Re: new memetics article

From: Ray Recchia (
Date: Mon 13 Jan 2003 - 16:49:25 GMT

  • Next message: Kenneth Van Oost: "Re: new memetics article"

    At 01:11 PM 1/12/2003 -0500, Keith Henson wrote:
    >At 10:40 AM 10/01/03 -0500, Ray Recchia wrote:
    >>At 09:40 PM 1/9/2003 +0000, Derek Gatherer 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 candidate.
    >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.

    I think we are in agreement here.

    Using the imagery of fitness landscapes, we can think of some memes having very steep fitness peaks. The notion that 1+1 = 2 has a very steep slope and is probably permanently stabilized. On the other hand hairstyle's come and go quite quickly and could be thought of as having low fitness peaks.

    In the legal profession there are certain areas of the law that change at a snail's pace, like certain aspects of real estate law. There are cases from pre-revolutionary war England that are still considered good law in the United States. On the other hand, family law notions have changed drastically in the two centuries and no one would base a legal argument on a case from the 1800s.

    Ray Recchia.

    I also agree with Grant that memes are not always propagated with each potentially meme transmitting activity. For purely behavioral memes, it may take a person a number of observations, and then independent trial and error, before reproduction will occur. Although this is much different than the process by which genes reproduce it can still be viewed as a Darwinian process.

    An individual's personalized manifestation of a meme may differ from what is originally transmitted because of the need to adapt to that person's own individual memetic landscape and physical capacities. In the language of fitness landscapes the term 'epistatic interaction' is used to describe the effect that the presence of other genetic or memetic elements have on the fitness of one particular element. This type of interaction is frequently modelled in fitness landscapes.

    Ray Recchia

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