Re: New Memes Book

From: Bill Spight (
Date: Mon 21 Mar 2005 - 19:52:19 GMT

  • Next message: Kate Distin: "Re: New Memes Book"

    Dear Kate,

    >> 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?

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

    Well, 'copy' is a little strong, isn't it? And we don't just mean someone, since skill is involved. Besides, they were probably illiterate. ;-)

    > 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.

    Or inferable from it.

    > 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.

    The new representation being a drawing or blueprint, or such?

    > 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.

    What meme? If the meme is representational (such as a blueprint), what are you talking about?

    > 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.

    There is more to talk about here, but I am still unsure what you mean by



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