Re: Mutant swarms and copying fidelity

From: Derek Gatherer (d.gatherer@vir.gla.ac.uk)
Date: Thu 05 May 2005 - 13:00:10 GMT

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    I have a bee in my bonnet about this, since it has previously been wrangled about extensively within the memetics community. See in rough order of publication:

    1) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=9654782

    2) http://jom-emit.cfpm.org/1997/vol1/best_ml.html

    3) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6WMD-45KKRYB-2J&_user=121723&_coverDate=09%2F07%2F1997&_alid=274205473&_rdoc=2&_fmt=summary&_orig=search&_cdi=6932&_sort=d&_st=13&_docanchor=&_acct=C000009999&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=121723&md5=6

    4) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=9735257x

    5) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6WMD-45FSB8X-5R&_user=121723&_coverDate=02%2F07%2F1999&_alid=274205473&_rdoc=1&_fmt=summary&_orig=search&_cdi=6932&_sort=d&_st=13&_docanchor=&_acct=C000009999&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=121723&md5=9

    At 12:23 05/05/2005, you wrote:
    >Derek Gatherer wrote:
    >
    >>
    >>>
    >>>Well, lack of precision does not preclude comparison, it just makes it
    >>>coarse grained. For example, take this quote from Chaucer:
    >>>
    >>> I warne yow wel, it is no childes pley.
    >>>
    >>>Eight memes (lexemes), counting 'childes pley' as one, six mutations
    >>>(including short to long 'i' in 'childes') in over more than 600 years.
    >>>Millions of replications, at least. That's gotta be slower than the flu, no?
    >>
    >>600 years is a mere 20 human generations.
    >
    >But meme generations aren't often the same as gene generations. 600 years
    >could be thousands of meme generations.
    >
    >>20 flu generations is probably less than 60 days. How much does a flu
    >>virus mutate in 60 days? In any case, to what extent are orthographical
    >>changes cultural mutations?
    >
    >They're more changes in the way that culture is represented than in the
    >culture itself. The meaning of the phrase doesn't change when you move it
    >into modern English; the information it carries remains the same.
    >
    >>Does that not assume that culture is somehow coded in language? Couldn't
    >>it be coded in something else (eg a mentalese?) or not coded at all?
    >
    >Coded in lots of different ways, yes.
    >
    >I'd also question the assumption that the phrase consists of 8 memes just
    >because it has 8 lexemes. I'm not saying that each word could not be a
    >meme, in certain contexts, but that functionally this particular phrase
    >actually carries only one or at the most two bits of information (a
    >self-referential statement that the phrase is a warning, and the warning
    >itself).
    >
    >Dawkins has an example in The Blind Watchmaker about the evolution of
    >language, plotted in terms of word divergence, which I think falls prey to
    >the same problems. Obviously there's a lot more to language than its
    >constituent words (e.g. grammatical rules, etc.).
    >
    >Kate
    >
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    =============================================================== 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: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit



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