Re: What/who selects memes?

From: Pascal Jouxtel (
Date: Wed Oct 03 2001 - 22:48:06 BST

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    Subject: Re: What/who selects memes?
    Date: Wed, 3 Oct 2001 23:48:06 +0200
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    HI Salice, Hi Richard, hi friends.

    Just a quick word because it is late, here in Pontoise.
    I thought of that while driving my car last year, spending a good 15 minutes
    every day trying to find a place to park near the Trocadero.
    I used to have a favorite circuit, approaching my office in a snail-shaped
    trajectory, then driving in loops connected to a center like petals,
    and while I was driving (repeatedly for about one year) I noticed that some
    streets offered a better probability of finding a place to park, that others
    were jammed and made me late, that others were dangerous or had red lights.
    Patterns took shape within me, while I was listening to the radio, or
    thinking about my work.
    Some trajectories made me more angry than others. Apart from shere luck, I
    had to pay a higher emotional price when I entered a street that was too
    narrow, and - again - jammed by construction works in progress. I had
    greater pleasure when I found a place quickly. The street that gave it to me
    suddenly seemed paved in gold and gems ! And so I had my little circuit
    every morning.
    This 'act' - me driving around for 15 minutes every morning - , according to
    me is a memetic creature. It has a 'phenotype' (my trajectory) and a
    'memotype' (a series of choices, or decisions, not necessarily very
    conscious !)
    I suppose it was the pleasure and emotion (positive or negative) that
    provided the selection pressure. (Yes, I believe there is a selection,
    because selection (the principle of choice) is not only necessary to
    evolution, it is necessary to any form of reality. )

    So I would like to point out (I think there is a chapter about this in The
    Meme Machine) the interaction between meme selection and emotions, which
    doesn't mean I am on the "genes-drive-memes side". On the contrary. I think
    gene-driven mechanisms (e.g.emotions) provide a biotope for memetic
    creatures (e.g. behaviours). A sort of landscape. Memetic forms evolve in a
    ecology of bodies and emotions like animal forms evolve in an ecology of
    stones and water.

    A bientôt, mes amis. Pour les francophones, je suis en train de créer une
    liste de discussion 'memetique' en langue Française. Mazette !


    A bientot sur / see you soon on
    Tell your friends / parlez-en à vos amis
    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "salice" <>
    To: <>
    Sent: Thursday, October 04, 2001 12:30 AM
    Subject: Re: What/who selects memes?

    > > What is this meme-handling stuff?
    > > What happens in brains is colloquially called thinking, and by
    > The brain does not only think consciously. You can observe your
    > thoughts but it won't be everything that happens in your brain.
    > A lot of behaviors get copied without consciously noticing them, as
    > memes get copied in the same way. This is why i differentiate between
    > thinking and "meme-handling". You can remember memes. You can
    > remember certain sentences or you can consciously be aware of the
    > fact that something someone said changed your thinking.
    > At the same time there is just too much (meme)-input that the brain
    > could handle it all consciously. And most people do these
    > unconscious meme-handling without knowing what they really do.
    > Dawkin put the example of one meme of a professer, who would look
    > down and think 2 minutes before he'd answer. As he wrote he found
    > this "funny". Why he found this funny he might not have consciously
    > been aware of. But the fact is, that this meme-input made
    > him smile or laugh, therefore something resulted from this meme in
    > his brain making him laugh and remembering the meme.
    > >[anti-terror-recommendations]
    > > But all these are behaviors. There were no recommendations about
    > Your behavior can change other's people thinking. Therefore it was an
    > recommendation about selecting memes (why do you think it was posted
    > on a memetics mailing list?) and showing certain behaviors therefore
    > influencing other peoples thinking.
    > > >> But Stone Age people _didn't know_, that's the whole point.
    > > >Sure they knew, they wouldn't have survived otherwise.
    > > >Some might died, but others learned from them who died, they received
    > > this meme and survived because of it.
    > > No, how can you say that they knew what was going on?
    > Even if they didn't know that doesn't explain anything either for
    > your or for my view.
    > Nevertheless, if they were able to handle memes, to copy behavior,
    > those who would copy the behavior of the person who died after
    > eating certain food would probably have died too. Those who copied
    > the right behavior, -not- to eat those things survived. So those
    > survived who copied the right behavior, those who selected the right
    > meme.
    > > >wouldn't let this meme survive and spread. Obvious.
    > > No, not obvious. It wouldn't depend on whether or not
    > > they realized that drinking petrol was harmful.
    > > They would die just the same. The meme would become extinct even
    > >without any knowledge of the >
    > So every meme and behavior gets copied automatically?
    > So why don't you buy a gun and shoot people? You surely saw it on TV.
    > So what let's you not copy this?
    > Looking at the petroleum-example:
    > Let's assume i travel back in time, somewhere where language was
    > invented but petroleum and it's effect weren't known.
    > Now, i would tell these people back then "Drinking petroleum is good"
    > and i would drink some liters right after. People could see how i
    > painfully die. If my meme would spread it would only be in the sense
    > of "what is not right", if at all.
    > > Well, if it's in the brain, maybe you can show me how
    > > I would identify it in a brain?
    > Okay. Here's a meme for you: "God is dead."
    > Read it? Look at it again. Got it? Now look away and try to remember
    > it... Still there? Fine.
    > >You can only point to memes as artefacts and behaviors.
    > Memes in artefacts and behaviors are a result of thinking just the
    > same way that thinking can be a result of artefacts or behaviors.
    > >No, I merely found the argument too unconvincing to merit a
    > >response. You are positing 'storage' and 'handling' capabilities for
    > >which there is no precedent in neurobiology. If you are going to
    > >play the 'memes are in the head' card, you have to be able to be
    > >more specific.
    > I can't give you a more specific description, it is to be questioned
    > whether this is really possible anyway. My point is that is has to
    > happen in the brain because it can't happen anywhere else. How it
    > exactly happens is a different key.
    > Anyways, there is so much evidence in reality that it can't be
    > overlooked. People select memes all the time.
    > Some publisher gets a book by a new author and decides to publish it.
    > You go to a bookstore and decide to buy a certain book.
    > You express your ideas in your mails, not mine.
    > Hitler said: "Kill the Jews", some agreed, some did not.
    > A professor looks down and thinks for 2 minutes before he answers,
    > someone might find this funny and copies it, most don't.
    > Some people want to imitate their star and start smoking, others not.
    > And so on and on and on.
    > If you have a different theory how memes get selected then do what
    > you ask of me: give a detailed description of this process. Where it
    > happens, how it happens. You won't even get close to my level of
    > detail.
    > You can't explain everything in detail. You have to get step by step
    > to knowledge. Darwin didn't know about dna but he observed nature and
    > based his theory on this observations. Later on this theory was
    > grounded when dna was discovered.
    > Your theory like my theory lacks detailed description of how
    > memes get selected but i think my theory is based on observation
    > while your theory is not really based on anything which could explain
    > real-life situations.
    > ===============================================================
    > 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 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)

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