Re: Definition of meme

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Tue 20 May 2003 - 23:15:10 GMT

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

    At 05:14 AM 20/05/03 -0700, Philip wrote:
    > >Do you have any doubt that the physical representation of a meme in a brain
    > >(where memes exist as a class of memory) can be found? (Given fine enough
    > >tools of course.) Here is a thought experiment on how to do it:
    > >
    > >Take a snapshot of the places and states of every atom in a
    > >brain. Immediately have the brain learn a new a new phone number, snapshot
    > >again. Subtract. Ignoring the (eventually solvable) engineering problems,
    > >what is left is the physical representation of the encoded phone number or
    > >meme or whatever. Might be hard to figure out how it is encoded, but
    > >that's just detail.
    >That might not be so straightforward as you suggest. In your example,
    >there may be legion ways remembering a phone-number. Moreover the
    >strategy employed to remember phone-numbers, or any event for that
    >matter, is highly personal and unique (since we all have unique
    >brains with a unique history track). Such strategies will determine how
    >and where memories are formed and stored. Also the more newly acquired
    >information is connected or entangled with existing memories the better
    >the new information seems to be remembered. This will make isolated
    >identification of specific memorized events exceedingly hard if not

    Oh, I agree. I think this approach would give you how *one* memory is stored in *one* brain. Not useful in the general case, but the point was only to show that memory does form physical structure.

    > >If you don't buy this model, then are you making a claim that memory has no
    > >physical encoding or that it is outside the physical world?
    >It exists alright. It is just that brains are too darn complex, entangled
    >and unique to identify and isolate information replicators.

    For the current state of the art, I fully agree. I just don't think this will always be the case. Consider what a pain it was a few decades ago to get the sequence of one gene and how this would have been absolutely impossible 50 years ago. Times change.

    >The mind may be a better playground for memetics.

    Mind is just software/firmware running on the neural hardware.

    While *humans* might be hard pressed to deal with the detail involved something as complicated as a brain, our "thinking aids" might be up to the task. We would be really hard pressed to deal with the data from the various gene projects without computer to cope with the details.

    But where or how memory is stored is not important to memetics. It is only important that we *can* do this and are able to pass on memes such as 3 balls and 4 strikes to other brains.

    Keith Henson

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