Re: Sexy memes

From: Philip Jonkers (
Date: Mon 21 Oct 2002 - 05:29:58 GMT

  • Next message: Bruce Howlett: "Re: electric meme bombs"

    > >Grant:
    > > > Perhaps we should include as one of the defining characteristics of a
    > >meme
    > > > that it is a transaction as expressed in number 2b of the definition
    > >below:
    > > >
    > > > Main Entry: trans·ac·tion
    > > > Pronunciation: tran-'zak-sh&n, tran(t)-'sak-
    > > > Function: noun
    > > > Date: 1647
    > > > 1 a : something transacted; especially : an exchange or transfer of
    > > > goods, services, or funds <electronic transactions> b plural : the
    > > > often published record of the meeting of a society or association
    > > >
    > > > 2 a : an act, process, or instance of trans acting b : a
    > > > communicative action or activity involving two parties or things that
    > > > reciprocally affect or influence each other
    > > > - trans·ac·tion·al /-shn&l, -sh&-n&l/ adjective
    > > >
    > > > What is replicated through a meme is information. In order for it to
    > > > replicated, it must be transmitted. This requires the information to
    > > > encoded and broadcast and it also requires someone to receive and
    > >the
    > > > transmission. Therefore, we can say it is the information that is the
    > >meme,
    > > > but only if it is part of a
    > > > transaction between an originator and one or more other people.
    > > >
    > > > This also allows for the problem of the receiver not receiving the
    > > > information perfectly because the system generates noise as well as
    > > > information. What a person does with the information received is
    > >the
    > > > point. Usually, it is used to reproduce behavior based on the
    > >information
    > > > received. But I think we can say that it was the information
    > >transmitted
    > > > that was the meme, just as it is in the case of genes.
    > > >
    > > > For those who want to make comparisons with DNA and genes, DNA is also
    > > > encoded information that is broadcast through the medium of
    > > > action. In sex, the male broadcasts his seed and the female receives
    > >and
    > > > uses it to reproduce a body that resembles both the male and the
    > > > That is also a transaction. Sometimes the process results in a
    > >reproduction
    > > > and sometimes it
    > > > doesn't. (for example, fish fertilizing eggs laying on the bottom of
    > > > stream or the ocean) It's the same with memes.
    > > >
    > > > So I vote for the word "meme" to refer to the information encoded as
    > >part
    > >of
    > > > a transaction between two or more people (or animals?) which may or
    > >not
    > > > lead to replication.
    > > >
    > > > In short, a meme is encoded information. The encoding can be in the
    > >form
    > >of
    > > > words, actions, or artifacts but the meme is what was encoded.

    > >I think this is exactly the level of abstraction I'd like to see. Thanks
    > >Grant, I feel we are
    > >pretty much on the same level. Memes as quantities of information, I
    > >we have
    > >a winner here. Their is only one comment I'd like to make. I don't think
    > >is necessary
    > >that the receiver and transmittor are two different people per se. From
    > >retrospection I
    > >know there is quite a lot of implicit knowledge in one's mind which can
    > >become explicit
    > >through environmental triggers (information received from the outside).
    > >thinking about
    > >private euraka moments and 'what alcoholics refer to as moments of
    > >clarity'.
    > >In that sense
    > >you transform implicit knowledge to explicit information and transmit
    > >information
    > >to yourself. I think that the self-plex (set of memes about the self)
    > >is partly based on the experiences of such private moments of inference.

    > Yes. That's the grey area of my idea. Things like satori in the buddhist
    > doctrine or meditation in the Hindu would seem to bring about a transfer
    > information that is from oneself to oneself. And then there's also the
    > question of the creation of memes.
    > When I write an original story, and the story is in my mind, is it a meme
    > yet? It is the thing that will be transmitted, but can I count the
    > transactions between one part of my mind and another as meme stuff? Or
    > man who creates a new invention -- does the thing he creates and makes
    > an artifact count as a meme before the aritfact is completed? I include
    > this category things as diverse as paintings, statues, new kinds of
    > sneakers, and computer programs.

    According to the recursive definition of the meme I'd like to uphold, a meme consists of memes consisting of memes etc..... all the way until further division is meaningless and ambiguous (atomic level). There are only differences in fecundity, fidelity and longevity which makes one meme more successful, or sexier if you will, than the next. Take the invention of the car for instance. The car as a conceptual whole is immensely successful memetically. But it is still surpassed in success by the more ancient and fundamental invention called the wheel, which form part of the definition of a car
    (wheel = sub-meme). The same goes for the incorporation of the memetically more successful concept of the mirrror in cars.

    > Any kind of creative activity usually proceeds from an interior dialogue
    > that results in an artifact. From that artifact the people who view it
    > receive messages about the world we live in and knowledge about how the
    > artifact was created as well as how to make another one like it. That is,
    > after all, why we have laws protecting copyrights and patents. It is also
    > why would-be artists go to museums and copy paintings. They are trying to
    > learn how the master produced the masterpiece.

    > The ideas involved have value and are copyable. They are the information
    > that is created by the making of the artifact and transferred by the
    > transaction between artist and viewer in viewing it. If the information
    > the meme and the information exists before it is transmitted, I would have
    > to admit it is probable the meme exists at that point in time. If the
    > transaction that takes place is internal, the prospect of calling it a
    > "transaction" is doubtful. This does cast some doubt on the idea that a
    > transaction is a defining characteristic.

    I agree that the use of the concept of transaction is a little shaky when the act of transmission involves one party only. Perhaps we need to distinguish between meme origination and meme transaction/transmission/replication. The former entails the birth of a meme out of memetic interactions between meme-hosts (such as meetings, discussions, dialogue etc.) or from transformation of implicit knowledge into explicit information inside one meme-host
    (introspection, meditation, reflection, brain-storming etc.). The latter is the more regular form of transmission of a meme from one host to another in which the meme may undergo mutation (such as happening in master-pupil relations).


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