RE: Early Lunch

From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Mon Apr 15 2002 - 18:26:12 BST

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    From: "Grant Callaghan" <>
    Subject: RE: Early Lunch
    Date: Mon, 15 Apr 2002 10:26:12 -0700
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    >Date: Mon, 15 Apr 2002 16:22:27 +0100
    >Hi Alan,
    >would that be the piece on scale-free networks? I'm far from a
    >mathematician, but, yeah, it struck me as offering a lot to memetics. It
    >also reminded me of 'The Tipping Point', and the author (I can't recall his
    >name), and his idea about key ("hub"?) people important to the successful
    >dissemination of ideas (he cites Paul Revere as one example).
    > > Subject: Re: Early Lunch
    > >
    > > The killer article for memetics is the one a few pages earlier on
    > > networks.
    > >
    > > Rgds
    > >
    > > Alan
    > > ----- Original Message -----
    > > From: "Steve Drew" <>
    > > To: <>
    > > Sent: Sunday, April 14, 2002 7:19 AM
    > > Subject: Early Lunch
    > >
    > >
    > > > Has any one read the article in this weeks New Scientist (13/4/02, Vol
    > > 174,
    > > > No 2338)?
    > > >
    > > > For those that haven't Richard Coss thinks our transition from ape to
    > > human
    > > > was kick started not only by leaving the trees, but also because
    > > than
    > > > being the hunter, 5 million years ago we were the hunted. He argues
    > > our
    > > > hunting behaviour, social systems all result from the need to devise
    > > > defences against creatures the like of which aren't around today.
    > > >
    > > > I find the idea quite reasonable as it provides an answer why did we
    > > begin
    > > > tool using. Whacking something with a stick or rock that is bigger
    > > you
    > > > has a better success rate than shaking a fist at it. As we become more
    > > adept
    > > > with bigger and better sticks we learnt to fight back which is a good
    > > > precursor to learning hunting. If you can clobber a sabretooth, a
    > > deer
    > > > (say) becomes a feasible target.
    > > >
    > > > Basically it was an evolutionary arms race with us trying to catch up.
    > > >
    > > > He also argues for certain predispositions of an evolutionary
    > > > nature. That is instincts that have become hardwired. In one test he
    > > > constructed a virtual model of some savannah and showed it to some
    > > > pre-school kids. He introduced a lion to the scene and asked the kids
    > > > pick the safest spot from 3 choices: In a crevice, a thorn bush or on
    > > top
    > > of
    > > > a boulder. Only 1 in six chose the boulder which was the only safe
    > > Not
    > > > definitive evidence I know, but the article does contain other
    > > interesting
    > > > ideas and theories.
    > > >
    > > > As has already been noted, in relation to language, he argues that
    > > language
    > > > evolved from cries of alarm to a proto language exhibited by some apes
    > > today
    > > > that distinguishes between specific threats through to language
    > > >
    > > > Interesting piece. It also notes that anthropologists are not at all
    > > keen
    > > on
    > > > it.
    > > >
    > > > Regards
    > > >
    > > > Steve
    > > >
    A lot of what goes into the making of language was there before we started
    weaving the patterns of sound and sense we call language.

          Brain center searches for patterns, April 9, 2002

    Duke University Medical Center researchers have discovered the brain region
    that automatically watches for patterns in sequences of events.

    In an article posted online April 8, 2002 in Nature Neuroscience,
    researchers Scott Huettel, Beau Mack and Gregory McCarthy reported
    experiments in which they asked subjects to watch simple random sequences of
    a circle or a square flash onto a screen. During the experiments, the
    scientists imaged the subjects' brains using high-resolution functional MRI
    (fMRI), enabling high-resolution mapping of blood flow to a particular
    region, triggered by increased activity of the brain cells in that region.

    "We simply asked the subjects to press a button in their left hand when they
    saw a circle, and the right hand for a square," said Huettel. "We purposely
    kept the experiment very simple.

    "Then, in analyzing brain activity during those responses, we took advantage
    of the fact that when you present a large number of random events, some of
    the time there will be short patterns, like a series of circles or a
    sequence of alternating circles or squares," he said. "We concentrated on
    discovering whether the subjects' brain activity in the prefrontal cortex
    changed when these occasional patterns were violated, as when a square would
    appear after a series of circles, or an alternating circle-square pattern
    would be disrupted.

    "And even though our subjects knew they were seeing random sequences, and
    they didn't behave in any explicit way when they saw these occasional
    patterns, their brains still reacted when the patterns were violated. So,
    their brains couldn't help but look for these patterns," said Huettel.

    What's more, he said, in behavioral studies, the subjects generally showed
    increased reaction time to violations of longer patterns. This finding
    confirmed the fMRI results revealing that the subjects were, indeed,
    perceiving patterns in the sequences.

    "These findings suggest that the prefrontal cortex is really actively and
    dynamically processing information about the environment," he said. "It's
    preparing the organism to change its behavior in response to something
    that's happening, not just passively rehearsing."

    Further studies, said Huettel, will seek to map how the prefrontal cortex
    interacts with other areas of the brain in processing such information.
    According to Huettel, the scientists' findings reveal how brain functions
    that evolved to cope with the natural world might not be optimal in today's
    technological environment.

    Compulsive pattern-perception evolved to enable humans in the natural world
    to escape danger, but it today's artificial world, it may lead to
    maladaptive superstitions such as the gambler's belief that a pair of dice
    is "due" to roll a seven, the researchers said.

    Perceiving patterns in random series: dynamic processing of sequence in
    prefrontal cortex,
    S A Huettel, P B Mack & G McCarthy, Nature Neuroscience, 8 April 2002,

    For me, this is germane to the genes vs. memes war where memes are used to
    overcome the time lag of adaptive changes in our genetic heritage. I can't
    buy the writer's application of memes of superstition to a genetic
    development, though. Superstitions are not part of our genetic heritage,


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