Re: memetics-digest V1 #1294

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Sun 02 Mar 2003 - 16:38:22 GMT

  • Next message: Wade T. Smith: "Re: memetics-digest V1 #1298"

    At 01:43 PM 02/03/03 -0500, you wrote:
    > > If a meme is pure information, then it's transfer from one medium to
    > > another should adhere to the classical model of communications as
    > > described by Claude Shannon. A low signal-to-noise ratio could be
    > > responsible for the differences between the original incarnation of a meme
    > > and the resulting neural representation of it in your head.

    You are correct.

    Somewhere in my files I have such an example, from a book called "Rumors" possibly. It is a page of serial copying of a drawing of a highly stylized owl. The first copy was recognizable, the second less so. By about the 3rd it was hard to tell what it was. Around the 4th it had clearly mutated into a cat where it remained for the rest of the dozen or so drawings on the page.

    Human communications are always noisy. A good fraction of speech is "error correcting" elements. In this (non-memetic) example, almost anyone can draw something that would be abstracted as a cat. Almost anyone would recognize a cat drawing, so once the serial copying had mutated to a cat it was passed on without error for the last ten or so drawings.

    >I agree....but does one not also need to assume that there is some
    >adjustment of the meme a bit to fit into the new heads' space, with lots of
    >different memes in it? (The analogy I would use is implementing the same
    >piece of software into different environments usually requires adjustments
    >to the software in some ways unless both the environments are "Gatesian" ie

    As a memetic example, the Krishna cult had roughly ten times the proportion of people of Jewish background than the population average (10% vs about 1%). I don't know if this just reflects a long standing acquired memetic immunity to Christian based cults or what, but it certainly shows that preexisting memes have an influence on what kind of memes a person will pick up.

    Keith Henson

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