Re: Individual - Collective / digest V1#1480

From: Chris Taylor (
Date: Mon 01 Mar 2004 - 10:31:17 GMT

  • Next message: Van oost Kenneth: "Fw: Between groups."

    > Same goes for memetics purists. In memetics, what the fundamentalists
    > maintain is that cultural evolution is a mechanical process reducible to
    > memes. This view follows from the recognition that cultural evolution
    > proceeds much more quickly than natural evolution and therefore can't be
    > explained by genetic mutation. The "problem of culture" is thus "solved" by
    > reducing culture to the blind, mechanical evolution of gene-like memes. In
    > mechanizing human culture, the purist form of memetics becomes, not simply a
    > science of culture, but *the answer* to all questions cultural.

    Yeah I'd say that was a fair summary so far :)

    Although I have to strap on a flag about environments of various kinds.

    I (in answer to the other two replies to this post) _am_ one of those fundamentalists, although I have a rather different definition of the term meme (necessarily, cos I can't think of a better word of my own). But yes I am one.

    That doesn't make me anti-social science! That would be like a phycisist denigrating biology because it's basically all physics at bottom! There are appropriate methods to particular levels of focus.

    Credo: I do believe in a mind built of tiny patterns, which copy repeatedly internally a la Dennett, and which form the building blocks of successive levels of structure -- like physics begets chemistry begets life begets culture if you get me -- each built of the blocks of stuff from the level below. So measuring nerve impulses or oxygen uptake, then trying to connect that with thoughts (not that anyone was) would be like trying to understand why 'The Office' is funny by looking at a slowed-down trace of the firing pattern of the gun(s) in your TV's CRT.

    At bottom, fundamental informational structures -- the memetic atoms -- form small linked structures like coadapted complexes (Kauffman) / hypercycles (Maynard Smith & Szathmáry). This is a mish mash of Game of Life and pseudobiochemistry. Then we take the same complexity escalator as life itself until we get to very complex ecologies which have really significant emergent stuff going on (that'd be 'us'). Obviously there is a lot of environment there to take account of (brains, the world), such as all the cyclical stuff about people shaping cities and cities shaping people, to push our brain bigger (internally), and efforts to model others (externally -- easy btw under my model -- and you can extend that to explain all sorts of abusive behaviours, empathy and psudoaltruism, for almost no effort at all -- they just drop out of the model).

    So I've bent 'meme' until it snapped, but we are still talking about copying patterns here, just including an internal copying process along with the interpersonal mimicry and mental 'flu, or however you want to characterise what it is that 'classical' memetics retricts itself to
    (baseball caps backwards catchy tune blah blah yadda yadda).

    I'm interested in seeing reconstructions of the past from the present
    (the living fossil thing iyswim): we still have a 'gut' (i.e. midbrain) reaction to faces and stuff like that; cats are much more 'instinctive'
    (i.e. they rely on hard-wired rules of thumb more and learning less); lizards are almost automata (but again relying on clever, effectively fractally compressed, behavioural rules of thumb). This should really be where EP is at, not buggering about with culture.

    > No need to
    > posit anything human, like love, for example, which is reduced to the
    > imperative of obtaining attention as well as the tactics of manipulating
    > people by lavishing attention on them and promoting one's genes by assisting
    > close relatives.

    Love is very complex -- if you can define it, I'll explain it :)

    Lust is simpler.

    > Mechanization resolves all issues according to a simple
    > formula. "Survival of the fittest" becomes as worn out and meaningless as
    > "Jesus saves."

    Worn out or repeatedly reaffirmed? Although I still say it should have been survival of the fit enough...

    > Meanwhile, those who raise objections become taboo and are
    > denounced as "wacky" or simply ignored.

    Now that's not fair. We only call you wacky when you invoke mystical shit (as is proper -- you wouldn't want it any other way admit it); I on the other hand am usually completely ignored :(

    Cheers, Chris.

      Chris Taylor (
      MIAPE Project --

    =============================================================== 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:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Mon 01 Mar 2004 - 10:41:58 GMT