Re: Robert Aunger essay

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Fri 14 Apr 2006 - 20:47:52 GMT

  • Next message: Robin Faichney: "Re[2]: Robert Aunger essay"

    >From: Kate Distin <>
    >Subject: Re: Robert Aunger essay
    >Date: Fri, 14 Apr 2006 19:28:53 +0100
    >Keith Henson wrote:
    >>At 04:02 PM 4/14/2006 +0100, Robin 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?
    >>I see it, having made the same argument for years as well. I go a bit
    >>further that genes can be in any storage medium as well. The difference
    >>in these classes of information is that memes to have real world influence
    >>have to be in a brain, genes have to be in cells, and likewise a computer
    >>virus has to be in the proper computer/OS. Otherwise all three are all
    >>just inactive bits.
    >Right - this is the information vs. effects distinction. Choice of medium
    >and of representational system will both have an impact on the
    >information's potential for exerting its phenotypic effects. As you say,
    >this is the case for genes as well as for memes - as demonstrated in the
    >human genome project, etc.
    Dan Brown's book _The Da Vinci Code_ may be a real world example of medium effects on ideational content. The book has been extremely popular and although classified as fiction it has strangely been very influential on people's views of Christian history. It will be interesting to see what the coming movie (starring IIRC Tom Hanks will do. It should rejuvenate interest in the book, but the issue per this discussion would be whether there's a difference between formats between the book and movie (given that artistic license of the director can be factored out). I'd also be interested in any differences in effect of the book itself as presented by Dan Brown given reading the text in a paper format in your armchair or listening to it on CD or tape in your car. Do the provcesses of reading versus listening have any effects on the way content is apprehended by the receiver? Are the substrates truly neutral?

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