Re: New Memes Book

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Sat 19 Mar 2005 - 22:46:56 GMT

  • Next message: Kenneth Van Oost: "Re: New Memes Book"

    At 10:29 AM 19/03/05 -0800, Scott Chase wrote:

    >--- Keith Henson <> wrote:


    > > 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.

    There is a difference between "gutsy critique" and rampant nonsense. Thinking clearly on memetics and related subjects such as evolutionary psychology is a matter of life and death for billions of people.

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

    Very often. Take pottery styles. They can be used to date a layer of human habitation just like shells are used to date geological layers.

    >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.

    I agree with you entirely. Museums often have "what is it" displays and some of the objects on display are *never* identified. In a case where you have an object nobody can identify and nobody has an idea of its function, the meme that originally caused it to come into existence is lost. Memes are information, and information *can* be destroyed or lost as anyone who has had a disk crash knows all too painfully.

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

    It depends on the specific case. Obviously behavior can be programmed by memes as in games or tying shoes. Sometimes the behavior includes making things like chipping arrowhead, making ceramic objects or shoes. In some of these cases there is enough information contained in the object for the meme behind its creation to be recovered.

    >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

    Information can be lost of course. But another requirement for a meme is that it be an "element of culture."

    Was your lion copied? I.e., is there a layer of nearly identical ones in the rubbish heaps like the prehistoric "fat ladies" that are found all over Europe? No? Then your lion isn't an element of culture. Is there a layer in modern day rubbish heaps of ceramic objects made by kids? Well, yes. So kids making ceramic art objects as part of their early experience is an element of our culture, i.e., a meme. Could this meme be recovered by rubbish heap digging alien archeologist in the future? Or would these lumps of fired clay stay in the never identified "what is it" display?

    Your guess is as good as mine.

    Keith Henson

    PS. If your lion was glazed and fired after being painted, the paint colors on it may not be what it looked like before being fired.

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