Re: never wanting to grow up

From: Dace (
Date: Sat 24 May 2003 - 19:47:29 GMT

  • Next message: Wade T. Smith: "Re: Request for your thoughts on cutting edge ideas"

    > From: "Wade T. Smith" <>
    > On Thursday, May 22, 2003, at 04:53 PM, Ted wrote:
    > > If I write "Tinkerbell" on my
    > > computer and then email it, and you read "Tinkerbell" on your
    > > computer, does
    > > that mean Tinkerbell has traveled, via computer networks, from my mind
    > > to
    > > yours? Not at all.
    > But this is precisely what the memeinthemind model claims happens. It
    > claims the meme for Tinkerbell has been transmitted from one mind to
    > another, and that, indeed, if the technology were available, we could
    > find 'Tinkerbell' in both minds.

    No technology is needed to find a thought in your mind. It's the simplist thing in the world. A mind is subjective and hence cannot be equated with brains. I think this is the single biggest stumbling-block in understanding memes or any other mental phenomenon. You'll never find a thought or a feeling or a memory or a desire in a brain. All you find in brains are particular regions that "light up" when particular mental activities occur. We can infer an association between brains and minds, but this association doesn't imply reduction. You can't substitute "brain" for "mind" any more than you can substitute "heads" for "tails." Object (brain) and subject
    (mind) are simply the same "coin" viewed from different angles.

    That memes cannot be found in brains in no way denies that memes exist in minds. Looking for memes in brains is like looking for stars in the noon sky. The stars are out there, but you're going about it the wrong way. Just as you have to wait till night to see the stars, you can observe the mind only under the cover of subjectivity.

    However, there's no reason why we wouldn't eventually be able to correlate particular brain regions to memetic ideas currently engaging the mind. We might even be able to discern differences in brain activity between instances when we're consciously determining beliefs and those times when our beliefs self-propagate by exploiting unconscious needs.

    > > All that's required is that we interpret written language the same way
    > Yes. But examine that 'all' of yours. Only the performance model
    > explains it. The language we speak is, after all, a cultural venue all
    > its own. We are born with the ability to observe and then perform a
    > language, but the language itself is an expectation of the cultural
    > venue, and not of any individual mind.

    This reminds me of the notion, popular in leftist circles, that consciousness is a social construct. What we imagine as the foundation of individual selfhood is really a construct that arises in the course of social interaction. In this model, consciousness is located in societies rather than individual minds. It's true that human consciousness won't emerge without social interaction, but once it does it belongs to the individual. People are conscious, not groups. No one says, "I am Nebraska." Language depends on many minds to emerge, but it still exists within each mind. So do memes.

    > This is another nail in the
    > coffin of the memeinthemind model,

    I just can't abide by this term. Memes, by definition, exist in minds. To speak of a memeinthemind model is like speaking of a "geneinthecell" model. Well, where else are they?

    > because there is no meme for
    > english. English is the set of memories that fill in the language
    > acquisition area of the brain, and these memories are supplied, not
    > from other brains, but from performances and artifacts contained within
    > a cultural venue.

    As long as we learn to interpret sounds and letters the same way, an idea in your mind can easily be transmitted to mine. First the idea exists in your mind, and then, after you've made the proper patterns appear on my computer-- which register on my retina and my occipital lobe-- the idea then arises in my mind. The idea doesn't exist anywhere between our minds, such as in the performance of typing of in the artifact of computer screens, but it appears in my mind nonetheless, given the right prompting.

    I want to emphasize this point. An idea is a representation. The word
    "computer" represents something outside itself, namely a computer. A molecule, on the other hand, is simply itself and nothing more. It does not represent or point to another thing. Objective existence is very simple: A
    = A; the thing is itself. Only in the domain of subjectivity do we find things that are somehow other than themselves. So an idea cannot exist in any kind of physical artifact or event but only in minds.

    > > When people freely determine their beliefs, they're dealing with
    > > ideas, not
    > > memes. But when an idea exploits a weakness in an individual's mind,
    > > the
    > > power of determination has shifted from person to idea, in which case
    > > we may
    > > call the idea a meme. The idea that black people have lower IQ's is
    > > thus a
    > > meme because it replicates from mind to mind by exploiting the
    > > unconscious
    > > desire to justify continued poverty among nonwhites. While the racist
    > > meme
    > > builds its own momentum, the counter-argument has to proceed under the
    > > power
    > > of conscious intelligence. This is why we're so often helpless in the
    > > face
    > > of irrational beliefs. Their advantage is that they self-replicate,
    > > while
    > > rational beliefs do not.
    > This would seem to be a proposal that all memes are false.

    Not necessarily. A meme could be true by accident. What you unconsciously wish to believe may turn out to be correct. Also, memes can include works of art which, even if they're fictional, may express a deeper truth. Memes can exploit our need to gain a sense of wholeness and other positive needs. The main thing is that memes pass from mind to mind under their own power, whereas ideas pass among us via our conscious power of reason.


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