"It's amazing how much 'mature wisdom' resembles being too tired." --Robert Heinlein

The Church of Reality




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Insights from Lost & Found

I wonder what I'll find out next!

This is Magger Frane's 'blog.


Junk Mail, Junk DNA, Junk Memes

I'm lucky, there's a waste basket right next to my mailbox, downstairs, in the lobby of my apartment building. Each evening when I return home I can immediately sort my mail into "stuff I want to open" and "stuff I want to throw away" and the latter doesn't even make it inside my apartment (this was especially helpful during the Anthrax scare, because my own post office was closed due to Anthrax contamination).

I get a lot of appeals from charities, because they know I'm a giving guy, but these appeals are nearly always useless because I make my charitable giving decisions without reference to the mail I receive. I have a special budget for giving, and each month or two I see how much money is in that budget and I think about where I want it to go. Most charities have Internet donation options, and that's usually the way I donate to them. They might follow up with written appeals, but those go into the trash downstairs.

As for e-mail spam, I don't open those at all. I'm against them. Period. Though, we know that a small percentage of receivers do open them, or the spammers wouldn't send them.


Junk mail and spam both work on the following principle: marginal profit. Regardless of whether the appeal comes from a charity or a business. All they need to do is pull in one more dollar than the appeal cost them, and their mailing was worth it.

I mean, if the charity spends $400,000 sending letters to 800,000 individuals, and 16,000 people reply with checks of $25 each, then the charity breaks even (in fact, they do better than break even, they now have a list of people who are willing to send them money). They only need 16,001 people to reply to make a profit of $25. Each incoming check beyond the 16,000th is pure profit. They don't care whether 783,999 toss their appeal in the trash. Seriously, they don't care!

For-profit ventures use the same calculation. If they can get 2% of the targeted population to respond, they win.

With spam, the cost of sending an appeal is far lower -- no postage, often no additional charge per e-mail. So, if you spam 800,000 individuals, maybe you only need 10 people to respond to make a profit. Those ten people should be executed! ;-)


Some biologists claim that 97 - 99% of your DNA is junk. "I believe it's 3 percent that is genes," said Bill Haseltine, president of Human Genome Sciences. DNA Junkyard Yielding Gold

They are discovering that the image we used to have of our cellular DNA as a stable code for "how to build a human" is incorrect. The interior of every cell is a constant battleground, much of the DNA is junk, and the DNA that isn't junk has to build defenses against migratory junk DNA that often tries to knock out and replace working DNA!

(Wheels within wheels, as far down as you look ...)

When a human cell divides, all that DNA, whether junk or not, gets replicated into the new cell. Whee! So, much of our DNA are parasites that hang on for the ride. It doesn't matter whether they are replicated faithfully or not. They don't care whether they are ever used to build proteins or not. They are junk, like the junk you carry with you when you move from one apartment to the next.

As long as 2 - 3% of the DNA are not junk, then the system works: a new cell is born, and if that cell is an egg or sperm cell, and they happen to meet their partner, then a new human is born. The new cell or the new human are the profit that the DNA are hoping for.


BTW, every time a male ejaculates he issues forth roughly 250,000,000 sperm cells. Even if every ejaculation occurs inside an egg-ready female the vast majority of the sperm cells are not going to fertilize the egg. There are a lot of junk sperm cells out there!


Memes replicate under the same junky principle. Most of the memes that caterwaul inside of your head stay in your head, and perhaps are never heard from again. Your memories preserve only a fraction of your experiences -- the precise fraction is probably impossible to know. Some of your memes escape your head via conversations with others. They might listen to you, but most of what you say will disappear into ... um ... that same place that junk mail goes, the same place that spent sperm go ... the cosmic waste basket.

Other memes escape in written form. They have a better chance of persisting, depending on where they are placed. A small percentage of written memes are published on paper. But even a lot of published memes are read once and then discarded. Archived by a few libraries, but hardly ever read again.

The memes that actually persist within a culture might be as rare as the sperm cell that creates a baby human.

Hmm ... what I've been referring to as infosmog is really a cloud of meme-sperm looking for fertile minds with which to mate. Why shouldn't I add to the cloud with my own??? At the very least, I'm enjoying this mental masturbation. It would help if you licked it up for me.


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