Re: RS

From: Dace (
Date: Thu 20 Apr 2006 - 05:50:33 GMT

  • Next message: Keith Henson: "Re: Evolutionary Psychology, Memes and the Origin of War"


    > > > Kate writes:
    > > > 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
    > > > a variety of media. Of course you can have the same RS across
    > > > media (spoken English language on tape/CD/vinyl, written English on
    > > > 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
    > > > same information can be represented in different ways.
    > >
    > >Do English words really exist on a page, or is it just bits of ink
    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
    > flow here.

    There's no flow of information from one person to the next. You're thinking analogically when you should be thinking digitally. The information is in my mind. I write something that expresses to my satisfaction what I'm thinking. You read it. However, you fail to understand my point and therefore the information in my mind has not been transmitted to yours. It's not as if by writing it down and having you read it, I've managed to propell the information two-thirds of the way to your mind. It's all or nothing. Either the info is there, or in this case, it isn't.

    > 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.

    To understand mind and its contents, physics is necessary but not sufficient. Demoting physics from sufficiency to necessity in no way implies that I'm banishing it altogether. You're seeing what you want to see in my writing as opposed to what's actually being articulated. Instead of rationally interpreting the arrangment of pixels on your monitor, you're unconsciously distorting it to suit your purpose, which is of course to find fault in my thinking. The problem is that you need to understand what I'm saying before you can successfully dismiss it.

    > >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
    > information transmission.

    It's precisely because a tape, from a strictly physical point of view, consists of an arrangement of magnetic particles that disruption of that arrangment prevents the intended information from appearing in the mind of the person playing the tape. Rather than ferry the information from the person recorded on the tape to the person listening as it plays back, the tape merely enables the listener to reproduce in his mind the information residing in the mind of the speaker. All the steps in between are devoid of information. Of course, we can call the arrangement of particles
    "information," but that's just our label, our way of thinking about what's actually there. We can say there are words on the tape, but the tape is physically real, and "word" is not a quantifiable, physical concept. Therefore the words are not on the tape. Same goes with "representation." We say that a tape or a book is a representational system, but that's not what it is intrinsically. That's just what it means to us in the context of our mental capacity for interpretation.

    What exists physically is matter and mechanics. Key is turned, so door unlocks. Now, we can say that the key told the door to unlock. We can conceptualize the unlocking in the language of information, as if a message has passed between key and lock, but that language originated in the realm of mind, and only in mind is information really information and not just contextually relevant physical structure. In the mind, information is intrinsic. It is what we say it is whether we say it or not. But in the world of physics, there's always an available substitute. We can always drop the word "information" and speak of atom or molecule or configuration of molecules instead. For those are the things that are physically real. An atom is as intrinsically real in space as a thought is in mind, though we can always interpret the mental in terms of atoms and the material in terms of information.

    It's a question of convenience. It's easier to say words, as opposed to configurations of molecules, are on the page. To think scientifically, we must get beyond thinking pragmatically. The most practical way of thinking is not necessarily the most truthful.

    > >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.

    But also dependent on the existence of an interpreter, a mental feature that has no application to physical reality, neural or otherwise. Neurons don't interpret. They neurotransmit. While neurons are necessary for thought, only a thinker is sufficient.

    > >That is, they exist in the mind. The same is true of memes. To place
    > >memes
    > >in brains, books, DVDs, etc., is to say that it's convenient for us to
    > >think
    > >this way, but of course in reality there are no memes, only atoms and
    > >molecules.
    > >
    > Molecules form patterned structures.

    Atoms and molecules and patterned structures of molecules, exactly. But not intrinsic information, only "information" as a way of thinking about particular structures in particular contexts (such as key in lock).

    > >When we reduce mind to brain, we step outside of ourselves, denying our
    > >existence, as if we were figments of our own imagination. As incoherent
    > >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
    > >of
    > >Descartes and Robert Hooke. That we deny our own reality and imagine
    > >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.

    Obviously a reference to the 17th century origins of the localization meme does not imply a lack of awareness of subsequent intellectual developments. Fallacy of abuse.

    > From: Robin Faichney <>
    > > To place memes
    > > 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.
    > You need to understand information. With that, all of this is very
    > simple. Just as a coded message only has meaning for people who can
    > decode it, so memes are ENCODED in the "mere matter" of books, brains,
    > etc.

    What you're reading right now is a message.

    What you're looking at right now is a configuration of pixels.

    Which of those statements is physically true, and which superimposes our interpretation onto the physical event? Who says a bunch of pixels comprise a code or a message? We do, not the pixels. To say that the message exists physically is to endow the pixels with a property of mind. We do this sort of thing all the time. Like the need to localize, anthropomorphosis is a deeply ingrained habit. We see ourselves everywhere except in ourselves.

    > > The trouble is that we can't seem to grasp how a thing could be real
    when it
    > > 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? We need
    > > 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
    > > place. But memes are functions of mind and self. Thus memes exist, not
    > > this place or that place, but in *themselves.* With self-existence we
    > > an "inner place," though as St. Augustine noted, "it is wrong to speak
    of it
    > > 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.
    > Actually, I agree with that last bit. But a proper understanding of
    > information can illuminate the relationship of "inner" to "outer", and
    > thus help those who tend to neglect or even deny the "inner", to come
    > to terms with it. And the great thing about information is that one
    > item of it can exist in many places at one time, thus transcending the
    > location limitation.

    Spoken like a true salesman.


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