From: Chris Taylor (Christopher.Taylor@man.ac.uk)
Date: Tue Sep 04 2001 - 18:13:24 BST

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    Date: Tue, 04 Sep 2001 18:13:24 +0100
    From: Chris Taylor <Christopher.Taylor@man.ac.uk>
    Organization: University of Manchester
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    Subject: HAL
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    Ok not *that* HAL (heuristic blah blah), but this is yet another
    computing-inspired thought.

    I think that the object oriented programming languages (C++, Java etc.),
    based on separate interacting objects, each with their own information
    and functionality, reflect fairly closely the way the world is. That is
    old hat, and actually the intention of the language designers, so it's
    hardly surprising. Memes are like that I think, but thats not my point

    Under the windows (NT/2K anyway) there is something called the Hardware
    Abstraction Layer (HAL...). This is (forgive my poor computer science) a
    set of virtual devices (disk drives, cards, motherboard stuff) for the
    operating system to interact with, safe in the knowledge that the
    *actual* hardware doesn't matter, only the virtual device that the OS

    Ok, cut to a human subject with a severe leg injury. This person has to
    learn to walk again, involving some really intricate muscle use changes
    (to compensate for the injury). However, assuming there is enough
    functionality left in the leg to compensate, after a few years the
    person will be able to walk without giving it a second thought, because
    the person is thinking 'walk over there' not 'use muscle x'.

    This then is a HAL for human movement (and I'm just picking this as an
    easy example). The reason I mention it (and I dare say someone has
    already done all this), is because I have a view of memes that includes
    even the most basic movement programs - now I know that noone is gonna
    copy these things, so technically they're not memes, but the point is
    they are units of functionality + information, which interact with other
    such units to build larger structures.

    People keep asking what is the point of memetics; well I think that if
    we can get away from this restrictive 'mind virus' paradigm and start to
    think about what these things actually are, we'll find that all you need
    really is memetics and neurobiology to explain us completely (because
    psychology and sociology are like ethology and ecology are to biology -

    Patricia Churchland said in a book I read (parts of) that she'd guess
    there were six or seven levels of complexity between nerve impulses and
    'us'. I think these are layers of ever more sophisticated class of meme
    (ok so I hijacked the word - I don't care, shoot me). 'Motor abstraction
    layer' memes could be one of these low levels, of which 'higher order'
    memes are constructed.

    I'm not sure I got that across as well as I'd hoped, but hey. Tear me to
    bits then guys and gals.

     Chris Taylor (chris@bioinf.man.ac.uk)
     http://bioinf.man.ac.uk/ »people»chris

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