From: Scott Chase (
Date: Wed 19 Apr 2006 - 04:03:47 GMT

  • Next message: Robin Faichney: "Re: Corner cases was Robert Aunger essay"

    >From: "Dace" <>
    >To: <>
    >Subject: RS
    >Date: Tue, 18 Apr 2006 13:17:06 -0700
    > > > Robin Faichney wrote:
    > > >
    > > > 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.
    >Allow me to deconstruct.
    >What's you're actually saying here is that memes don't exist.
    A possibility that should be considered seriously.
    >Like flying
    >elephants, memes have no existence apart from our imagination of them.
    I would be less skeptical of memes than flying elephants.
    >conclusion follows inexorably from your placement of memes in a material
    >setting. Do English words really exist on a page, or is it just bits of
    >arranged in a particular order?
    Gutenburg certainly did a very *physical thing* that had great impact on human history and cultural dynamics. The shift from scrolls to codices as physical formats was also very significant in its own right (or write if I can use a pun). We are talking about stuff that physically constrains info flow here. All of it has a basis in physical reality. You can't escape it. Even your imagination is constrained by your brain chemistry. If you addle your brain, your neural capacity will suffer.
    >Are there words on tape, or is it just a
    >particular arrangement of magnetic particles?
    Subject a shipment of cassettes to a strong magnet and see how that impacts information transmission. Tape a professor's lecture and leave the tape in your car to bake in the sun and see how that influences your ability to recall the lecture, unless you were able to frantically scribble notes with a working pencil, given the graphite tip didn't break from the pressure against the paper or wear too fast from friction. Hopefully you got a decent amount of sleep the night before you attended the lecture or drank enough caffeinated beverage to compensate. Caffeine is a psychoactive *chemical* known to have a stimulating effect on people. Some students live on the stuff during finals week. OTOH drink too much alcohol and your ability to study might be adversely affected. I'd assume coffee might be a better study aid than whiskey, but I'm just a pinheaded materialist with an appreciation of the subtle differences in the way bevarages work upon the psyche, due to their *chemical* makeup.
    >Sure, words exist in your
    >mind when you read a page or listen to a tape but only insofar as you
    >interpret the bits of ink or the playing of magnetic particles as such.
    Said interpretation is a physically constrained process dependant upon the way your brain works.
    >words exist in your interpretation, not in the matter itself. Even in
    >matter we find no words but only neurons and synapses.
    Splotches of ink form recognizable patterns known as words and synaptic connections follow suit. Without ink or synapses you'd be S.O.L. You are constrained by matter. Without neurons I'd say you would have been hard pressed to have formulated your post.
    >If we're going to be
    >true to our materialistic conception of existence, then we must concede
    >words don't really exist except in our interpretation of material objects.
    Mentalistic subterfuge.
    >That is, they exist in the mind. The same is true of memes. To place
    >in brains, books, DVDs, etc., is to say that it's convenient for us to
    >this way, but of course in reality there are no memes, only atoms and
    Molecules form patterned structures. Ever hear of DNA? Ever see stained glass or a painting. Amazing what matter is capable of forming. I've heard bicycles are comprised of matter. A bicycle can get you from point A to B as long as you have enough calories to burn and have enough water in you so you don't dehydrate. Coordination, a kinesthetic sense of balance and memory of how to operate the pedals and handlebars can't hurt either. A memory of how to get from point A to B stored in your brain from previous experience of from a search would be helpful.
    >Yet memes are as real as the minds that propagate them.
    Without brains minds are vacuous. Head trauma can affect personality and memory as can orgnic brain disease. Alzheimers is a serious disease as are Parkinsons and MS.
    >Though flying
    >elephants don't exist, the thought of flying elephants is very much real.
    And tied to physical reality *vis a vis* human experience with known elephants and animals that fly such as birds. People have seen elephants and have seen birds and after combining the experiences as stored in their brains are thankful (a feeling that likewise stems from complex brain chemistry) that elephants don't fly. If you've ever seen the nasty mess birds are capable of leaving (ducks taking target practice on your windshield) you would agree that flying elephants would not be good.
    >It's only the content of imagination that's unreal, not imagination itself.
    >The trouble is that we can't seem to grasp how a thing could be real when
    >can't be narrowed down to a particular place that contains a particular
    >clump of matter. We feel compelled to ask, where is the meme?
    Being agnostic on memes that ain't my problem.
    >We need a
    >location. We need a place to put it, and in fact this tendency follows
    >the nature of material existence. For a thing to exist, it must exist in a
    Makes sense to me, but it could emerge from interaction of several physical locales.
    >But memes are functions of mind and self. Thus memes exist, not in
    >this place or that place, but in *themselves.*
    Paging Kant.
    >With self-existence we have
    >an "inner place," though as St. Augustine noted, "it is wrong to speak of
    >as a place." Self-existence is its own place. This is the meaning of
    >as opposed to outer, mind as opposed to brain, time as opposed to space.
    >Mind *is* brain but from its own point of view instead of the external
    >of view.
    >When we reduce mind to brain, we step outside of ourselves, denying our own
    >existence, as if we were figments of our own imagination. As incoherent as
    >this belief system is, we cannot escape it so long as we remain wedded to
    >the localization meme, which originated in the 17th century with the work
    >Descartes and Robert Hooke. That we deny our own reality and imagine we've
    >found representations where there are only atoms and molecules is a
    >testament to the hypnotic power of memes.

    There's been a lot that's happened since Descartes and Hooke. You need to get a little more modern with your exemplars. One of the Huxley kids (not the modern synthesist and definitely not the novelist) did some stuff with squid axons "recently". Look it up.

    =============================================================== 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:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed 19 Apr 2006 - 04:37:51 GMT