RE: Complexity and Memetics

From: Samuel Rose (
Date: Wed 04 Dec 2002 - 14:34:48 GMT

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    Date: Tue, 03 Dec 2002 20:23:12 -0500 From: Ray Recchia <> Subject: Re: Complexity and Memetics

    At 11:35 AM 12/3/2002 -0500, you wrote:
    >Hello memetics list,
    >My name is Sam Rose. I'm an independent researcher of Complex Adaptive
    >Systems, memetics, futures studies, and media ecology. I've spent the
    >last couple of years studying the BIO-PSYCHO-SOCIAL emergent, cyclical
    >levels of existence (ECLET) theories of Dr Clare W Graves and it's spin

    >off theories. I haven't had the chance to comb through all of the
    >archives yet, but I was hoping to strike up a dialogue here relating
    >complexity to memetics.
    >So far, my only exposure to memetics has been through Aaron Lynch's
    >"Thought Contagion" Robert Aunger's "Darwinizing Culture" and "The
    >Electric Meme" (still reading electric meme now). If anyone can
    >recommend any other work, feel free to do so.

    I have some ideas that I'd like to toss at someone who has a good grasp of the concepts in 'The Origins of Order' by Stuart Kauffman. More complexity related than memetically related but I've been wrestling with it for over a year now. In the same vein you might look at 'The Major Transitions in

    Evolution' by John Maynard Smith and Eors Szathmary.

    A very good book on culture in animals is 'The Imitation Factor' by Lee Alan Dugatkin

    (Sam): Thanks for the recommendations. I am working my way through Thomas Kuhn, Robert Aunger, and a Douglas Rushkoff book right now.

    >I am most interested now in understanding how memes work into self
    >sustaining non-linear systems. The self-assembly of memes seems to
    >reflect the behavior of "strange attractors" in CAS theory. The self
    >replication and non-linear transmission of memes seems to be an
    >integral part of biological, psychological, and social systems. I think

    >CAS and memetics can help us understand why a system may "break down"
    >and reassemble into separate systems under certain conditions.

    >This can
    >often be seen on internet mailing lists that discuss theories dealing
    >with human social interaction systems in real time, like memetics. To
    >discuss something like memetics, we may want or need to use current
    >events in order to test or models, theories and hypothesis. These
    >discussions are self sustaining until a global event happens and is
    >brought into the system that causes some degree of dissonance. Most of
    >the participants in the online discussion group are also simultaneously

    >part of larger systems. Global events seem to both generate and
    >activate memes within individuals. If the paradigms those memes are
    >tied to are drastically different for individuals who make up a system,

    >then the system may break down and reassemble into two or more new
    >systems, though they may still exist within the same environment (an
    >internet discussion list, for instance). One theory says that this
    >"dissonance" is caused by collections of memes, or "meta-memes" that
    >make up an individual and group complex adaptive system.(that theory is

    >spiral dynamics see: It seems there is a
    >cultural/social view, a psychological view, and a biological/genetic
    >view into these types of systems. Internet subcultures like discussion
    >groups and lists seem to be more vulnerable to the break down of self
    >sustenance than face to face relationships. At the same time they can
    >be valuable learning tools, and information can be shared more
    >efficiently, and a broader base can be observed than in face to face
    >type relationship systems.

    This seems to be a very accurate description of what happened on this list recently when the topics of Islam and The War on Iraq came up. Certain people on the list have drastically different paradigms relating to these issues and if you over back posting for the last month or so you will see how the list temporarily became dominated by discussion on those issues.

    While you indicate that such discussion can be useful for memetics, I would argue that they are useful not for their content but solely for their ability to demonstrate the sorts of concepts you have described. I might suggest that for that reason we avoid those topics here but that would we could benefit from examining their impact on other discussion groups.

    (Sam): I agree. It would be a bad idea to dissect our own discussion. I am more interested in talking about how memetics relates to complexity, and complex adaptive systems, how it relates to media ecology, and how it will relate to Clare W Graves ECLET theory.

    >Anyway, I am interested in creating dialogue about these things. Any
    >suggestions, clarifications, corrections, admonishments, brow beatings,

    >or compliments are welcome.
    >Sam Rose
    >Founding Member
    >The Billions of Minds Project

    Out of curiosity are you doing this research as grad student, PhD, or a guy with a non related job who just happens to be interested in this stuff. I qualify as the third myself, although I have a graduate degree.

    (Sam): it s kind of the third, except that I am trying to create a research entity as well with several people from multiple fields curently advising me on the different aspects of ding something like this. Previously, I published a print magzine
    ( and I currenly also work as a musician

    Take Care (and thanks for the welcome, Lawrence)


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