Re: electric meme bombs

From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Sun 03 Nov 2002 - 16:08:42 GMT

  • Next message: Wade T.Smith: "Re: Standard definition"

    >Trial and error. Mutation. Sex.
    >Humans are products of evolution, not evolution itself, so, hmm, is it
    >really true that they do new things?

    When you take old things and put them together in a new way, you produce a new thing. "Meme" was just "gene" combined with "memory." But it was the combining that made it into something new. "Beme" grew out of "meme" and behavior, two ideas that already exist. "Peme" took Beme and replaced behavior with performance and in the process produced not only a new word, a new definition for the process we were calling "meme," but a new way of looking at the concept that was wrapped in the word, "meme." Everything new today is a combination of old and new. The newness is in the things we put together that weren't together previously. And we do it all in the mind first before we send it out into the world of other memes, bemes or pemes. The first axe took and existing sharp rock, an existing stick, and an existing piece of sinew and combined them into something that the creator had never seen before. He had to see it in his mind before he could perform it. There was no place else to see it.

    >In one respect, every spider web is a new thing (in essence, of course, it
    >is), since it is different, in minute and subtle ways, each time. Is
    >'different' enough of a requisite for 'new'. Well, in some definitions of
    >'new', yes.
    >So, when a human does something that is considered new, let's say, composes
    >a new melody, what has happened?
    >Shall I just say that is a matter for about three hundred libraries full of
    >analysis? Sure, I'll say it, and I doubt too many people would disagree
    >with me. But, I do see it as something analogous to a spider's web- the new
    >melody is a musical way of spanning the new space between two twigs where
    >there was a twig and a wall before.
    This separation of one and many seems like much ado about nothing. Every spider is obviously different because it is shaped by the environment as well as the process of becoming a spider. All spiders of the same species are different from spiders of different species as well as different from each other, although the same compared to those other spiders.

    It's the same with memes or bemes or pemes. The performance is different each time but the same compared to performances of another peme. If we don't distinguish between classes of memes such as a particular song and a particular performance of that song, we get bogged down in trying to name everything we see or hear. It's OK to give every human being two or three names and then some because we spend most of our time interacting with other individuals, but to give every action they perform a name specific to that action at that point in time is to needlessly complicate the naming process.
      Although there are people in the music collecting business who do that sort of thing. But it's mostly confined to a group of afficionados whose time is primarily concerned with comparing musicians and performances. The rest of the public can't be bothered.

    But this brings up another point -- that the memes and names we give to things is a function of how we spend our time and what we do with it. Bartenders dream up new drinks and give them special names. The drinkers pass them around and discuss the merits of them. No two of the new drinks come out exactly the same, but they are different compared to a vodka martini served shaken but not stirred.

    This is where the things we call memes come in. All shaken martinis belong to the class of meme that bears that name, even though no two of them are exactly the same. That class is different and bears a different name than the stirred voda martini. Although it may be difficult to taste the difference, the fact that they are produced by a different method and people have reasons to ask for one rather than the other puts them in a class of separate memes, bemes or pemes.

    We can apply the term "meme" to the mental aspect of martini creation,
    "beme" to the behavior of making martinis, and "peme" to the actual performance involved in making a single shaken-but-not-stirred martini. There's room in the naming process to hold all three. But it's all arbitrary and the names could just as easily apply to completely different things or the things named could just as easily have completely different names, as they will have if the process crosses the cultural line into another linguistic group.

    We divide our experience into categories and give those categories names because it helps us to think about the world and map it so we can cope with it. Dawkins started us dividing our world into genes and memes as biological and mental constructs. Now we are taking his distinction and creating a new way of dividing up a portion of our world based on it. We only do this because it gives us a handle with which to grasp certain aspects of our experience.

    Our experience is not naturally divided up this way. we use pattern recognition and pattern naming to help us cope with the world we live in. We decide what portion of our experience fits a pattern and apply a name to it. Our decisions are often based on false perceptions. Most of the arguing we do is based on the fact that no two people can perceive the world from the same point of view. What we see and give names to is as individual as people themselves. The names stick when we can hammer out agreement about what we perceive and agree to use the same name to talk about it. Without this agreement, there are no memes or bemes or pemes.



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