Re: Wilkins on combinatorial novelty

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Fri 08 Apr 2005 - 04:57:11 GMT

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

    --- Steve Wallis <> wrote:

    > Scott,
    > Interesting - reminds me of the economics concept of
    > "externalities" (uncontroled and frequently
    > unrecognized outputs from exchanges).
    > I speculate that every interaction (be it money,
    > man,
    > or memes) results in both expected and unexpected
    > outcomes. Anything which is unexpected would be
    > novel
    > (from someone's point of reference).
    > This, in turn, suggests that memes might be
    > generated
    > accidently, during purposeful interactions.
    > Eventually, enough un-noticed building-block-memes
    > pile up until it is large enough to create a system
    > that affects society. Then, it may be named and
    > discussed by sociologists.
    The accidental generation would be a serendipity. You're not expecting something fruitful to happen when you're just going about your business, it just happens sometimes and this unexpected consequence of purposeful behavior could be co-opted into a novel way of doing things if it has some utility. It didn't originate because you were looking for it. You could have been looking for something completely different at the time.

    Diverging a bit from what you're talking about, I think *unintentional* consequences of behavior is the stuff of casuistry in ethics. Unintentional conseqences of a decision to act could be good, bad or
    *neutral*. If you spray insecticide on an anthill tomorrow, the world could end in 2032 so be careful about the unforeseen chain of events you might unleash. Yet sitting at home and doing nothing might itself lead to Armageddon in 2032 because you may have been in a place to put a halt to these events if only you had walked out your door at the right time. The Antichrist might spot you walking out your door turn their head and get killed crashing their bicycle into a parked SUV. But if you sprayed the anthill, a future generation of ants might not have had the chance to migrate to the Antichrist's yard and bite the Dark One causing a fatal allergic reaction. Didn't Nostradamus say something about the Antichrist being in danger of ant bites?

    Diverging even more, in evolution Gould had pondered nonaptive consequences of natural selection acting on organisms, calling these spandrels. The sheer size and complexity of the human brain may have arisen due directly to natural selection (and thus be an adaptation) in ancestral environments, but nonaptive spinoffs or byproducts could arise as a consequence of this size and complexity. These features wouldn't have an explanation that requires going back to the environment of evolutionary adaptedness to ponder the historic origin or for us to consider them an adaptation in themselves. Gould, borrowing from arguments Freud supposedly made somewhere, offered religion as one possible consequence of being brainy due to being able to reflect on mortality, but there could, even if religion doesn't qualify, be others. Not that there's any semblance of expectation or intention in evolution via selection, but there could be byproducts.

    __________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? Yahoo! Personals - Better first dates. More second dates.

    =============================================================== 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 : Fri 08 Apr 2005 - 05:14:56 GMT