Re: Sue Blackmore lecture Wednesday 5.15pm London

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Wed 19 Feb 2003 - 01:01:57 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "Re: Sue Blackmore lecture Wednesday 5.15pm London"

    At 09:00 AM 18/02/03 -0500, you wrote:
    >on 2/17/03 11:03 PM, Keith Henson at wrote:
    > > At 08:34 PM 17/02/03 -0500, you wrote:
    > >> on 2/17/03 8:25 PM, at wrote:
    > >
    > > snip
    > >
    > >> But you memeticists don't talk about people as agents. You're always
    > >> talking about memes as agents. In memetics human minds/brains are just
    > >> passive respositories of meme-food.
    > >
    > > A meme *can't* be an agent in the terms used in Minsky's work.
    >You're talking about Minsky's society of minds as though it were a popular
    >account of fully-worked out science. It's not anything of the sort. The
    >science is not worked out at all. It's a pile of informal computational
    >guesses about what brains might sorta maybe doing. Interesting, yes?
    >Science, no. Not yet.

    Science is what scientists do, even silly science like Penrose. Minsky's concepts of mental models are strongly supported by the work of Michael Gazzaniga and William Calvin, not to mention a bunch of other scientists. It may not be totally *accepted* science, but so what? I remember a certain professor who was totally incensed by plate tectonics fully a decade after it was obviously true.

    > > It is just
    > > information. Now that information can be used to program or set up an
    > > agent among a person's other mental modules.
    >The notion of mental modules is both vague and highly controversial. You're
    >treating it as though it's fully-formed and ready for use.

    Use another word for it then, I am not particularly tied to the words, but there are obvious, testable differences between the before and after states of a person who has picked up a sport, a song, a skill, or some other meme.

    > > The agent can range from the
    > > highly useful to inducing complete destruction of the person and their
    > > genes alike. The agent created by the meme can even induce the person to
    > > go out and tell all their friends about the new meme and *then* turn out to
    > > be useful or dangerous.
    >Well, if memes aren't agents, then how can they create agents, as you say
    >above? Who is doing this programming? And just how do agents tell people
    >what to do? Do they have voices that speak to the inner ear in compelling

    Do you grok computer worms? The sort that clogged the net recently? Just about anything you can say about memes and humans has a counterpart in the relation of computer worms or viruses and computers. To be useful, computers must have some inputs open.

    Humans have ears and eyes exposed to memes. Some of them *do* affect a person in a compelling way, they join some stupid cult and cut their balls off. Hard to think of something more compelling!

    But memes are *not* agents. They are just information. Computer worms are just information till they are being executed. Genes are just information unless they are being transcribed in a cell (then they are part of an entire agency making some protein). If you write down a listing for some gene, you don't put in some disclaimer about it just being a listing, you title it as *that particular gene*.

    Memes can build agents in human minds, and the humans overall are active agents who may respond to some meme built agent in their minds to "go preach."

    In the long run, people were "designed" by evolution to be able to learn. Mammals are good at this, primates are very good, and we are the masters of learning from the world around us and from our fellow tribesmen. Memes are what we learn from them (or you can call it self programming if you wish) and you can call memes culturgens, or replicating information patterns, or any of the rest of the long list of names anthropologists used long before 1976 for cultural elements or you can make up your own name for the chunks of information we learn from others.

    I don't care if you call it gravity or gropness, it sucks just the same. :-)

    Keith Henson

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