RE: transmission

From: Philip Jonkers (
Date: Fri 16 May 2003 - 08:29:21 GMT

  • Next message: Philip Jonkers: "RE: transmission"

    No argument here, I think we are on a par here Keith.

    --- Keith Henson <> wrote:
    >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
    >frequently is).
    >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.
    >Keith Henson
    >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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