Where's Meme?

From: Reed Konsler (konslerr@mail.weston.org)
Date: Fri 16 May 2003 - 14:05:27 GMT

  • Next message: Chris Taylor: "Re: Where's Meme?"

    > >2) Where was the baseball meme when no one was playing baseball?

    > Maybe you're the one who needs to answer this as you failed to be explicit
    > on how the rules of baseball were hanging in the air between First Base
    > Third Base.

    I would say that the memes start in the brains of the First Basers and are replicated in the minds of the Third Basers through the medium of the baseball. When no one is actually playing baseball, the memes are still in the process of being replicated.

    That's only mysterious if you imagine that there is a significance between the "short time" of a conversation and a "long time" in my example. I would assert that there isn't. It's just a finite intervening period of time. When t=0 there is one state. Later, t=1 and there is a second state.

    I also think there is confusion in that many people think that DNA is
    "directly" or "physically" replicated. For instance, people are always using the word "isomorphic"

    First, DNA replication is not "direct". It is mediated by a series of enzymes in a very specific aqueous environment. The "short distance" connections between one strand of DNA and another and the "long distance" between one brain and another might seem significant, but I would assert they are alike in that they are both finite distance. Quantum physiscs implies that the two strands of DNA don't actually "touch" each other in the intuitive way we imagine. There is intervening space, and the atoms infer the existence of one another through the boiling ectoplasm of particles, strings, foamy space...or whatever. The point is that, as I understand physics, the space isn't empty.

    Second, DNA replication isn't "isomorphic". A singleton chain of DNA is interpreted by a complex of enzymes. At each nucleotide, there is not a direct one-to-one replication. Instead, completely different chemicals are encoded. A transcribes to T, T to A, G to C, and C to G. Also, the whole chain is upside down; 3' to 5' becomes 5' to 3'. The new singleton chain and the old singleton chain are made of the same pieces, but they aren't the same shape. They aren't mirror images, either. They are not "isomorphic" but, rather, *complementary*.

    The fact that the two singleton chains mate together isn't a requirement for genetic replication. Reverse Transcriptase is an enzyme which creates a chain of DNA from an RNA template. Due to differneces in molecular geometry, RNA strands mate poorly with complementary strands of DNA. The two separate after transcription. This is an example of how two complementary systems of meaning can be mutually transcribed without needing to be either isomorphic or mated.

    I'm going to the trouble of deconstructing genetics becuase, in my mind, the difference between genetics and memetics is in percetions of space and time. It seems like it takes a long time for memes to get transmitted from one brain into another, compared to the few minutes it might take to replicate an entire genome. It seems like brains are far apart and it seems like there is lots of junk in between them that would keep things from being exchanged...certianly much more that between two strands of DNA. It seems like DNA is transcribed in a clean, hard, "isomorphic" way while memes in the brain would have to be transcribed in a messy, soft, complementary way. My assertion is that these are all misperceptions, based on intutive ways of thinking about the world that hinder rather than help in this context.

    I would say that a performance or artifact is analogous to a phenotype: an expression of a meme during the development of an individual organism in a specific environment. Blue eyes are not genetic information, they are a phenotype. The phenotype does not directly decend from generation to generation, it is genetic information that decends.

    A difficult thing about genetics is that it is the phenotypes that are obvious, visible and macroscopic. I can only infer that genes exist.

    Similarly, I admit that the performances and artifacts are obvious, visible, and macroscopic. But, I'm not convinced that this means they are what is being replicated. I would say that most performances and artifacts are like fingernails; the detritus of living. In some contexts, they can form a medium of transcription; just as the host of enzymes that mediate DNA transcription are phenotypial expressions of the DNA itself. But, in the end, it is the meme that decends, not any of the physical expressions.

    I would say that genetic information is carried in DNA and memetic information is carried in the physical and electrochemical structure of the brain. I can't be any more specific than that now. There aren't the scientific observations needed.

    I'm not saying that's right. It's how I would answer the questions I'm asking right now.



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