Re: transmission

From: William Benzon (
Date: Mon 19 May 2003 - 15:17:25 GMT

  • Next message: Keith Henson: "Re: Definition of meme"

    on 5/19/03 9:32 AM, Richard Brodie at wrote:

    > I'm having a great deal of difficulty understanding you. I know you're not
    > saying you don't believe knowledge can be taught. Right? You're not saying
    > that, are you?

    No, I'm not saying that.

    > So you must be saying something else. I'm guessing you are
    > saying something like you don't believe the physical representation of
    > knowledge in someone's brain gets replicated.

    Yes, I'm saying at least that.

    > If that's what you're saying,
    > let me point out that that's not a requirement for memetics any more than it
    > is necessary for any matter to be transferred when you download software
    > from a server.

    Bad analogy.

    Jack and Jill are sitting in the park under an apple tree. They see an apple front of them on the ground. Each is looking at the apple so there is something in Jack's brain that corresponds to the apple and something in Jane's brain that corresponds to the apple. But there is no replication from one brain to the other. Each is looking at and recognizing the apple independently of the other.

    What I'm arguing is that the situation is not much different if they're sitting on a bus and Jack writes "apple" on a piece of paper and hands it to Jill. Now they've both got something in their heads that corresponds to
    "apple." But there has been no replication from one mind to the other, no
    "downloading" of information from one brain to the other.

    In this second scenario imagine that Jack and Jill never knew one another prior to sitting down on the bus. Whatever it is the arises in Jill's head when she sees the piece of paper was there before she ever met Jack. Nothing has been transferred from Jack's head to Jill's. All that has happened is that Jack has caused Jill to call up something in her mind that corresponds to "apple." It may be more or less "like" what is in Jack's mind. But it has not been transmitted or replicated from one to the other. Those concepts don't tell you what is going on.

    Now, what if, instead of "apple," Jack had written "quantum indeterminacy," or "justice" or "meme" on the paper? What's the chance that those words would evoke more or less the same thing in Jill's head that already exists in Jack's?

    William L. Benzon
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