Re: new memetics article

Date: Mon 13 Jan 2003 - 02:51:43 GMT

  • Next message: William Benzon: "Re: new memetics article"

    > At 11:57 AM 12/01/03 -0800, Grant wrote:
    > Inexact copies are one thing, but when the copy is different from
    > the
    > original in almost every instance and radically different in most,
    > it's a whole different kettle of fish. The rules of a game may be the
    > same for everyone, but the way each person uses those rules to win a
    > game is different. No two chess games are exact copies of each other.
    > If they are, it's usually not a game but an instruction. That makes
    > the two things different.
    > Keith wrote: "Grant,
    > My point was that *perfect* fidelity is hard to find even in genes.
    > My examples were of memes that have very high fidelity:
    > "Some memes have very low error rates. Game rules like chess or the
    > suits of cards in a deck are examples of extreme stability."
    > Keith,
    > The evolution of a meme is not about fidelity, as it is with the
    > evolution of a gene. It is about similarity. Evolution in chess, for
    > example, has little to do with the rules, but a lot to do with how the
    > game is played. The rules remain the same throughout. Great chess
    > players copy each other's styles but not each other's games. So where
    > is the meme? Is it in the rules or in the games? What is it that
    > evolves? It is, after all, evolution or change that we are talking
    > about.
    > The Chinese have a game called Xiang Qi that resembles chess, The
    > rules are a little different but the basic premise is the same. No
    > one seems to know if chess was copied from xiang qi or vice versa.
    > Both go back a couple of milliniums or more. But there is enough
    > resemblance that it is obvious that one evolved from the other. The
    > evolution of the pieces and the moves of the pieces is one kind of
    > evolution while the evolution of how people play the game is another.
    > Which one would you call memetic -- or is it both?
    > All evolution can not be reduced to Darwinism or Lamarkism. They were
    > refering to specific processes. The way memes change do not resemble
    > either of those processes as far as I can see. Can you cite the words
    > of either man which describe the type of change we see in memes?
    > Keith said:
    > Now, it is *obvious* that particular games of chess or baseball are
    > not exact copies. If they were, there would be no point in playing.
    > But from the above sentence (in the post you clipped) anyone can see
    > that I was referring to game *rules* as memes and not the games
    > themselves. You are setting up a "straw man" to knock down instead of
    > doing something enlightening like taking a few hours to dig back into
    > the history of chess for a post on when the current rules settled into
    > stability and how or why they mutated before that time.
    > In addition, most transfers of information do not result in a
    > copy.
    > Grant says:
    > Most transfers of genetic information DO result in a very exact copy.
    > You have several trillion copies of your genome encoded in the cells
    > of your body. Any one of those cells (in Dolly it was a cell from her
    > udder) can supply the information needed to make a copy of the entire
    > body. That's why genetic change is slow and memetic change is
    > relatively rapid.
    > One man's idea can result in thousands or millions of copies of an
    > artifact:
    > A ballpoint pen, a computer, a way of preparing food. But these
    > things
    > evolve as they are being made. A perceived improvement causes an
    > immediate change in the product or the method of its manufacture. I
    > don't see how you can compare that with the way changes are made in
    > the manufacture of cells. They are random and more often result in
    > adverse changes than in something beneficial. In fact, most of them
    > are fatal to the cell.
    > Keith said:
    > Sure. Looking at a sunset (information transfer rate of at least a
    > megabyte a second) does not make a copy of it in a meaningful sense of
    > the word. But so what? It isn't a meme either.
    > Grant says:
    > I don't see what you're point is here. Information is not being
    > transferred from one mind to another in this case. It is just input
    > from the environment being processed by the mind.
    > Grant said:
    > Out of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of people who witness
    > an
    > action or hear an expanation, only one or two will try to duplicate
    > the action. Those who do will have to try many times to duplicate it
    > exactly. Even then, there will still differences in performance and
    > what the performance is used for.
    > Keith said:
    > Counter example. There are vast numbers of people who can listen to a
    > melody and write it down as notes or play it with only one hearing.
    > Ghod knows how many popular songs get into people's heads after
    > hearing them a few times. "King of the Road" is one of my banes.
    > Grant says:
    > People who can reproduce a melody faithfully on the first try are
    > relatively few. I certainly never knew any. But the exception does
    > not define the rule. They don't set the model for change in a
    > culture. To use them is examples that prove the rule is
    > counterproductive. They are not what memetic evolution is based upon.
    > For the vast majority of people copying is imperfect and requires a
    > lot of sweat and tears before it can be done anywhere near perfectly.
    > Perfection is something we spend a lifetime in search of rather than
    > the way we normally do things.
    > This is not Darwinism in my opinion. I doubt it is even
    > Lamarkism.
    > Darwin was describing how life forms change and I believe Lamark was,
    > too. Neither of them was concerned, that I know of, about how culture
    > changes. But I could be wrong.
    > Sigh.
    > Megasigh.
    > Keith Henson
    > Grant
            There is a good example here about genetics and memetics. Consider the rules of the game as genetic, and the styles and principles of play as memetic. In chess, it used to be the case that the bishop could only move two spaces along the diagonals, and the queen was the weakest piece on the board (excluding pawns), because she could only move one space along the diagonals. However, the capabilities of the pieces 'genetically' evolved as the rules changed. Certain elaborational fine tunings also evolved, such as the ability to underpromote a pawn to, say, a knight rather than a queen, the rules of castling, and the en passant rule. However, what has now seemingly occurred within chess is something that has not yet been reached in human genetics; that is, a final codified end-state. Other games have been created from the basic chess template, but we do not call them
    (nonadjectival) chess.
            The styles and principles of play, howefver, have continued to evolve, once that end-state was reached - from Paul Morphylike accelerated development, through classical and hypermodern to our present postmodern state, which fuses elements and principles of all the foregoing - according to one overriding selectional rule: that which succeeds on the board lives, and that which fails on the board dies.
            In one sense, human genetic evolution might be conceived of as having reached, or asymptotically approaching, an end-state, as our technological capabilities have progressively removed, at least for a time, environmental selection pressures. Thus we are left with the evolution of principles and styles, from tribalism through monarchy and communism and fascism to constitutional participatory democracy. This is the kernal of the idea upon which Francis Fukuyama based his book THE END OF HISTORY AND THE LAST MAN. I predict that, in the long term, he will be correct, but in the short and middle term, we will continue to have to collectively sort out Samuel Huntington's CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS to distill, through strife and negotiations, the
    (relatively) end-state principles under which a global sociocultural covenant will eventually perdure. As science advances, and technology implements its advances, new opportunities and choices will continue to open for humans individually and humanity generally, and they will devolve into novel human rights, which will continue to power the memetic advance in the (relative) absence of human genetic evolution.
            The only scenario that could conceiveably disrupt this trajectory would be humanity's embrace of human genetic engineering, then we, as a species, could possibly supercede the blind forces of natural selection and leapfrog into producing a species that asymptotocally approaches the totality of potential inherent in the human genome. However, should this happen, we still would have to undergo the memetic mutation towards the optimum sociopolitical and economic framework within which such an optimized humanity would best exist.
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