Re: electric meme bombs

From: Bruce Howlett (
Date: Wed 23 Oct 2002 - 12:21:38 GMT

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    ... Hence the actual process of replication is not a unique property belonging to some particular meme. Therefore I advocate separation of the cultural element on the one hand and transfer process of memes on the other. OTOH if the transfer process itself can be replicated (for instance by imitation) I have no problem in calling it a meme, in fact my integrity would demand it. But I would prefer to call it a meme in its own right. However, you got me thinking about the subject. Could you please strengthen your case by giving explicit examples of your viewpoint?

    Bruce What you have discovered here are the meme memes. Yes I agree that the replication process is not unique and that it can probably be called a meme in its own right, but it exists only to serve the memetic process. There is probably a finite number of transfer processes available to humans, but an infinite variety of memes. But you just can't call every thought process a meme. Eg: the homeboy fashion could be generally described as a memetic event, but the beginning of the process was probably the only truly memetic bit... one day a kid wearing a baseball cap peak forward sees a homeboy with the cap on backwards and imitates the behaviour. However, subsequent behaviour may require a cognitive process which could not be described as memetic, such as going to a shop and buying a baggy set of shorts. Further to the homeboy example, cultural phenomena which may have had very practical origins can be consistently replicated in the full knowledge of the history and tradition involved. A good example of this would be the Freemasons where the transfer process is highly ritualised. I think the Freemasons are a particularly good example as the process of becoming one is a highly cognitive and ritualised process, whereas a religious conversion is usually very spontaneous and accompanied by spectacular realisations of salvation etc., a fairly typical memetic event. And yes, on reflection I do agree with you that a memetic infection can result in "enthralling, intoxicating and mind-spelling manipulative effect[s]", but in the past I have attributed those phenomena with the secondary (reaction) effects . However, I do make a particular distinction between belief structures that result from memetic events and belief structures that result from cognitive process.

    Phil software programs in contrast do not mutate spontaneously

    Bruce Yes. This is my point: a meme is a type of thought, and part of the defining criteria is spontaneous replication. A meme has no logic and would be the antithesis of good programming, human based or AI based.

    Phil Isn't Deep Blue just a souped-up main-frame having a bunch of pentium IIIs as nodes together computing in parallel?

    Bruce Yes. But Gary Casparov said that "Deep Blue could think", and apart from being a pretty smart bloke, World Chess Master and all that, I think it was a judgement call he was in a good position to make. I have always thought that the Turing test was inappropriate as it assumed AI would be a mirror of human intelligence.

    Unfortunately I will be away for a couple of days on business. I will look forward to continuing the debate when I get back.


    Bruce Howlett

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