Re: Robert Aunger essay

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Fri 14 Apr 2006 - 17:30:50 GMT

  • Next message: Kate Distin: "Re: Robert Aunger essay"

    Robin Faichney wrote:
    > Thursday, April 13, 2006, 11:12:49 PM, Jesse wrote:
    > >
    > In addition, memetics, in my opinion, should not and will not be a
    > total picture or explanation for human culture, but rather will become
    > the tool by which we understand how information transmits and changes
    > over time (strangely the electrical engineering courses I took in
    > communications principles gave me some interesting insight on memes
    > from this perspective).
    > I gave up arguing about this years ago, but maybe I should take it up
    > again. Memes are items of INFORMATION! Genes are extremely unusual in
    > being items of info that are stored only on one medium: DNA.
    > Otherwise, info can be and is stored and encoded in diverse formats.
    > It might be on DVD or video tape or in an encrypted zip file on your
    > hard drive, but it's the SAME film. Likewise, memes are encoded in
    > behavioural patterns, neural patterns, books and computers, etc, etc.
    > It's not either/or but both/and. Is there anyone at all out there,
    > besides Tim Rhodes and (maybe) Jesse who can see the sense of this?
    > -

    This informational view of memes/genes seems to me foundational to memetics. Hence my banging on about representational systems - memes can be reprsented in a variety of representational systems (natural languages, mathematical notation, binary coding, etc.) as well as across a variety of media. Of course you can have the same RS across different media (spoken English language on tape/CD/vinyl, written English on the screen, page, slate) as well as different RSs realized in the same medium (mathematical notation, written Punjabi language, engineering drawings all in pencil-on-paper). But the point as you say is that the same information can be represented in different ways. This is of course the key point on which Robert Aunger and I disagree - we've corresponded briefly about it by email, with no discernible shift in either of our views! - but I do see it as fundamental to memetics.

    But it also puts my views in opposition to Susan Blackmore's, as she doesn't make the other distinction which for me leads on from this: between information and its effects - which to me is as key to memetics as it is to genetics. (She says you can't make this distinction in memetics and goes for copy-the-product vs. copy-the-instruction instead).


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