Re: memetics-digest V1 #1294

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Fri 07 Mar 2003 - 02:28:51 GMT

  • Next message: Keith Henson: "Re: memetics-digest V1 #1303"

    At 08:51 PM 06/03/03 +0100, you wrote:

    >----- Original Message -----
    >From: "Hernan Silberman" <>
    > > 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.


    I missed this the first time around I guess. You are right of course.

    Information transfer between people is always noisy, but noise can be overridden by repeating the signal a lot of times. (This is exactly described by the math. It is a square root function where noise is reduced by the square root of the number of repeats.) The bottleneck for all meme transmission seems to be on our ability to form memory. Though there are some counter examples (maybe) in visual processing, virtually all studies of memory indicate we store at best a few bits per second. (It is the organization and processing of that information that allows us to look smarter than you would expect from such a small amount of information.) For example, you would not expect a person to be able to pass on how to play baseball with a very short exposure to the game whereas a person who has played even sandlot baseball a hundred times could teach a recognizable game to children who had never seen the game before.

    Even though reaching into a person's brain and describing the places where the information is stored is not easy to do as yet, we can be confident there is an informational difference between a person who can teach baseball to kids and one who has no idea what this pile of bats, balls, and mitts are for. The difference is that the "baseball meme" is encoded
    (somehow) in the brain of the one who can teach the game.

    Keith Henson

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