Re: Information

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Thu May 03 2001 - 11:01:12 BST

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    Subject: Re: Information
    Date: Thu, 03 May 2001 06:01:12 -0400
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    >From: wilkins <wilkins@wehi.EDU.AU>
    >Subject: Re: Information
    >Date: Thu, 03 May 2001 13:20:04 +1000
    > wrote:
    > >
    > > On 2 May 2001, at 21:13, wrote:
    > >
    > > > On 3 May 2001, at 11:11, wilkins wrote:
    > > >
    > > > > 4. the semiotic or intentional account of the Peircians, Meinongians
    > > > > and other representationalists.
    > > > >
    > > > > So far as memetics is concerned, only the first three are relevant
    > > > > (it matters not a whit is the information being transmitted is true,
    > > > > coherent or in any way of significance to any audience, so long as
    > > > > it spreads through a population).
    > > > >
    > > > > If something is a measurement of some state distinct from the
    > > > > observer, then that information (ie, the error implicit in the
    > > > > measurement) is a physical mapping of what's in the head to what's
    > > > > in the world. However, it fails to be memetic information until it
    > > > > is transmitted, and then senses 2 and 3 come into play, so we can
    > > > > ignore the two extremes: "objective" information in the sense of
    > > > > accuracy of measurement, and "subjective" information in terms of
    > > > > what something means within the head of a semantically or
    > > > > semiotically capable system (ie, some person) and concentrate
    > > > > instead on the dynamics of information transmission and the
    > > > > evolution of the signals so transmitted.
    > > >
    > > I forgot to add that the way we have supposed that we tell that two
    > > memes are different is that they inspire different behavors and/or
    > > possess different meanings, but behavior alone might not be
    > > sufficient to distinguish between memes. Imagine two cults; one
    > > believes that if you dance you will assure yourself of heaven, and
    > > the other believes that if you dance you will assure your fellow
    > > beings of heaven. The actions of both will be indistinguishable until
    > > the speak about what motivates their dancing, selfishness or
    > > altruism, a difference between the meanings motivating the
    > > behavior, not the behavior itself.
    > > > >
    > > > Actually, #4 is VERY important, for it is significance, or meaning,
    > > > that comprises a meme; that is what is propagated. Behaviors and
    > > > discourse, the engines of imitation, MEAN something to those doing or
    > > > saying them. A meme is the selfsame meme regardless of whether it is
    > > > performed, spoken or written; it is not the code or carrier which
    > > > matter (although one kind or another must obtain, which is of no
    > > > consequence), but the content; that is, memetic identity is a matter
    > > > of semantics and pragmatics, not syntactics.
    >This is what I call the Intentional Fallacy (in reverse homage to
    >Dennett). What matters is not whether or not something is significant or
    >meaningful, only how it is transmitted relatively to other messages. In
    >short, what counts is the "fitness" of a meme/message. This is not to
    >say that meaning is not intrinsically interesting, or that it is
    >non-existent - it clearly isn't. But what is the *memetic* take on a
    >message? In short, just its relative frequency in a population and the
    >dynamics of how it is being spread.
    >I would ask, apropos of the dancing example (nice counterexample, BTW) -
    >how can *you* the memeticist distinguish between the two behaviours if
    >there is no (linguistic or other behavioural) difference discernable? So
    >far as you the memeticist are concerned, there's just the dancing
    >behaviour. And if it does have this semantic difference, won't it
    >exhibit that in other behaviours? What we examine from the perspective
    >of memetics (or as I call it, cultural Darwinism, for reasons that
    >aren't relevant here), are the ways in which different cultural items of
    >some kind are differentially spread, and so the overall
    >population/cultural structure evolves.
    >The *least* important thing about even the most significant meme or idea
    >is what it actually means, from a cultural Darwinian perspective.
    >Meaning is not sitting there nicely tagged on each actor's ID badge to
    >be inspected. All you have are observables.
    People aren't clones so they bring a *personal* history into the mix and
    interpretation and meaning are *contingent* on whatever else may be floating
    around in their heads and also their familiarity with the subject matter of
    the message (among a possible multitide of other things that can't be
    shoehorned into a tidy pigeonhole).

    I think there might be a consideration for the Darwinian (whatever that
    means) fallacy or "fitness fallacy" for those who find alliteration
    alluring. Don't get me started on Procrustean beds...of which the force fit
    called "cultural Darwinism" may be a shining example. It may sound neato. It
    may appear neato. If it doesn't capture reality, what use is it?

    Caveat: this ain't a bash on evolution, but on a particular and possibly
    idiosynchratic application.

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