Re: Sue Blackmore lecture Wednesday 5.15pm London

From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Mon 10 Feb 2003 - 15:46:15 GMT

  • Next message: Grant Callaghan: "RE: Sue Blackmore (and other luminaries)"

    >We humans are all meme machines. So are the
    photocopiers and telephones, computers and web servers that we have built to help us. But why are they changing so fast, and were they really designed for our benefit?

    >According to the theory of memetics, they were all
    designed by memetic evolution for the sake of the memes themselves. Like genes, memes are replicators. That is, they are information that is copied with variation and selection, which makes an evolutionary process possible. As with other evolutionary processes, memetic or cultural evolution happens for the benefit of the replicators themselves, in this case the memes. The internet, the web and all its consequences are just what we should expect of the rapidly accelerating evolution of meme machines.

    I think, if the words above are Susan's, there is a misunderstanding of what memes are doing in their evolution. In this case, I think the use of genetic metaphor is somewhat justified. I don't think memes are designing themselves "for" anything. I think they are evolving in response to their environment, which is us. They are not evolving to benefit themselves or us. They are evolving to meet the demands their environment places on them.
      There is another blind watchmaker working here and what he produces will be the result of changes taking place in society and the people who comprise it.

    This cultural evolution is changing us as fast as it is changing the tools we use and the reason we are changing the tools is to meet our ever greater expectations for ourselves. Examples: we are building nanomachines and biomachines to change our environment and ourselves. We are no longer depending on genetic evolution to decide which direction the world's plant and animal life should take. We expect nanomachines to produce changes within us that genes and their products cannot.

    As we change, our machines will change to fit our needs. Eventually, we will be one with our machines in our machine/human world. We seem to be heading that way now and as our skill increases in the manufacture of new machines to do things we never dreamed of doing before, the kinds of things we produce will adjust to those needs, too. In other words, the evolution of those memes will change to fit the changing environment. Those changes will not necessarily benefit individual memes but the meme pool as a whole as it pertains to demands of it's environment.

    The memes themselves have no goal in mind. Their evolution is mindless. Whatever their changing environment demands will determine their individual path of change. But the day is coming (things like computers designing machines and other computers) when the memes will take over the task of desiging everything for us, including themselves, and then there will be a memetic mind behind the evolution of memes as well as people.

    That this process has already started can be seen in the design of modern aircraft, where the task would be impossible without computers to do the job and the evolution of evolutionary design processes for building bridges and other engineering problems.


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