Re: What happened to the journal of memetics?

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Sat 19 Feb 2005 - 23:09:47 GMT

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    At 07:36 PM 19/02/05 +0100, you wrote:
    >Keith Henson wrote:
    > >I have no idea of why.
    >You mean no idea why the journal disappeared, or no idea why I don't want
    >theories to be limited to discrete information units?

    The latter.

    > >If you use "information" in the technical sense, then it is discrete
    > units measured in bits.
    >You might with the same argument publish articles about anything in a
    >chemistry journal because anything consists of molecules :-)

    An article in a chemistry journal could be about thermodynamics, or pipe sizes, or safety and not mention molecules, but the article isn't going to be published if it argues against molecules existing. That would be a silly argument to make in a chemistry paper. The same is true of talking about non discrete information units, you will alienate the people who know information theory--a substantial fraction of the technical community.

    You should be able to recast any argument you need to make in a way that does not violate fundamental definitions. For a lot of purposes you can ignore the fact that material is made of molecules. If you have a complex meme, you can to some extent ignore the bit level, but don't try to deny it.

    >Journal of memetics is limited to theories of automatic selection of
    >information units.

    I don't recall the word "automatic" being used.

    >Memetics, like other evolutionary theories, is a theory of things
    >happening as controlled by an "invisible hand"

    That's an almost mystical way of describing it. At the heart of it, evolution is simple, random variation and non random selection.

    >rather than consciously planned.

    While that's true most of the time, particularly in such matters as the build up of xenophobic memes leading to wars, I don't think designer memes are any more forbidden than designer genes.

    >But "invisible hand" effects can be caused by other types of selection
    >than selection of information units.

    Sure you have this in the right order? Selection is an outcome caused by something (some invisible hand?).

    >Adam Smith invented the term "invisible hand" to describe the free market
    >forces of economics. This is selection of quantitative variables (money)
    >rather than qualitative items (memes).
    >Example: Big companies tend to grow still bigger because their size give
    >them a number of competitive advantages known as "economy of scale".
    >No social planner decided that Coca Cola or Microsoft should be big
    >multinational companies. It just happened because of the market logic.
    >This is automatic selection, but not of discrete information units.

    You are not expressing this in terms of evolutionary selection or even market forces. To the extent big companies have economy of scale advantages over smaller ones, the little companies go out of business or are bought up by bigger ones. That's a discrete evolution-like process.

    >Democratic election is another example. One party may grow and another
    >party shrink because of whatever selection criteria voters apply. This is
    >selection of a quantitative variable (number of votes), and only
    >secondarily a qualitative information unit (political ideology).

    For a memetics theory to be useful there needs to be a rational for
    "whatever selection criteria voters apply." Why do people's political views change over time? In the case of wars, I think evolutionary psychology provided the key.

    I got this far and then took a look at your web page . . . .

    It might look like group selection happens, but it is much better described by selfish genes and Hamilton's inclusive fitness criteria. Are you up on those subjects?

    Keith Henson

    >I have more examples in my book "cultural selection". My point is that
    >memetics is an "invisible hand" theory of social and cultural development.
    >There are other similar theories which can explain unplanned developments
    >just as well as memetics can. What these theories have in common is
    >selection, not information units. This is the reason why I would like to
    >see a joural with a broader focus. This would include such scientific
    >traditions as cultural selection theory, evolutionary epistemology,
    >evolutionary economics and public choice, as well as memetics. A
    >cross-fertilization between these sciences would be very fruitful.
    >=============================================================== 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 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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