theorem:
Where w is a possible word state, c is the total probability (this can be inferred from the integral of the posterior, so an organism would not have to infer it from the environment), and s is the new observation. I propose that the human mind has machine-learning esque machinery which unconsciously attempts to estimate the set of world states in a domain W, the value of s given an observation, and the probability distribution P( |w).
The idealist position is congruent to saying that, for instance, wokeism is motivated by bad priors about, say, the criminality of blacks. Wokies are mistaken in that they think they are maximizing their utility given these priors, but they only decrease utility, yet never learn their lesson. Their views are more or less honestly reported, and the error in these views is a “mind virus” causing the problem.
The Paretian position says they are acting rationally, and are lying about why they are behaving how they are. The mind virus they claim to have is only the maximization of their utility with regards to the act of speaking given their real, hidden priors. Their private behavior should reveal that they do not have the mind virus priors they claim to have, because they do not bear the expected costs that we would expect, given they actually possess those priors.
If you actually believe in black equality, you don’t move into white neighborhoods at the same rate as racist Trumpers. Yet this is what happens. They appear to not have the mind virus priors the idealists claim they have. If they had those priors, we would see them making private mistakes related to Relaxing when they shouldn’t.
We can repeat this over a broad set of priors. The general procedure is this: Measure beliefs. If we find belief X to be wrong and Y to be right, examine the costly private decisions which would be caused by X and not Y. See if the people who report X belief also make those costly decisions more than people with belief Y. Win for signaling theory if they don’t differ from Ys in this significantly, win for mind virus if they do.
By the law of large numbers, we expect that the mind virus people would need about n epicycles to explain away consistent Paretian predictive wins across belief domains.
After this, there is another prediction we can test: estimating the costs of not signaling properly. We could see what predicts signaling (such as employment, living in a city, friend groups) and test causally if not signaling the right views creates costs for people in those domains. We expect people with “woke” stated beliefs will incur a cost if they instead stated conservative or other beliefs. This follows directly from the first equation.
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