Re: new memetics article

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Sun 12 Jan 2003 - 18:11:38 GMT

  • Next message: Wade T. Smith: "Fwd: Whassup, Barbie?"

    At 10:40 AM 10/01/03 -0500, you wrote:
    >At 09:40 PM 1/9/2003 +0000, you wrote:
    >His paper would have been helped immensely if he were familiar with
    >Manfred Eigen's mathematically defined quasi-species and error catastrophe
    >threshold. A quasi-species is a population of variants that hovers around
    >a fitness peak. The constant introduction of error insures that no member
    >has ideal fitness, but so long as the error rate does not exceed the
    >selectivity factor modified by overall complexity, the species will
    >continue to maintain a average genotype approximating the ideal fitness

    You are right. I have never been bothered by copying fidelity arguments, and I now realize it was because I had read about quasi-species years ago, I guess in Scientific American.

    Even gene copying error rates of 1 in 10 exp 12 are not perfect.

    Some memes have very low error rates. Game rules like chess or the suits of cards in a deck are examples of extreme stability.

    I commented in my 1987 _Analog_ article "Memetics and the Modular Mind" that writing slows the evolution of religious class memes.

    "An empirical characteristic of large, long-lived religious movements or related social movements (at least in the West) is a scripture or body of written material. This may function to standardize the meme involved or at least slow its evolution as the number of people infected with it grows.
     From Scientology right back to the Hindu Vedas, I can think of no counter-examples. Social movements involving more than a few thousand people or lasting more than a few years may have been rare before writing came along."

    Keith Henson

    PS. The article is only 40k so I might post a copy and some follow up comments on it. It has been 15 years and my thoughts on the subject have made at least minor advances.

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