RE: Is there any meme left to talk about !?

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Mon 24 Nov 2003 - 09:22:22 GMT

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            <I think that the problem in the study of memetics is similar to the problems with the study of quantum theory. By attempting to deduce what memes someone is in possession of, we can wind up changing the symbolic! structure of there memes, simply through the act of observation. It would be difficult to set up experiments in which this is not the case. Basically what I am saying is that by asking somebody to verbalize an idea, in a survey or in another enviroment, you are changing the way in which they think of that idea. It's very similar to quantum theory, a person might not pick a stance on something untill asked about it, they might have a superposition of beliefs, from which they choose according to the situation, or even choose from randomly. By trying to observe somebodies belief, you are forcing them to solidify there position into something logical consistent, as well as something which can be expressed verbally.>

            Interesting comments, but I think the analogy is problematic. How does articulating a meme change its_symbolic_structure? It might change its literal structure from a pattern of information in the brain (not that I myself buy that viewpoint) to spoken or written language say, but surely if the symbolic structure changes then it can't be a meme in the first place, otherwise how does it get from one person to the next without losing that structure?

            Internalists, if one wants to call them that, have to argue one of two things, either a) however it's transmitted between two people, the meme ends up having the same pattern in the brains of the those two people, or b) that regardless of how it is stored in the brain it has the same psychological/intellectual/emotional effects on those two people.

            To offer evidence for (a) we need some kind of physical measurement in the brain, and this I feel is what Derek would mean by quantification of the meme. To offer evidence for (b) we could ignore the brain and look externally for transmission of behaviour and articulated attitudes/beliefs/ideas or whatever one wants to regard as memes. In this case, it is observing cultural artefacts that informs us about meme transmission regardless of what's going on in people's heads- indeed, it doesn't matter at all, so the quantum analogy doesn't really matter.


    > > Viewing this paper through the
    > > lens of memetics, we can develop a mathematical
    > > framework for analyzing the spread, and probable
    > > growth of memes.
    > > But we already have several competing methematical
    > > frameworks for that (Cavalli-Sforza/Feldman/Laland,
    > > Lumsden/Wilson, Boyd/Richerson and a few lesser ones)
    > > Why develop another one unless those are lacking in
    > > some way?
    > I accept this criticism. However, It seems to me that too much of the
    > work that has been done, is dependent on the gene analogy, this seems to
    > be dangerous, because the mechanisms of meme replication are entirely
    > different than the mechanism of genetic replication.
    > Computers are fundamentally different than books because they are able to
    > manipulate symbolic systems, and are able to hold ideas, and execute
    > processes that the human mind is incapable of. I view books as a
    > phenotypic effect of or memes, where as I view computers, as an actual
    > media of meme storage. I view source code in the same way I view books,
    > as a phenotypic effect of memes. I agree totally that computers have led
    > to a bootstrapping effect, which has led to a rapid increase, and change
    > in direction of memetic evolution. Not even taking into account the huge
    > increase in horizontal transmission that is allowed through the use of
    > technology. What do you mean by "therefore an evolutionary transition
    > beyond the analogue evolution of human culture," I'm confused about your
    > use of the word analogue, do you mean that this is a separate evolution?
    > I see evolution of human culture and the digital evolution as being
    > inextricably intertwined, almost in the same way that I co!
    > ns!
    > ider the evolution of genes and the evolution of human culture as being
    > intertwined to the point where the two cannot be separated. I think any
    > math that fully describes memetics has to take both genetic and digital
    > evolution into account as well, have you heard of any such theory? The
    > interesting thing about this to me is that if a meme can exist both in the
    > media of a computer and the mind, and can be transferred back and forth
    > between the two, than this lends itself to a platonic interpretation of
    > memes, which I find to be very philosophically satisfying. The argument
    > is obvious and simple, if two media can represent the same idea, than what
    > do you call the ideal form that both media are attempting to represent?
    > Two dissimilar patterns are interpreted as the same thing, what is the
    > thing they are interpreted as? An idea in almost the platonic sense! I
    > appreciate any time and energy you put into setting me straight, my idea's
    > feel clear, but are likely muddled.
    > -Matthew Broudy
    > ===============================================================
    > This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    > Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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    > see:

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