Re: Mutant swarms and copying fidelity

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Fri 06 May 2005 - 09:30:47 GMT

  • Next message: Bill Spight: "Re: Mutant swarms and copying fidelity"

    Bill Spight wrote:

    > Dear Kate,
    >> Where I was going with my suggestion (which is only
    >> that - a thought I had while composing the message) was that, while
    >> the how-to knowledge is a transmissible bit of information, the
    >> physical ability is not transmissible.
    > We largely agree there, too. But the physical ability is trainable and
    > the training is social.

    The training is social in so far as it involves conversations and other interactions with the trainer: that's the process by which s/he conveys the how-to knowledge. But in the end the physical ability has to be learned individually. I can remember starting my young cousin off on the violin: she's a very bright girl who had rarely encountered any new thing she couldn't master, and was reduced to sheer frustration, responding to advice with phrases like, "Yes, I *know* what my fingers should be doing. It's just that I can't make them do it!"

    >> I'm wondering whether, when we learn a complex skill like
    >> violin-playing or walling, there is both a social and an individual
    >> learning element to it. So there is information that can be shared
    >> about it (the how-to knowledge) and an ability that can only develop
    >> through individual practice. This is why, no matter how many books
    >> they may read, seminars they may attend or videos they may watch,
    >> some people will never be as skilled as others. Their individual
    >> learning potential (both innate ability and tendency to stick at it)
    >> is more limited so the results are less impressive.
    >> So maybe there are phenomena that we think of as being a part of
    >> culture (like dancing and playing music), which are actually not
    >> memes but individual responses to memes.
    > Is it either/or?
    > Best,
    > Bill

    It is either/or in the sense that something either is a meme or it is not. But of course there is a memetic element to dance, music and comparable bits of culture. I'm just wondering whether there's any explanatory mileage in noticing that there is also a non-memetic, non-social element to them: an element that is due to individual learning and response.


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