Received: by alpheratz.cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk id PAA12808 (8.6.9/5.3[ref firstname.lastname@example.org] for cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk from email@example.com); Fri, 15 Mar 2002 15:38:37 GMT X-Originating-IP: [188.8.131.52] From: "Grant Callaghan" <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Re: Cultural traits and vulnerability to memes Date: Fri, 15 Mar 2002 07:32:41 -0800 Content-Type: text/plain; format=flowed Message-ID: <LAW2-F137IR6t6c6ogh00006dcd@hotmail.com> X-OriginalArrivalTime: 15 Mar 2002 15:32:41.0814 (UTC) FILETIME=[A5636760:01C1CC36] Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Precedence: bulk Reply-To: email@example.com
>>From: "Wade T.Smith" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>>To: "Memetics Discussion List" <email@example.com>
>>Subject: Re: Cultural traits and vulnerability to memes
>>Date: Thu, 14 Mar 2002 20:22:00 -0500
>>Hi Scott Chase -
>> >I guess to sum it up, there's acquired and inherited aspects of wiring.
>>There is hardwiring which is developmental and _requires_ input, like
>>language. And culture. And memes. I would not call this 'acquired
>>wiring', but acquisition it certainly is. The tools of acquisition and
>>the places to put what is acquired are parts of what is 'hardwired'.
>I was saying that there's wiring with inherited and acquired aspects,
>getting away from the well worn (habitual?) dichotomy of hard- and
>softwiring. Then again maybe the wiring patterns are influence by
>of genetic and social nature.
>>All creatures have unique elements of acquisition- their individually
>>evolved senses- and homo sapiens has (to all evidences and with sprinkled
>>and carefully constrained exceptions) a unique system of retention and
>>utilization of these acquisitions. I prefer the memetic side be the
>>utilization side. But, I do think (personal feeling, and regardless of
>>the fact that I'm not convinced, and I totally see an equal balance of
>>argument from the other camp, and I will sometimes raise the points of
>>either side) that memetics is unique to homo sapiens.
>In trying to check up on my thinking about what ethological fixed action
>patterns (FAP's) are, I just looked up John Alcock's discussion in his text
>_Animal Behavior (5th edition)_ which has a memorable picture of some guy
>yawning. Alcock offers yawning as a human FAP (and releaser). Does this
>yawns are rigidly instinctive? Yawns are also contagious. If your buddy
>yawns, you might just follow suit. So if we have a room full of people in a
>reasonably oxygenated room and our experimental confederate forces a yawn,
>if a predicted yawn cascade ensues, what have we? A FAP contagion event?
>People might have their own variation of a yawn and a stretch whereby they
>may have copied or mimicked something they've seen done before or innovated
>their own yawning style. Kinda boring behavior likely to cause yawning in
>those contemplating it, but a start. How many people are yawning now,
>reading this post?
There's a fuzzy area to the hardwired metaphor when it applies to humans.
We are the only species for which three quarters of the brain's mass is
acqired after birth. That means the environment is greatly instrumental in
the structure of the brain at this period in time. This is when we acquire
our primary language and our basic notions of how language works. After the
brain reaches it's full growth, a new language becomes harder to learn. One
reason for this is the interference of what one has already learned about
language with what one needs to learn.
Using the computer metaphor again, computer operation depends on three
structures: hardware, software and firmware. Hardware is expressed in the
actual circuits built into the CPU and the machinery that carries it out.
Software is a temporary configuration that uses to hardware to carry out a
manipulation of data for a specific purpose. And firmware is stuff like
Windows -- a software program that stays in place and helps the other
software to function.
I would say there are similar divisions in the human mind in that what a
child has when he/she comes out of the womb can be likened to hardware and
considered hard wiring. It's structure was not the result of interaction
with the environment of the child. The next phase, in which the child's
remaining 3/4 of it's brain structure is directly influenced by its
environment and provides a sort of belief system on which the child's world
view is based, is similar to an operating system.
The Jesuits used to say, "Give me a child until he is six and he will be
mine ever after." The church also considered seven to be the age at which a
child could make decisions based on reason. In a sense, the development of
the brain that takes place in that period can be considered a sort of hard
wiring. It is based on the same rules of interaction with the environment
as the adult brain, but the lessons learned are difficult to unlearn later
What we acquire after childhood is learned with greater difficulty and
involves a lot of repetition in order to strengthen the connections between
neurons that are not involved in the actual building of the brain. Although
the brain has stopped growing, its development continues along lines already
established and changes are made within a system that is basically hard
wired by this time.
Of course, the brain only resembles a computer in some aspects and the
metaphor can't be stretched too far or it begins to fall apart. But there
is a basis for looking at brain development as containing hard wiring and
software that is developed by a process much like evolution in the sense
that sensory inputs and beliefs about those inputs are in competition with
each other for the limited space available at the end of the growth period.
Algorithms plus data equal programs. Childhood is the period in which we
develop our algorithms concerning the world in which we live. I call it our
map of the world. After childhood, revising the map becomes more difficult.
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