Re: Creatures of memetics

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Wed 20 Apr 2005 - 01:18:35 GMT

  • Next message: Derek Gatherer: "Re: Aunger vs. Pinker on Galton"

    --- Dace <> wrote:

    > Hi Steve,
    > > Dace,
    > >
    > [...]
    > > why is it that so many people respond so
    > > negatively to the suggestion that memes might be
    > > "alive." Are we (in general) threatened by the
    > idea
    > > that there might be something higher than human on
    > the
    > > food chain? I don't know...
    > Yes, this is the basic problem. We don't like to
    > think that our own mental
    > spawn can turn against us and hunt us down for
    > lunch. Not a pleasant
    > thought. But then it's no different from a virus.
    > (I'm just coming off a
    > nasty bout with the flu, and I definitely feel
    > preyed upon). Like a virus,
    > a meme has no life outside the context of a living
    > organism. Memes are
    > alive in the sense that they participate in human
    > life, meaning that human
    > consciousness is not the only actor in the mind.
    > Sometimes our thoughts
    > think us more than we think them.
    > If the humanist fallacy is to deny that human agency
    > can be compromised
    > memetically, then the reductionist fallacy is to
    > claim that a mind is
    > nothing more than a collection of memes. >
    Can't follow the first part, but I can support the second about memeplexical reductionism.
    > But then,
    > as Bill Spight pointed
    > out, we clearly have ideas that are not culturally
    > transmitted.
    > > I don't claim any seceret universal truths. For
    > all I
    > > know, our concept of memes can be reduced to the
    > > concept of electro-chemical "memories."
    > We can certainly equate memes with memories, i.e.
    > memories of beliefs,
    > tunes, styles, behaviors, etc., but equating
    > memories with electro-chemical
    > traces in the brain is not warranted.
    Would you discount the electrochemical bases of memory? What other possibilities are there? Memory must have its bases on neural activity and structure, hence what happens at synapses and these happenings will have electrochemical or molecular correlates? No geist needed. See Hebb's synaptic efficiency postulate.
    > A memory is
    > not the same as a "memory
    > trace." While it's true that in order to remember
    > something, you must
    > activate a particular memory trace in your brain,
    > once you do so, the trace
    > loses its definite configuration, becoming
    > completely fluid and unstable.
    So you think, then, that memory traces exist? That's a breakthrough.
    > At this point, the trace must be reconsolidated. As
    > neuroscientists
    > discovered, if the process of reconsolidation is
    > blocked-- either by an
    > electric shock or a protein-inhibiting drug-- the
    > memory is lost forever.
    And if someone drinks to much liquor they might forget what they did the night before. So what? Electric shock is a physical process and protein inhibiting drugs are, ummm..., substances. Ted, you're becoming a physicalist. Watch out!
    > Normally, of course, the trace is reconsolidated,
    > and the memory can still
    > be accessed in the future. But how does this work?
    > How do we account for
    > our ability to reconsolidate a memory trace after it
    > has lost the
    > configuration that made it a memory trace to begin
    > with? Where's the
    > information on the basis of which the trace can be
    > reconfigured? The only
    > possible solution is that we literally remember the
    > past, and this is the
    > basis on which the trace is re-established.
    > Point being that when we remember, we aren't just
    > looking up information in
    > our brains. The memory trace is not the memory
    > itself but a means of
    > accessing it.
    Going back to Semon, acessing or retrieval is the process (ecphory) by which a trace (engram)is brought forth. I'd say there's a difference between memory and it's access, just as we need to account for encoding
    (or engraphy in Semon's terms).
    > Brains don't remember-- they just
    > help us remember.
    Whatever problems hold for the notion of the engram likewise hold for the notion of neurally based memes. I haven't gotten back there yet, but I recall Aunger addressing Lashley, but without much detail. Lashley apparently had problems finding a localized trace, but maybe the structural basis of the memory trace was diffuse and not in cell A or B. Hebb covers some of this in his monograph. And Orback reinforces it in his book on Lashley and Hebb. I'll need to refresh my memory traces on Lashley's notion of reduplication of the trace. If you ablate and can't remove it, maybe its redundantly stored? Does Aunger address the distributional aspect of Lashley's theorizing, where memory is held to be diffuse? Don't see any of Lashley's work cited in the bibliography, though he is referred to by name.

    He did manage to *casually* dismiss the engram, which is a convenient way to insert his neuromeme into the mix. He didn't spend much time on "mentifacts" either.

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