Re: New Scientist on memory

Date: Fri 30 May 2003 - 19:21:10 GMT

  • Next message: Reed Konsler: "Memory"

    > On Friday, May 30, 2003, at 02:21 PM, Ted wrote:
    > > the evidence discussed in this article abolishes the notion that the
    > > brain alone is responsible for memory.
    > Not _quite_ so, although it is certainly part of your agenda to make
    > that so- here's a more cogent précis from the article itself about
    > this-
    And now Wade embarks on HIS agenda...
    > "So maybe what needs changing here is how we think about memory. A
    > memory trace that goes all floppy every time it gets used only seems a
    > disaster if you believe the brain to be something like a computer
    > where data needs to be preserved in fixed form. Fluidity, on the other
    > hand, may be precisely what is required for memory to work as
    > something much more organic - a living network of understanding rather
    > than a dormant warehouse of facts."
    > This wonderful article then goes on (thanks, Ted), with this- as
    > elegant an explanation of what _some_ people seem to think is the
    > memetic process in our heads, but which is now shown in many elegant
    > experiments to be merely the innate and physical workings of the brain
    > itself, thus, finally, with a silver bullet, putting the last and
    > final nail in the coffin of a meme in a brain.
    You futilely wish, although for the life of me I can't seem to understand why.
    > (They'll go on, of
    > course, with the equivocation that all that is needed is a 'subclass'
    > of memory to provide the meme in the brain- well, once we have a
    > subclass, now we know we will need yet another layer of reconciliation
    > at the synapse level- a truly pointless and totally unreasonable thing
    > to ask a brain to do. "Neuroscientists felt this hierarchical filing
    > system was a little long-winded." Yeah, d'uh....) Anyway, here's the
    > passage in the article that, in all ways and means, describes the
    > processes in the brain that are all that are required for cultural or
    > memetic behaviors. If you like to see the hammer mark around the nail,
    > here's this- "So if "you" are essentially a pattern of synaptic
    > connections, a tangled web of memories, then there is a big problem of
    > how this pattern endures"- which makes a meme in a brain, especially
    > one that is somehow 'transfered' or 'selfsame' a very, very, unnatural
    > thing.
    > But then, Joe said it best-
    > "This fits in nicely with the idea of a dynamic cognitive gestalt."
    > - and I couldn't say _that_ better, but then he goes on "and is most
    > probably even necessitated by it" and that is just sheer non sequitur,
    > or rather, specious preamble, as the memory process examined by these
    > investigations dealt with animals in no need of cognitive gestalts
    > such as those embodied with the sense of self. Memories are part of
    > the way the basic brain works, not part of any evolved capacity of
    > mind. Once memory is seen as simply the way the brain works, all that
    > is needed for cultural evolution is two of them and a way to shake
    > hands. Culture, and all memetic processes, are functions and effects
    > of social environments, not merely brains.
    > "Memories exist to make sense of the present - to recognise and
    > understand the world - and the brain needs to be able to optimise all
    > its circuits, strengthening or generalising some connections while
    > weakening or erasing others. Reconsolidation may seem a radical and
    > unnecessary step for a brain that just wants to be a dormant
    > warehouse. But, Sara says, if a memory becomes completely plastic
    > every time it is roused, then it can be refiled in a carefully updated
    > way. Active choices can be made about whether to merge the old and the
    > new - or by contrast, to reinforce their separateness."
    > Read that last sentence at least twice, if you're thinking of pulling
    > out any nails and burying the poor memeinthebrain again after the
    > futile post-mortem.
    > And then we see this-
    > "In most avenues of life, it doesn't really matter if you make a few
    > mistakes in your memory," says Loftus."
    > - which leads me to further feel confident my thoughts about culture
    > are on track. Culture is here, among other reasons, to correct the
    > mistakes in our memories, and to provide 'refiling' services, which,
    > as this article shows us inescapably, is an active and dynamic
    > process, (gee, performance...) since we, as fallible and weak
    > recallers, are not as useful to culture in this respect as it would
    > need. When this service itself fails, we see tears in the eyes of
    > Tlingit elders.
    > And then, to complete the circle, the article includes this gorgeous
    > quote-
    > "She often quotes the Uruguayan novelist, Eduardo Galeano, who said:
    > "Memory is born every day, springing from the past, and set against
    > it."
    > - Wade
    This article shows not that cognitive memes do not exist, but how cognitive memories, and their communicable subclass meme-ories, may be modified over time. It is a template of internal (within) mutation; many of these mutations are later externally (between) proliferated and, once again internally (within) selected for or against. As I have stated repeatedly, both the internal and the external or necessary, and neither is solely sufficient. What self-conscious awareness does is to insert an element of volition and choice into the process.
    > ===============================================================
    > This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    > Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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    > see:

    =============================================================== 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) see:

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