Re: Mutant swarms and copying fidelity

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Thu 05 May 2005 - 04:42:43 GMT

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    --- Keith Henson <> wrote:

    > At 08:18 PM 04/05/05 -0700, Scott Chase wrote:
    > snip
    > >How much of culture is actually in printed form?
    > Most of it I would say.
    Really? I'd say that dancing and music are both parts of culture. There's probably a certain *je ne sais quoi* in both dancing and music that ccan't be conveyed in printed form, especially for the former. You might read a book about dancing tht show representations of dance steps. But, couldn't an illetrate person who takes dance lessons or grows up exposed to dance routines do just as well without reading about it? I'd hazard that you would be better off watching a video or watching someone at a club than reading a book to learn a dance move. Music is printed in shhet music or scores or tablature, but someone could learn to play by ear. Isn't it a Wesstern bias to think of music in printed form? Non-literate societies did pretty good without scores didn't they? That's two parts of culture that don't seem to need printing.

    Blind people can survive withhout reading print. Even if they don't learn braille I'd assume that they could have stuff transmitted into their noggins.

    These days more and more "boooks" are available in audio format. Much of culture is transmitted via TV, radio, and movies. There's a printed aspect to these media behind the scenes, but what the listeners and viewers receive are mostly non-print.

    Fathers can teach sons to fish, a popular past-time without much recourse to print, aside from the brandname on the rod and reel and the bait shop receipt. You can read about better ways to fish and rig bait, ut you can also learn this from very knowledgable people who are functionally illiterate. You don't need to be a high school graduate to know where the good fishing holes are. Same goes for hunting. It might be good to read the box to know what caliber the ammo is, but the rest is pretty much sitting in a tree stand and waiting to aim and click when the hapless deer shows up.
    > >Linguistic evolution is important, yes, and maybe
    > >partly dependent on innate cognitive modules, but
    > >didn't culture precede the advented of printing?
    > Absolutely. If you take only the start of rock
    > chipping, and that's surely
    > not the beginning, culture got going 2.65 million
    > years before printing.
    > >After
    > >the advent of printing, was non-printed culture
    > >eclipsed?
    > I would say so.
    How much so? Maybe you have a book learnin' bias?
    > >The reason I ask is that I'm thinking in terms of
    > >Bloch's argument against linguistically based
    > culture
    > >in his _How They Think We Think_. Much could be
    > >non-linguistic and not address by the word string
    > you
    > >and Keith are looking at (regardless of the advent
    > of
    > >printing).
    > Being an engineer who works with bits and bytes
    > every day, I have to think
    > about it this way.
    > Human memory forms at the rate of a few bits per
    > second. Totalling over a
    > life that amounts to about 140 Mbytes. But the vast
    > majority of the
    > cultural elements are shared, as for example
    > knowledge about game rules, or
    > which way to turn a faucet.
    You can be shown how to turn a faucet. That's not gonna be book smarts there :-)
    > In fact, if it is
    > *not* shared it isn't an
    > element of culture or a meme anyway. So the byte
    > count of human culture(s)
    > in minds would at most be a human memory increased
    > by some factor to
    > account for the cultural element that are not
    > universal x the number of
    > cultures depreciated by the high overlap between
    > them (there are only so
    > many ways of starting a fire for example.)
    > Of course virtually all current cultural information
    > is in print not to
    > mention all the cultural information from the past
    > that has not been
    > accessed for so long that it is no longer in human
    > memory.
    There might be books out there that talk about the best wrist technique to use when turning a faucet on, but who needs to read that? Blocch uses driving as an example of non-linguistic (or procedural) aspects of culture. You probably better consult the driver's manual of your state for rules and regulations to get your license, but when the parents are actually helping the adolescent learn the stick shift and clutch, there's not much writing that's gonna help here. Clutch technique is a matter of coordination. Did the best race car drivers learn their craft from books or scientific journals? Much of NASCAR's roots was probably "off the books" so to speak. Taking a spin around the dirt strack doesn't involve reading a how to manual. It might have started with go karts before the kid had gotten beyond Dick and Jane readers. Racing culture has a printed aspect. One can read books about NASCAR or newspaper articles summarizing the latst race, but there's much that's unwritten.
    > >There's lots that words cannot address conceptually
    > as
    > >Bloch points out and transformation of cultural
    > >content may occur due to the sender taking
    > something
    > >out of procedural memory and putting it into
    > >declarative memory using words then the receiver
    > >intepreting those words which then get stored
    > >eventually as procedural memory (or
    > >implicit-explicit-----explicit-implicit). Sounds
    > like
    > >a barrier for replicationists to cross to me.
    > In support of your view re verbal, it turned out
    > that it didn't make much
    > difference if you talked or not showing someone how
    > to chip spear heads out
    > of rock.
    There's much in modern culture that's off the books. An illiterate person will definitely face obstacles, but they will imbibe some culture as much as anyone else as would a blind person without the benefit of braille, though I'd hope that the former tke literacy classes and the latter learn braille.
    > It did turn out to be *awful* hard for people to get
    > good at it speaking or
    > not.
    An there's not only non-printed culture still, but also nonverbal culture. Plenty enough to be significant anyway. Dancing isn't extinct yet. Throwing a football for a touchdown or hitting a homerun are procedural skills that are mostly non-verbal and largely something that book smarts will not help with.

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