Re: New Memes Book

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Sat 19 Mar 2005 - 18:29:20 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "Re: New Memes Book"

    --- Keith Henson <> wrote:

    > At 11:53 AM 18/03/05 +0000, Chris Taylor wrote:
    > >This talk of memes as more than thumbnail metaphors
    > for what is really
    > >going on is limiting discussion. There are no memes
    > in the sense that
    > >there are genes. There is not even an approximately
    > analogous thing.
    > Kate, I almost think you get better discussion on
    > alt.memetics.
    > >Biologists have long employed shorthand, such as
    > 'evolved to do
    > >suchandsuch', to avoid having to always say that
    > the chance occurrence of
    > >a thing in an individual happened to result in the
    > greater 'fitness' (more
    > >shorthand) of that individual (or something along
    > those lines). But the
    > >danger is in trying to treat such shorthand
    > characterisations as more than
    > >they are.
    > >
    > >There cannot be memes that are transmitted. There
    > is no mechanism for
    > >their propagation.
    > Consider the mechanism you used for this post Chris.
    > Memes, genes and computer viruses are *information.*
    > A lot of social
    > science people have problems with this, but not
    > engineers, computer
    > scientists or for that matter evolutionary
    > biologists.
    > A meme is information no matter what media it is in.
    > It can be in a
    > person's head, it can be on paper, it can be in an
    > artifact.
    > I once described a three times meme, a piece of
    > paper with written
    > directions as to how to fold the paper into an
    > airplane, pictures showing
    > how to do it, and the paper itself folded into the
    > paper airplane. Any one
    > of which would suffice such that the behavior of a
    > person who read the
    > directions, or looked a the pictures, or unfolded
    > the paper airplane could
    > have made another one. (It would have been a three
    > fold meme for a pun.)
    > Is the meme for making wagon wheels in the object
    > itself? For some people,
    > yes. A person skilled in wood and metal work could
    > build a wagon wheel
    > with only a sample. A person skilled in chipping
    > rocks could chip out an
    > arrow head given a sample to copy. It gets
    > questionable when you have a
    > bucket of paint unless you have esoteric analytical
    > skills.
    > Much of my early engineering career involved
    > "reverse engineering," taking
    > some gadget apart so we could figure out how to make
    > more of them.
    > >The only 'things' that are even things at all are
    > the little
    > >self-sustaining modules of thought that occur
    > within a mind, but to try to
    > >assert that these (ill-defined at best)
    > informational chunks can jump
    > >minds, or be 'embedded' in artefacts, is at best
    > nonsense.
    > >
    > >What meme 'transmission' should be shorthand for is
    > a mix of phenotypic
    > >copying and convergent evolution; e.g. I learn a
    > behaviour or internalise
    > >a thought, but in doing so I try (ahem) to
    > construct an internal copy that
    > >works like the thing I have seen, from my own
    > internal stuff, i.e. the sum
    > >of my experiences and internal interactions to
    > date. If we both see an
    > >artefact it will produce superficially similar (on
    > testing)
    > >representaitons of it in our minds (not dissimilar
    > to a jelly mould). But
    > >to imagine that there is anything remotely similar
    > in an absolute sense is
    > >ridiculous.
    > Then we could never play games with rules and we
    > would never know what a
    > light at an intersection might mean or what side of
    > the road to drive on.
    Not sure why you take such offense to Chris's gutsy critiques. I respect him for having the fortitude to upset the apple cart.

    I think you're getting too much mileage out of the clear cut example. How often are such cases found?

    What if one finds an artifact and has no idea how it was crafted nor how it fit into the cultural context of the maker? Sure a quite similar facsimile could be made using some modern technology available to us, but the people way back when probably did it differently and had something in mind when crafting the artifact that cannot be unearthed now.

    How interchangeable is information where there's a flow between noggin, behavior and /or artifact? Is it as clear cut as make it seem?

    I have a ceramic lion tht I painted when I was a kid. There are subtle paint touches that make no sense to me now and I was the one who painted it then. What the heck was *I* thinking? *I* have no friggin idea. How the heck am I supposed to analyze someone else's artifact if I can't even deal with my own? Why did I give my lion a brown face when the rest of the body was lighter brown and tan? What the heck was I thinking when I was in ceramics class with my mom all them years ago? The information flow has hit a roadblock.

    __________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? Yahoo! Small Business - Try our new resources site!

    =============================================================== 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 : Sat 19 Mar 2005 - 18:46:40 GMT