Re: New Memes Book

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Wed 06 Apr 2005 - 22:29:21 GMT

  • Next message: Bill Spight: "Re: New Memes Book"

    --- Bill Spight <> wrote:

    > Dear Scott,
    > > If
    > > a group of people in a post-apocalyptic world were
    > to
    > > unearth a cache of aluminum bats and had no clue
    > what
    > > they were, what use might they put these things
    > to?
    > We already face similar problems, and not just in
    > archaeology. There are
    > many pre-industrial tools for which we do not know
    > their use.
    > > Much of what I've argued (I can't speak for Chris)
    > is
    > > that we have a hard time making inferences about
    > > hidden information. Taking a *mild* behaviorist
    > > approach, it's much easier to observe behavior,
    > but
    > > harder to know what's going on inside the head.
    > Unlike
    > > Skinner I have no problems with mental level
    > > explanations, but see the limitations as he aptly
    > > points out. Plus I really don't know how we can
    > assume
    > > a similarity at the mental level based on what we
    > > observe at the behavioral level. Like "they" say,
    > > there are many routes (internal processes) that we
    > can
    > > use to reach the same destination (overt
    > behaviors).
    > > Look at any major metropolis and the number of
    > roads
    > > people could take from various starting points to
    > > reach a museum nd meet at a particular point at a
    > > given time. Maybe not the best analogy, but I hope
    > it
    > > gets my point across.
    > Similarity is a matter of degree. There was an
    > unfortunately cruel
    > anti-behaviorism experiment in which rats learned a
    > maze. Then they were
    > crippled so that they could only run in circles.
    > They still could run
    > the maze, showing that they had not simply learned
    > behavioral responses.
    > (As someone pointed out, rats can swim, so simply
    > filling the maze with
    > water would have provided a more humane way of
    > proving the point.)
    > Now, in a very real sense the rats learned the
    > *same* thing, despite the
    > fact that the neurological changes in each rat were
    > almost certainly
    > different.
    Could they conceptualize the maze or formulate ideas about the maze? I'm the last person who would want to be accused of speciesism, but humans have more cortical and cognitive complexity than rats do I'd assume.

    I have my reservations about behaviorism (eg- it runs into problems with species specific innate patterns that might create anomalies in the lab and something else they refer to as the cognitive revolution), but I think it's a good conceptual hurdle to put in the way of aspiring memeticists. Derek Gatherer raises some good points in his critique of the neural meme definition of Dawkins and Lynch's homoderivative mnemon approach to thought contagions. Unlike him, I'm a meme agnostic so can't say I'm all that supportive of his definition of memes either, but I think his approach to criticism of the memes in the head approach provides some good ammo. One problem would be how we could ascribe a meme per individual. He also reflects on variations of an internal meme and takes it to its absurd conclusion, which points to a mapping problem. I wonder why we couldn't ascribe more than one copy of the *same* meme to each individual. Then how do we do quantification? If I'm trying to learn Gatherer's definition of the external meme, what happens each time I read his article in a different setting or say after I've previously read Benzon's article that Gatherer cites? Do I produce a new copy each time and have a redundancy of G-meme definitions stored in my synapses, each perhaps slightly different wrt the context in which I read it (ie - at the beach, at home, after reading Benzon, after reading Lynch etc...)? Or do I just have one copy (a G-meme meme) that is strengthened or modified each time? Do I have a copy of the G-meme or does it have me? Derek has a different life history than I do, so he put his background to use when he wrote the article. I'm trying to use my background to understand where he's going with the article. Something has flowed from his brain into the article then into my brain, but what? Even though they take similar behavioristic stances, can Gatherer and Benzon's definitions truly be equated as they fit into the context of each individual's theoretical mindset?

    Even though I can empathize with the behaviorist stance, I'm at a loss for Benzon's inversion where the external meme has its phenotype in the individual brain. That's not making sense to me, but I think the whole analogy of genotype/phenotype as carried over into memetics creates conceptual confusions.

    __________________________________ Yahoo! Messenger Show us what our next emoticon should look like. Join the fun.

    =============================================================== 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 : Wed 06 Apr 2005 - 22:47:14 GMT