Re: New Memes Book

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Mon 21 Mar 2005 - 10:49:45 GMT

  • Next message: Chris Taylor: "Re: New Memes Book"

    Bill Spight wrote:

    > How do you deal with the fact that a spoked wheel, say, for a
    > horse-drawn cart circa 1500, was sufficiently simple and manifest to
    > serve as a blueprint?
    > Best,
    > Bill

    By "serve as a blueprint", presumably you mean that someone could make a copy of it without the benefit of any written instructions?

    This is certainly true, but not - on my account - because the wheel is a meme. I'd say that the wheel itself does not contain any information about which of its characteristics is significant - information that would be contained in an actual blueprint. If someone who knows about wheels, or at least about how to build other things from the materials involved, brings his existing memes to the situation, then he could use them to construct a new representation of that wheel, with information about the wheel's materials, construction, size, etc. But that information is not intrinsic to the wheel. I could look at it and see, for instance, that the wood's grain runs parallel to the spokes, but have no idea whether that fact is structurally significant. It could be coincidence. If a row of screwheads, say in the hinges of a door, are lined up neatly with each other, does this matter or was it just something that mattered to the very neat person who hung the door? You've no way of telling, just by looking at the artefact. You need to have existing knowledge and understanding in order to work it out.

    On this basis I'd say that a wheelwright who represented the wheel and thus copied it would not have simultaneously *copied* the meme of which that wheel was an effect in the first place. Rather, he'd have constructed his own novel meme (which may or may not exactly correspond to the original) with the help of his existing memes. Was the "parallel grain" bit of information in the original meme? He'll never know. But of course history matters to memes as much as to genes, and even if he's managed to construct an identical meme to the original this doesn't count as copying if, historically, it originated in his mind not in the original meme.


    =============================================================== 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 21 Mar 2005 - 11:07:03 GMT