Re: what is a meme?

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Thu 29 Jan 2004 - 14:43:45 GMT

  • Next message: Chris Taylor: "Curmudgeons cudgel"

    At 10:46 AM 29/01/04 +0000, Chris Taylor wrote:


    >[And now the irresistable opining...]
    >And btw memes don't 'move' -- a meme is an informational stucture which is
    >_copied_ across, imperfectly, at the equivalent of the phenotypic level,
    >followed by an attempt to fill in the encoding post-hoc -- a process akin
    >in many ways to reverse engineering.

    It is really nice to see someone else take up the "memes are information" cudgel. Without a doubt memes can be encoded in artifacts, stored in brains, and transferred by performances, but *memes are information.*

    > This explains why people find that they think about / 'understand' the
    > same thing in very different ways, especially when ideas are broken down
    > in argument (or whatever).

    Yep. And if you need high fidelity transfer, like game rules or multiplication tables, you use the standard methods of redundancy and error checking. That's what education is about, cramming information into brains that can absorb only a few bits per second.

    >Anyway social science has little to offer at the level of explanation,
    >what they do have is a wealth of extremely well-studied and classified
    >phenomena. For example I loved the idea of functionalism (in a particular
    >sense of the term) when I did some sociology -- a well characterised
    >phenomenon, but no bottom-up explanation as such. The best sociology can
    >hope for is to explain society the way old physicists (Boyle or Rayleigh
    >for example)explained the behaviour of gases -- at the level of gross
    >phenomena, with no recourse to molecules.

    I just posted from a 12 year old book on evolutionary psychology which said essentially the same thing. Social "science" is this isolated area, leaving a hole in science about ourselves and our culture.


    Much thanks.

    Keith Henson

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