From: Keith Henson (email@example.com)
Date: Thu 15 May 2003 - 00:04:53 GMT
At 12:49 PM 14/05/03 -0400, Scott wrote:
(re Richard Brodie's comments)
>Is there sufficient reason to assume that ideas are isomorphic between
>individuals? If so, provide some here:
I would say so, where I take "isomorphic" to mean similar.
In a short form, one definition of memes (that does not conflict with the
definition of a meme as pure information) is "an element of culture" where
culture is the sum total of information available to humans.
Does anyone have serious disagreement with this so far?
Baseball (or cricket for the limies) is an element of culture.
Are there objections to this?
Now consider this variation in a thought experiment I have used here before
where a person can be tested for having the information in their brain
about baseball by teaching an isolated group of children (who have never
played ball and stick games) a recognizable game of baseball. You dump
kids, teacher and equipment on an island and come back in two months.
The variation is that the teacher on this assignment doesn't know a thing
about baseball, but is given books on baseball rules and how to play the
game before being dumped on the island.
If the kids are playing a recognizable game of baseball when the
experimenter returns, then the only information source for what they are
doing is the books. I.e., the books contain the baseball meme (information).
I don't think you could get funding for this experiment because the outcome
is too obvious.
Now information has to be "contained" in matter of some kind (photons
included). I am not picky about what form it takes, human minds, ink on
paper, magnetic tape or chipped into stone. Memes can sometimes be loaded
into minds from what a person can get out of made objects, a shoe, a pot, a
chipped rock. (I have spent a lot of my professional life "reverse
Memes are often learned from watching others (though not exclusively as a
certain person claims). Chimps learn to collect termites with sticks by
watching adult chimps. You could almost certainly transfer this meme by
showing video tape of collecting termites to naive chimps. You *might* be
able to convey the "termiting meme" to a chimp that knew sign language
without demonstrating what to do. (You could certainly do it with humans.)
On the subject of how accurately information replicates from mind to mind,
that depends largely on how much effort is put into transmitting it. In
the days before pocket calculators, most children learned multiplication
tables with a very high degree of fidelity. The process is much like
communication between computers. Computers test the data they get from
other computers and will retry if the data is corrupted (which it
Human children are likewise taught, tested, and corrected on spelling and
math till most of them "get it right." Game rules (three strikes, four
balls) tend to be very accurately replicated. This is not true of all
memes, look up "Play it Sam" and "Play it again Sam" in Google.
But some amount of mutation/sloppy copying/random recombination/outright
invention is as essential to memetics as it is to genetics. Without
variation, there is nothing to be selected. The differential survival of
memes (and why) is what memetics is about.
PS. The meme that fruits, particularly citrus, prevent scurvy was a
significant element in the power of the British Navy at one time.
This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
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